In the Philippines, people use a word that combines all good wishes in three short syllables. Mabuhay (maw-boo-high) is a traditional greeting that serves as salutation, wish, and toast. Literally translated, mabuhay is a command: Live! But it combines the elements of good health, goodwill, and happiness. Church members in the Philippines say the word also means “glad tidings,” and when they talk about something as happy as that, you can be sure they mean it includes sharing the gospel.
Persia Maria Coll, 17; Rosalinda Conti, 13; and Dominic Flores, 13, are all members of the Santa Cruz Ward, Manila Philippines Stake. They met one day not too long ago in the largest park in Manila to talk about life as Latter-day Saints in their island homeland and to say “Mabuhay!” to New Era readers everywhere.
“I love the Philippines,” said Rosalinda. “It’s a fun place, a pretty place to live. I would like everyone in the world to come here and see the nice things.” Rosalinda, who is the Beehive president in her ward, also said that her favorite thing to see in the park is a fountain made in the shape of a world globe. “There’s a roller skating rink around the fountain, and I love to watch the people skate. The flowers are also beautiful. I especially like the red one, the gumamela (hibiscus). I also like the monument to Rizal.”
Dr. José Rizal, the Philippine national hero, is revered in his country because he devoted his talents and energies to promote freedom and because he gave his life for what he believed. His writings urged the Filipinos to recognize their intellectual and moral worth and to work for governmental reforms without breaking the law. But when armed insurrections began in 1896, he was executed at age 35.
“When I think about Rizal, I think about Joseph Smith,” Persia explained. “Joseph Smith died when he was 38, and he also died for what he believed in. Rizal had read about the Mormons, and I think if he were here today, he might be interested in talking to our missionaries.”
Dominic also thinks a lot about Joseph Smith. “He’s a true prophet of God. He was only 14 when he received the First Vision. That lets me know that important things can happen to young people. I always thought, ‘Oh, I would like to be Joseph Smith! At 14 years of age, the First Vision would have been given to me!’ But now I’m almost 14, and I realize that I have a lot to do, a lot to learn. I will have other experiences, spiritual experiences that are important for me.
“Right now, I must concentrate on what I’ve learned. Our church is the true church of God. The Word of Wisdom is the word of God. We have a living prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball. We know that Christ lives, that God is the Father, and that the scriptures are true! I wish every Filipino could know these things.”
Dominic, the ward deacons quorum president, said that his priesthood responsibilities have taught him the importance of the fast offering. “We collect the offerings every first Saturday of the month. I am glad to do something to help the poor, to know that I can do something. It’s a lot of responsibility because there are only two active deacons in the quorum. But it fills me with joy.”
Later, standing beside a statue of the carabao (water buffalo) that is the national animal of the Philippines, Dominic outlined plans to reactivate four more deacons he’s responsible for. “We need the others. We visit them and try to include them in activities like swimming and basketball. You have to be friends with the inactives to reactivate them! I like to tell jokes to my deacons quorum, and we’re always talking together about happy days. I’m learning a lot about being a leader.”
Persia talked about a happy day of her own—the day when President Kimball visited Manila for an area conference. “I saw him face to face! It was a wonderful experience! There were tears in my eyes when I saw him. I didn’t know what to think; I just felt. I knew he was a prophet.”
Another happy day she remembered was the day she met the missionaries.
“I have been a member about three and a half years. My mother—she’s not a member—says it happened by chance. Two elders knocked on our door and my father opened it. They taught us right then. My father, my elder sister, and I later joined the Church. My mother and my two brothers, 14 and 8, didn’t join. It’s a hard thing not having the whole family in the Church. Sometimes mom wants me to stay home and do chores instead of going to meetings. My sister and I try to do our best to keep up with the housework and to help each other out so we can still go. I need to have the Church and feel the Spirit. It’s worth all my life. When I don’t get to go to a meeting, I can tell I haven’t been. It’s easier to get depressed or upset. When I do go, my life feels more complete. I feel happy. My daily chores are a breeze.”
Persia has also learned to draw strength from the scriptures. “I read at least a chapter each night. I’ve learned so much from these holy books. I tell my friends about what I’m learning, and they say they haven’t heard about it. I tell them to read the Bible and ask them if they’ll read the Book of Mormon too. But though they ask questions, most of them don’t want to listen to what I have to offer. A lot of them say they will wait until they are 18 or 21 and talk to me then. I’ve had some friends who were interested in the Church, but their parents discouraged them.
“I read books about politics, history, and science. I love to study very much,” Persia continued. “But I know the most important thing is to first study the words of God. That’s where I start. I keep a journal too. That’s important. There are so many things to include—my stories, my essays, my poems. In high school I studied journalism, and I had to go out and interview people and take pictures. I did this for my schoolwork and also to improve myself. I taught others, my brothers and sisters and friends, what I learned. They know I like to share with them, and I’d like to share the gospel too.”
As Laurel class president, Primary worker, and Sunday School teacher, Persia also knows how to contribute. “But I contribute little for what I get in return,” she said. “The Church helps people in so many ways. It teaches them about themselves, sort of like Rizal tried to teach the people of the Philippines about themselves while he was alive. It helps them know what is important to do in this life, how to hold on to the iron rod so they can endure. I would like to see all of the people of the Philippines live the principles of the gospel. It would help them to truly know who they are—sons and daughters of God!”
The three young Saints stood on a platform overlooking a reflecting pool. In the pool a massive re-creation of the Philippine Islands allows park guests to plot their location and see what other islands lie nearby. Dominic, Rosalinda, and Persia turned to retrace their path along the length of the park, back to a spot where their bishop had promised to meet them and give them a ride home. They talked about the other sights and sounds of their homeland—Spanish fortresses dating from the 1500s; a university older than Harvard and larger than BYU; exotic fruits like guayabano and kalamansi, not to mention papayas, mangos, coconuts, and pineapples; and the incessant traffic of the big city, where cars, kalesas (horse-drawn carriages), jeepneys (World War II jeeps modified into passenger carriers), tricycles (motorbikes with covered sidecars), buses, street vendors, and pedestrians all vie for a spot on the pavement. And they talked about the temple being built in Manila, about saving 25 centavos a day so they can contribute to the construction fund.
“I’d like to stop at the harbor,” Rosalinda said, “to see all the boats.” The harbor fronts the west end of the park.
“Yes,” Dominic agreed. “We’ve got time. I love to look at the boats. When I see them it makes me think I’m in another place, like the West Indies. There are many boats there, and the boatmen like to sing while they’re traveling. I’d like to go to India, too. Maybe I’ll be sent there on my mission. All of my family are members of the Church, and my parents said they’d let me set an example for my younger brother and sister, even if I have to go someplace faraway like Australia.”
Persia looked out at the waves and the ocean liners. “The thing I like most about the Philippines is watching sunsets,” she said, “and the palm trees and flowers and plants in the fields in the provinces. That’s what I like most. I love to go out and visit in the country. But the best thing of all is people. I love their hospitality.”
That’s when 27-year-old Bishop Reynaldo A. Hernandez walked over. And of course he had to say something about “his kids.”
“I feel very good about the young people in the ward,” he said. “I think many of them will grow up to become leaders in the Church. They have a lot of potential. When I see a young man passing the sacrament, especially someone like Dominic, I feel very happy. I was happy to see him receive the Aaronic Priesthood. And Rosalinda and Persia are involved in Young Women projects to prepare them for higher service to the Lord, for personal progress, and for motherhood.”
As the group climbed into the car, Rosalinda had to say one last thing. “If I could give Church members everywhere a message from the Philippines,” she said, “I’d tell them all is well. I’d use Tagalog, the Filipino language, and I’d say mabuhay. It’s a wonderful word. It tells you that the Church is healthy and growing in our country.”
What she didn’t say is that in Tagalog, mabuhay can also mean bon voyage, Godspeed, even farewell. As she said it one last time, it seemed like a cheerful good-bye. “Good-bye!” and “See you soon!” and “We’re doing fine!”
All that and a whole lot more.