As more than 100,000 Christmas lights flickered on around the grounds of the Manila Philippines Temple on Dec. 5, visitors didn't let pouring rain caused by typhoon "Monang" dampen the occasion.
They didn't even run for shelter.The typhoon, which lashed at Metro Manila and other provinces, caused the suspension of school classes and left at least 34 people dead by the following day.
Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy and president of the Philippines/Micronesia Area presided over the lighting ceremony that was attended by nearly 15,000 people. He was accompanied by his wife, Susan, and by his counselors, Elder Loren C. Dunn, and his wife, Sharon; and Elder Augusto A. Lim and his wife, Myrna.
The rain started to fall during the prelude music and ceased momentarily when Elder Banks delivered the Christmas message.
Then it poured again.
While the rain posed a challenge, the program went on as planned. The choir members sang with enthusiasm despite being soaking wet.
Sister Banks, Sister Dunn and Sister Lim turned the switch that transformed the temple grounds into a colorful sight. This year, more than 100,000 bulbs decorated the grounds.
In addition, the grounds were ornamented with a life-size Nativity scene for the first time since the traditional temple lighting ceremony was started in 1984. Another attraction was a giant screen that was put up so the overflow crowd could see a broadcast of the ceremonies.
In his message to those gathered on the temple grounds, Elder Banks said that the true spirit of Christmas is in giving.
He shared a touching story of the members of a Filipino family who gave the last pesos they had to blind carolers on Christmas eve rather than spend it on a delicious "noche buena" dinner. The resulting experience made family members realize how much more blessed they were than some people.
"In this world today there are many in distress, many in pain, so many who walk in loneliness. . . . There is time for each of us to reach out to help others in the same spirit of Him who came to this earth as the Savior of all mankind and through the example of His life and ministry, blessed each of us. We too can love, bless and serve one another," Elder Banks emphasized.
The lighting ceremony marked the beginning of nightly programs where choirs from various Metro Manila stakes and districts sang Christmas carols.
Pres. Randy Rubio of the Paranaque Philippine Stake conducted the lighting ceremony. Choirs from Caloocan, Paranaque, and Makati stakes provided the music.
Pres. Myron Francom of the Manila Philippines Temple delivered the welcoming address.