Divine Intervention

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“Her father will not recognize her as his daughter,” the distraught woman lamented. “He threw us out of his life like used rags. We haven’t received any remittances from him for years.”

Mother Superior sat there motionless. She listened, occasionally nodding her head in sympathy. She’s heard it all before. “Go on,” she would say. “How can we help you this time?”


Now middle-aged Remedios

The middle-aged woman, we will call her Remedios (not her real name), was close to tears as she spilled her guts out to the Mother Superior of the school her daughter attended. She was there to plead her case of dire poverty, requesting that her daughter be allowed to take the finals even though she can’t come up with the tuition balance.

This wasn’t the first time Remedios had to grovel before the school administrator pleading for mercy and understanding. She did it when her daughter was a freshman in high school. Now, her daughter – who is a gifted child – is halfway thru her junior year.

As a young woman fresh out of high school, Remedios worked in Singapore as an OFW. She


A Young Remedios

was young, highly energetic, and engaging with unbounded curiosity. She loved to dance and socialize. She loved to meet new people and make new friends. Wide-eyed and eager to see the world she gladly took on domestic employment overseas. New to a universe bustling with highly driven people, young and impressionable, she soon found herself entangled in a doomed, superficial relationship with a married man.


Filising – a gifted child – in grade school

She bore him a child out-of-wedlock, a daughter, whom they named Filising (a combination of Filipiniana-Singaporianense). That was years ago.

Returning to the Philippines upon the non-renewal of her domestic contract, Remedios and Filising went to live with her eldest son, Sotero, in their small home with his family of four. As her son’s family grew bigger with the addition of a new baby, Remedios felt like she had to go to the big city to try her luck once again for overseas employment. Of course, Sotero and Filising protested. Sotero respectfully reminded his mother, “Besides, you can help us out by babysitting the new baby. We need you Mom. Don’t go. Stay.”

One day, without so much as a goodbye, Remedios left. Just like that. She left no address, no word as to where she was going. She just took off.


Filising (left) with a friend

Filising felt the sting of complete abandonment in her heart. Not only did her biological father disown her, now her mother has left her. She felt utter worthlessness. Her grades began to slip. She lost her appetite. Her beautiful, flowing, black tresses began to fall off. She was withering away in broad daylight.

Sotero was at a loss; he didn’t know what to do. He had no resources to take Filising to see a doctor. Why, Sotero was so penniless he couldn’t even summon the local quack-doctor-herbolario for some superstitious quackery; this local shaman charged too much for his services.

At school, Filising’s teachers noticed the change in their star pupil. Alarmed, they informed Mother Superior of what was going on. It was out of pure concern for her welfare that Mother Superior had Filising brought in to the office one afternoon for an informal chat. Divine intervention was at work. Mother Superior took it upon herself to use her own personal money to help Filising finish her junior year. Additionally, she gave Filising a job at the convent, helping in the library and in the sacerdotal vestments upkeep, and giving her board and lodging.

Filising graduated high school class valedictorian. She never reconnected with her mother Remedios, who walked out on her… long ago.


Generosity Killer


“When we do a random act of kindness, we do it without seeking recompense.”

Hatred kills generosity.

Hateful words deriding another person for their acts of charity, only serve to diminish the sympathy for others felt by the recipient of such unkind commentary.

In the end, the once charitable person, mocked and ridiculed for their acts of kindness becomes unwilling to give. Their once kind hearts, numbed by the senseless verbal attacks leveled at them, turn to stone.

Who suffers? The needy person; the intended recipient of the charity.

Such a story circulates in social media today, about a very bitter person’s reaction to another person’s charitable contributions to some needy kids.

“I can’t believe she actually gave money to this cause,” the poster wrote, reacting to a story posted in social media about a woman who donated to a charitable cause. The poster claimed familiarity with this generous person described in the story. Seems they were married at one time.

“She yelled at me whenever I put money in the collection plate on Sunday,” his commentary continued.

“She never allowed me to give money to my ailing parents either. Or give me money to bet at the cockfights. She was so tightfisted she squeaked when she walked. And now she gives to charitable causes? Hypocrite! How bogus. How fake. Making herself look good outside. Rotten inside. Can you believe it?” The poster continued with his unkind commentary.

A firestorm of posts erupted. Commenters from all corners dove in to the fray. The scene turned ugly.

“Hoy, you better stop posting… your comments are not true. You lying,” one poster wrote.

Someone who apparently knew them when they were a couple left this post: “If you do not stop commenting I will reveal all your stinky secrets. And the whole world will know just how rotten you were as a husband. Lazy and dumb. No work because no one will hire you. You are nothing but a freeloader.”

Still, another poster wrote, “Please think twice before you post. You are embarrassing yourself. Big time.”

Whoa. Time out. Let’s come up for air. What about the generous person described in the story – the original object of the disgruntled poster’s ire? How was she impacted by all this trash talk?


When hateful words kill a person’s generosity, the recipient of the charity suffers.

Sadly, the unkind posts impacted her negatively. She regretted ever having given to the cause of the needy kids. She vowed never to donate to such charitable causes. She faded into social networking obscurity. Vanished – never to be heard from again.

Ultimately, who lost in this brew-ha-ha? The disgruntled ex-husband you think? Not hardly.

The ex-wife? Nope.

The needy kids? You bet.



Charity Begins at Home


Juzel Ann Macanas (right) with her Mom upon receiving her award certificate

“Dear Sir,” her email message to me began.

“I will not be able to attend the scheduled scholar’s meeting with Mr Bunoan because…”

I paused reading her email message. For a long moment my mind painted the word “Excusitis.” This can’t be.

“I have a scheduling conflict,” the email message continued.

And why is this young lady sending me this email message? I am chair of the scholarship committee and I work closely with Mr Albert Bunoan, VP Fld Ops, taking care of our scholars’ needs. It was a courtesy email message.

It turns out that our scholar-email-message-writer and 10th grade honor student, Ms Juzel Ann Macanas from Barangay Libtong, was scheduled to work with Libtong’s Local Community Charity organization that same day. She was slated to help distribute food to the homeless and hungry on that same day as our scheduled scholar’s meeting.

the face of poverty

Father and his child try to sleep away their hunger

My answer was simple and immediate:  “Juzel Ann – Go distribute food. Attend the next meeting. Let Mr Bunoan know.”

How impressive is that?

Juzel Ann Macanas, SAS Ai scholar actively involved in community volunteer charity work for the needy.

How many young people would bother to do such thankless volunteer work, much less surrender their precious leisure time? Not many I’d venture to speculate.

What Juzel Ann is doing with her free time, helping feed the poor, is noteworthy. It bodes well for her future. This same act of charity serves as a testament to the effectiveness of the financial aid program wherein she is a beneficiary.

Charity begins at home.

SAS Ai’s Christmas Angel


Imelda visiting the Tagudin Plaza and Municipal Hall

Ms Imelda Villanueva attended Saint Augustine School (SAS), graduated (Batch 81) and went on out into the world of work to make a name for herself. She and her family currently live in New York where she works.

She is one, among the many friends of SAS Alumni International, who takes quite seriously, our mission of outreach to bright kids from poor families in their quest to finish high school at SAS.


“Daklis” or dragnet fishing involves the entire community. Imelda joined the fishing effort.

Currently vacationing in the Philippines, she’s enjoying the company of family and friends from the old country in Tampugo, while taking care of personal business in metro Manila and Makati city.

Home in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, she’s seen participating in the community tradition of “dragnet” fishing, or daklis in the Ilocano vernacular. At Tampugo Beach, Imelda tasted fresh “Aryaw-yaw” – or silverfish fry caught by the daklis and salloy.


Albert receiving the Christmas gifts for the students from Imelda

More importantly – and this is what Imelda takes the most pride – she brought home Christmas presents for the kids in the financial aid program. She did this act of kindness in addition to financially supporting the cause.

Now, how thoughtful and kind is that?

She got together with Mr Albert Bunoan, our SAS Ai VP of Field Operations and presented the gifts for the kids before leaving for Manila. Time constraints prevented her from personally meeting with the kids. Maybe next time.

Indeed we are grateful and deeply touched by Ms Imelda’s generosity to the kids. In turn, the kids will treasure their presents and thank Ms Imelda Villanueva by successfully graduating high school!

Letter to our Current Scholars in the Program


“College and High School are totally different. They have only one thing in common:  that you need to study hard to make it.”

Dear Co-scholars,

Hi! How are you guys? Are you enjoying high school? Are you working hard on your studies? I hope you are. Don’t be “easy-go-lucky”. College is so different from high school. College and High School have only one requirement in common: that you should really study hard.

Some disciplines we are learning in college were also taught in high school. If you are already in the habit of studying hard, you will NOT be left out. Here in college, knowledge and skills are mostly self-learned. Instructors are not going to explain everything. They are not going to do all the talking. They are not going to chase you and beg you to listen to their lecture. No Ma’am. No Sir. It is your responsibility to help yourself.

By the way, you should expose yourselves to doing different activities, such as, speaking in front of a large audience. It will help you with your self-confidence. You should also talk more using the English language because they are not going to let you speak in Tagalog, not unless you are in a subject, such as, “Filipino”.


“Studying Hard is a good Habit to Form.”

You should take time to rest when you can. Do not get used to the idea of “mañana habit,” otherwise known as procrastination. Do not be a slacker – forget the “bahala na” attitude. Time flies fast; you need to use your time wisely. Have a mature outlook, be serious and focused. Be independent but ask for help if you need it.

Anyways, enjoy while you still can. I hope you all the best guys. God bless and Good luck.

Signed/ Kristine Joy Cardenas



Quality Deck Craftsmanship


When a contractor begins to heap the promises of the perfect deck, lookout!

One of our projects last year was to replace the wooden deck that extended out from the den and sun room. Just like everything else, when the money for home repairs became  tight, the deck project was the perfect candidate to be moved back and rescheduled.

Meantime and while waiting for a financial break, the once mighty redwood deck planks and rails fell into disrepair, victims of humidity, oppressive heat and the monsoon rain.

We had a break at year’s end when we received some money back from our taxes. We searched online for deck building companies, checked with friends for referrals, checked bulletin board postings at the local laundromat and shopping centers. We even checked with our parish church bulletin for advertisements.

A family-owned construction company based in nearby Santa Rosa county submitted a bid of $1800.00. For a small 15′ x 20′ deck that included railings and a four step stairs, the bid seemed reasonable. The job began with a targeted work duration of four days.

“You’ll be barbecuing on your deck in four days,” declared the contractor’s wife. She beamed as she promised the railings to be all plumb and straight, the planks spaced evenly and secured with aluminum screws.

We took all the promises in stride neither doubting nor rejoicing.

After the first day of work we received a phone call. It was the contractor. “Hey listen,” he said. “I have another job on the other side of town and unfortunately the owner changed his job schedule on us. I have to go and complete that job or I won’t get paid.”


Small, simple deck but built right.

My wife and I looked at each other in disbelief. My wife’s face registered puzzlement. Her arm gestures began to resemble airplane propellers in motion. I signaled to her to remain calm.

“How about the deck job you’ve contracted to do for us? When do we expect you back?” I asked.

“I don’t rightfully know. But I will get it done as soon as I can.” The contractor hung up.

We looked up the other company that submitted a bid for $2100.00, called them up to determine if they were still interested in doing the deck job. To cut a long story short, this second company did excellent work. Quality craftsmanship is their signature. We learned a valuable lesson. Saving a few dollars to get a job done often compromises quality of the finished product. When going over job bids, it is best to go with the average price bid, somewhere between the highest bid and the lowest bid.

Of course the company’s references are a great help specially if they don’t mind you taking a look at the finished product done for them.

String Tied to a Door Knob


“See this here string?” Manuel said. “This is how to pull out a loose tooth.”

One day my cousin Manuel showed me how to pull a loose tooth. He was groaning in pain as he pointed at one of his lower front teeth.

“This one,” he said, “hurts like heck and it’s loose. Got to pull it out.” His face showed some swelling around his lower lip.

We were just poor kids growing up in the barrio. He was eight and I was five. It was a given that older kids had more smarts than younger kids. He was only three years older than me but the rule is the rule.

“Go get a string from your Mom’s sewing room,” he commanded.

“What for?” I asked.

“Don’t question. Just do it.” His tone became more authoritative. He was bigger and stronger than me. I complied.

“Okay,” I managed to utter as I ran upstairs to my mother’s sewing room. “Let’s see, bobbins, thimbles, sewing needles, where are the spools of thread…” I was talking to myself.

“Hurry…” Manuel yelled.

I slid down the stair rail and leaped to where Manuel stood, close to the front door, landing perfectly on my feet. I handed him a spool of white nylon thread. Grabbing the spool from my hand, he pulled an arm’s length of string, and tied one end of it to the door knob. Slowly he tied the other end around his loose tooth.

Everything went slow motion – surreal – starting with Manuel slamming the front door shut, his head following the closing door, his chin pulled forward by the taut string extending farther than the rest of his face, culminating in a tooth flying in the air with some blood splattering. I thought I heard Manuel scream obscenities.

“Lord help me,” I managed to utter as I swallowed hard. “If this is the way to pull a loose tooth, I’d have to keep all mine – firm or loose.” You see, I am allergic to pain.

That was ancient history.

Today we don’t have to improvise and treat our dental needs with such primitive ways. We can go to highly specialized dental treatment places like goodbyedentures.ca and expect nothing less than the best, most modern dental treatment approaches. If you lose a tooth you can have it replaced, or if you lose all your teeth and want dentures, they can accommodate you as well.

My cousin Manuel and I both wear dentures now. I may have to look into this dental group for better fitting dentures.