Day is done

Barangay Palms

Twilight – when daylight yields to the dark of night

Palm fronds droop like tired eyebrows arched above sleepy eyelids; the day is almost done. Advancing darkness begins, first with grayish hues slightly but ever so steadily darkening as each minute passes.

The noon breeze returns to the sea. It’s spent the day playing in the trees, creating dervishes among the black thorn bushes, the dreaded candaroma plants. Seagulls follow the sea breeze and in its wake they shriek their mournful cries.

In the neighborhood of tiny grass huts the kitchens are literally afire and ablaze with food preparation activities. It seems as if every household prepares the evening’s meal at the same time. The air turns into vapor-laden droplets heavy with the aromas of simmering fish broth, boiled sweet potatoes, freshly gathered squash flowers, bittermelon and eggplant and freshly shucked lima beans. From other corners of the Barangay come the smell of anchovy fish sauce poured over broiled hot peppers. That smell is so heavenly it brings back good old memories.

The entire village becomes a smorgasbord of scintillating scents. The pot of steaming rice boils over dampening the coals with starchy water. Smoke rises from the kitchen roofs, carrying the viands’ essence being readied for the evening’s repast.

Melodious guitar strains waft from a distance. Crickets chirp while the cicadas repeat the cacophony they’ve sung for a million years. Closer to shore, the blue jays scream as they dart up and over the dunes ruffling the bulrush and saw-grass leaves. Tree stands that line the fences turn into silhouettes, their sharply defined leaves melting into one dark glob.

I miss the twilight hour in the old fishing village I called home. The scents and sounds are unlike any other I’ve ever smelled and heard even in my travels. Nowhere in the world can compare to my home by the South China Sea.


What do you see?


Even birds do it. . .

My six-year old nephew declared, “I see two birds. Let me get my slingshot. Bet ya I could shoot at least one of them down.” He sounded almost delirious.

His comment horrified me. Such violence! Where did he pick it up?

Then I asked my 12-year old niece the same question, “What do you see?”

“Love birds,” she said. “They are building a nest. They have selected a good spot and come Spring the leaves will give their home cover. By then, they will have eggs to hatch too.” She smugly expressed her opinion.

“Hmmm…” I thought. “The nesting impulse comes early for girls.” My nephew, however, expressed his preference in hunting weaponry – a slingshot.

Then I heard some other observations. “I can kill two birds with one stone,” said a middle-aged man.

“I get blow gun. I shoot bird. Good food,” said a Hmong tribesman. His Cambodian buddy agreed. They proceeded to discuss recipes.

Amazing how differently we each look at the world around us. I surmise that our observations depend on our situation, our culture, perception, sense of values, present needs, our priorities – and yes, our upbringing.

Let me ask you the same question. “Look at the picture. What do you see?” Want to share a comment or two?

Comments from our supporters


Class Salutatorian

Arthien Lovell Pelingen – Class Salutatorian – SAS Ai scholar

“Look at this young man. He has lived up to his promise when he applied for help.” – A supporter from Bangar, La Union

“For my money, SAS Ai has the best-managed assistance program. The Field Team is right there on the spot to help these young scholars.” A donor from Ottawa, Canada

“I seem to recall there were other groups that sent money back to Tagudin for some needy kids going to high school. What happened to the kids? Who knows? Nobody kept track of them. They sent the money into a black hole – I think.” A sponsor from San Diego, California

“SAS Ai is the only 501(c)(3) organization I know helping the smart kids who come from poor families get an excellent high school education at SAS. We need to support this SAS Alumni International organization. It is an excellently managed charity organization. SAS Ai deserves our support.” A SAS Ai supporter and proponent from Houston, Texas.

“I am so proud of my son Arthien. We are poor. This poverty has not dampened Arthien’s love for learning. We were so fortunate to have SAS Ai come to our rescue. I lost one of my two jobs due to company downsizing and we needed help. The pay is so little. If not for SAS Ai, I don’t know how Arthien would have finished high school. Thank you SAS Ai.” The proud mother of Arthien Lovell Pelingen on her son’s graduation as class salutatorian

Comments such as these are enough for us SAS Ai volunteers to persist in our mission. JOIN us in helping these bright kids who are too poor to afford high school by donating to the scholarship fund. Thank you.

Late Lament. . .

Home from the fields

Home from the fields


“Nothing good ever came of the robust financial support I willingly gave my nephew so he could get an education.” A frustrated benefactor

A story is often told of lamentations recited over wasted bygone days. “I should have stuck it out,” sighs a young mother of four. She is in the public market selling beans. “My aunt sent me the money to finish my nursing course,” she continued, “but as you can see I couldn’t very well continue going to school; I was already pregnant.”

The young man on the carabao pulling a carison told us his story. “My uncle agreed with my father that I would make a good architect. My uncle was working in Chicago at the time. He told my father he was willing to finance my education; I was already accepted at Santo Tomas University. Well, to make a long story short, I didn’t appreciate the opportunity. Easy money. You know. No problem. Money was coming in regularly from my uncle. I blew it all on whiskey and prostitutes.”

“So you quit school?” we asked.

“No. the school kicked me out,” he said with a hint of shame and contrition in his voice.

“How does your uncle – your benefactor – feel about that?”

“He has not spoken to our family since. The worst part is that my father has cancer; he’s got 6 months to live. It is up to me to support my mother and my younger sisters. Life is hard.”

We also spoke with the Uncle who still lives in Chicago. “We spoke with your nephew during the centennial. He tells us he is the sole support for the family now that your brother’s terminally ill with cancer.”

It took him awhile to gather his thoughts and compose himself. “Oh, so you talked to that gago, dull-dog, good-for-nothing, God-d@#3*d nephew of mine ha? What did he have to say for himself – that bastard – he probably lied to you like he did to me.”

The Uncle was livid. We were apologizing up and down for reminding him of his nephew and the wasted money. He calmed down a bit. “You know, I wish I could have been there to guide him. He was young and impulsive. My nephew had so much potential. But that’s history. Oh well…,” he sighed and went about his chores.

We have heard so many stories of regret, of late lamentations over hard-earned money wasted on some nephew, niece, child, kid – some kinsfolk. The intent is good but if the beneficiary is not held accountable, then, anything can happen.

SAS Ai takes pride in the Field Team based there in Tagudin. They look over the scholars to make sure they are in school studying and learning. We hold our scholars accountable and responsible for their part of the agreement:  “We help you go to school, YOU are responsible for finishing school.”

Board of Trustees meeting

SAS Ai BOT meeting

Taken by the Tiburon Ferry in San Francisco

With the sun shining brightly the chill was still palpable. The first SAS Ai corporate board meeting was going well and on schedule. Everybody remained upbeat working into the evening. The members discussed many items and issues. Among them the nagging issue of how to transition the Field Team leadership.

Willie Santamaria, Andring Ladi, Leonardjon Buenavista, and Virgie Buban, all residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, hosted the meeting. Virgie catered the breakfasts. Willie steered the group on sightseeing tours. Andring and Leonard took care of the logistics.

By all accounts the meeting was productive. In attendance were:

  1. Atty Romeo J Somera, President and CEO – Louisiana
  2. Tina Laycano, Auditor – Canada
  3. Nora Sprenger, Scholarship Committee – Canada
  4. Elizabeth Somera, Treasurer – Texas
  5. Willie Santamaria, Scholarship Committee – California
  6. Leonardjon Buenavista, BOT – California
  7. Andring Ladi, BOT – California
  8. C Buenavista, VP, Chair Scholarship Committee – Florida
  9. Virginia Buban, Honorary BOT – California
  10. Jingle Uy, BOT – Iowa (could not make it)

The BOT gathers next in a 2013 meeting, the date and place are still under consideration.