For many years Alejandro worked hard to improve his lot in life. He left home early, working as a first mate apprentice aboard the Honcho Maru, an old, rusty banana freighter, just after high school graduation. His experiences were mostly centered around his work in the rice fields – plowing, irrigating, planting, harvesting and clearing the field for the next rice planting season to begin all over again.
The Honcho Maru brought Alejandro to distant ports. The world certainly was larger than his hometown, he realized. His thoughts went back to his elementary school days at St Augustine School. Mr Dalog, his geography teacher, would come around the room during the lesson and without warning stop at a student’s desk, stab his finger to a place on the open map book in front of the student. The question would come next, “Alejandro, where in the world is my finger pointed at?”
Alejandro, we’ll call him Andring for short, had a sense of humor. He was quick on his feet. He would reply to Mr Dalog, “Sir, your finger is now pointed at a spot on my map book, on top of my desk, here at SAS, in the town of Tagudin, province of Ilocos Sur, Republic of….”
A crescendo of laughter would erupt. The class would always go wild. In the din of the wild laughter, Mr Dalog would always cut Andring’s answer short with, “Alejandro, you will never make it. Not a day passes that I don’t pray for you. I feel bad for your father. I have nothing but sorrow for your mother. I feel terrible for your late grandfather, God rest his soul. Your grandmother weeps for you in the public market. You are only in elementary school and already you think you are a philosopher. You may think you are Socrates, but I tell you, only by the grace of God will you ever make it. Mark my words.” That remark would always silence the room.
Andring shook his head and smiled at the recollection. That was so long ago. Those memories of school were as fresh in his mind as the day he attended SAS. Andring settled in Vallejo, California, comfortably retired from the merchant marine service and raised a family there.
He went back to the old hometown one last time to help celebrate the SAS 2010 centennial. He was incredulous as no one knew him and he couldn’t recognize any of the other people there. He looked for old classmates. He couldn’t find any. They either have gone overseas like he did or had already passed on.
Andring wearily ambled into the old church, sat down, prayed and reflected on the way things were generally. More specifically however, he began to check his current situation on the times and his plans. “What have I done for my school? Where has everybody gone? Has it been this long? How is it that I never stopped to notice? How long have I got left? What can I do to help others.” His thoughts became heavy indeed. Questions. Questions… and more questions.
Stepping outside he paused by the grotto. His gaze caught the famous grated side window in the nun’s convent overlooking the plaza. A smile crossed his face. So many old memories streaming. By the school gate he noticed a huge SAS Alumni International, Inc. sign announcing their mission: “We help bright and promising kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS through scholarships.” They were asking for donations to their scholarship fund.
Andring found answers to his prayers and questions. He knew what he had to do. He knew he was in a good place to help out. His own kids were already grown up and had families of their own. Here are bright kids but who are too poor to attend SAS – his Alma Mater. He can help them get an education.
He headed straight to the SAS Ai, Inc. KIOSK. “Hello… what do I need to do to sponsor a scholar through high school here at SAS?” His question sounded like beautiful music to the ears of those who were manning the SAS Ai booth.
Indeed it was. Today, Andring and his wife are proud sponsors of one SAS Ai scholar who is about to graduate in a couple of years.