The Octopus Vendor

Octopus vendor

Octopus for you Sir? Fresh.

The lady octopus vendor smiled and greeted us warmly as we approached her seafood stall. “Octopus for you today Sir? Caught it last night – my husband Sir. Fresh.”

She held up the creƤture by its head with her hand. The tentacles drooped down and touched the table top. A big one indeed. “Well, how much are you asking for it?” I opened the haggling.

“For you Sir P1620 pesos but I take dollar also. $35 doughlah… I give you cheap because you are very nice man.”

An experienced merchant, I surmised. “I will give you $10 dollars for it.” I started to walk away.

“Sir, Sir… we are poor. We need the money to send our daughter to high school. Please Sir. Help us,” she pleaded.

She and her family live a simple life. Her husband fishes at night, she sells the catch the following day. Their life however have become more complicated since their only child finished elementary school and wants to attend SAS high school. She and her husband know they don’t have the means to send their daughter to SAS high school. They are looking for help.

“Is your daughter bright, strong in her school work, an honor student perhaps?” I asked.

“Yes Sir. Oh yes Sir. She is valedictorian. She is highest graduate of her class,” she blurted the words out so quickly I feared her spittle might hit the octopus.

“Listen, I would like to meet with you and your husband tomorrow at the high school. Bring your daughter with you,” I said, handing her 2 twenty-dollar bills.

She fumbled for change in her woven coconut frond purse. “Sir you take pesos?”

“Yes. Just give me pesos.”

The smile on her face told me she felt like she has just made a killing.

“I will see you and your husband tomorrow at 2PM. Remember to bring your daughter.” I waved goodbye. I felt serendipity ruled the day.


SAS Ai Centennial Ball

Leonard and Melanie

Leonard and Melanie MC’eed at the SAS Ai hosted Centennial Ball

SAS Ai’s active participation in the 2010 SAS Centennial celebration included a Centennial Ball that invited all attendees to the festivities. The President and CEO, Atty Romeo J Somera, CPA, headed this event. Visiting members of the Board, the Field Team and all SAS Ai scholars and their parents also helped.

The dance band “Plectrum,” an entertainment group highly recommended by SAS Ai supporter Jose Pepito Sison of Michigan played and provided the evening’s choreographed dances with their troupe and acrobats.

Handling the MC and co-MC duties, Leonardjon Buenavista and Melanie P Florentino ably provided program coverage and continuity. Their main gig included calling the raffles, awarding prizes to the winners, and casting the spotlight on attending personalities from the different SAS class batches. They also arbitrated and took care of the prize disposal, as in the case of two winners claiming the same prize.

While many prizes went to the raffle winners, of note were Mr & Mrs Peter and Nora Sprenger from Canada, Board members and backers of SAS Ai, giving prizes and awards to the SAS Ai scholars for: (1) excellent school work, (2) good citizenship, and (3) Centennial Spirit, and (4) Most exemplary scholar. President Romeo J Somera liaisoned with the municipal and school dignitaries. Albert D Bunoan, other Board members, the Field Team took care of the logistics with the scholars and their parents.

All who attended enjoyed the Centennial Ball, rewarding SAS Ai for its sustained community outreach.

FAROLA and SAS Ai – Beacons


The “Farola” or Lighthouse helps ships at sea. Barangay Farola got its name after this lighthouse.

“Barangay” Farola (meaning barrio Farola, or a village named Farola) got its name from this lighthouse structure erected by the US Army Corps of Engineers when the Philippines was a US Territory and Commonwealth. In the local vernacular the word lighthouse translates to “Farola”.

This Farola stands along the shores of the South China Sea, in the town of Tagudin, province of Ilocos Sur, island of Luzon to warn mariners of dangerous rocks and shoals. Serving its purpose well, this lighthouse safely guided many nighttime landings of US troops during World War II.

To draw a purposeful parallel between SAS Ai and this lighthouse, we can cite the inherent benefit of financial aid to disadvantaged kids so they can attend high school. Just as the lighthouse guides the mariners safely on their charted courses, SAS Ai aids disadvantaged students toward earning their high school diplomas at SAS.

In many ways SAS Ai has become the beacon to other financial aid providers by showing them ways to properly carry out their program, by standing tall and exemplifying true leadership in the non-profit sector.

SAS Ai at the 2010 Centennial

Scholars and Parents

SAS Ai scholars and their parents attend briefing before the community picnic

SAS Ai participated in the 2010 SAS Centennial celebration in a major way, offering three venues and activities for all those attending and members of the community at large. The community picnic, headed by Tina Laycano and Andring Ladi involved all the scholars and their parents, members of the Field Team, members of the Board of Trustees who were visiting from abroad, and the SAS Ai President and CEO, Atty Romeo J Somera, CPA.

In the above photo we see the scholars seated in front with their parents seated directly in back of them. Scholars from left to right, Cristina Javier, Mirasol Literato, Ina Gabaldon, Michelle Pera and Jessa Lastimosa (who has since graduated) listen to the briefing. Members of the Field Team also sat at the back.

The community picnic proved successful serving close to 1750 people.

Board Members Visit with SAS Ai Scholars

BOT Visit

Board of Trustees members visiting SAS and the SAS Ai scholars

(Above photo L-R) Willie Santamaria, Albert Bunoan, Virginia Buban (in back), Aleli Mae Villaros (in front), Remy Sagun, and Louella Bayan enjoy an afternoon visit with tea and sweet rice cakes.

Board of Trustees (BOT) members Willie Santamaria and Virginia Buban, both based in California visit with Field Team members Albert Bunoan (Field Team Leader), Aleli Mae Villaros, Remy Sagun and Louella Bayan. They filed a report of a very productive meeting and visit to the board and to the Scholarship Committee.

Willie’s and Virginia’s itineraries included visits with the SAS Ai scholars on the SAS school campus. The unplanned visit by members of the BOT delighted and surprised the scholars. The Field Team gathered the scholars, the rest of the Field Team and arranged a quick luncheon meeting with the two BOT members. Discussions covered ideas from Virginia detailing plans of sponsoring more scholars. Currently we sponsor four students each year.

Counting on charitable and generous friends and donors, we look toward a successful fund-raising campaign. We fully intend to continue with the financial aid program even if we can only raise enough money to support one student per year.

The Woman in the Rain

Lunch viands

The modest dinner table. We were ready to eat. Then a knock came at the front door.

Monsoon season. Rain with no let up. Day and night torrential rains pounded the sandy soil. Alleys became wadis and the dirt road a huge mud hole. The South China Sea roiled and cavorted pounding the fragile shore with unusually large waves. None of the village fishermen who lived close to the river’s edge could launch their outriggers. To the village fisherman, no fish, no rice, no food. The monsoon held back the fishermen from plying their trade and earning their keep.

We lived a quarter of a kilometer away from the sea. We relied on my parents’ buy and sell business for our sustenance. My parents planned for the monsoon season, storing enough grain to last during extended rainfall. That day we helped prepare dinner and set a modest table of toasted dried fish, ginger black beans, wakame seaweed salad, steamed rice, hot pickled peppers, ripe mangoes, and sweetsop.

My father led the prayer before meals and we sat down to eat. A knock came at the front door. “Go see who it is,” my mother said addressing no one in particular while she placed the bowl of seaweed salad on the table.

I got up and ambled toward the front door opening it. A woman in a mu-mu stood in the pouring rain. A tattered towel covered her head partly covering her face. She bit at the two ends of the towel to keep it in place. Water cascaded from the towel folds down her face, neck and body. I stood there too stunned to speak. I forgot my manners.

“Who is it?” my mother asked.

The woman answered, “Missus, I am Soledad from the river’s edge.”

“Please come in,” my mother walked over to the door, pushing me aside gently. “My goodness boy,” my mother said looking at me, “where are your manners? Can’t you see Soledad is soaking wet?”

“Come in, come in… please,” my mother looked at Soledad imploringly.

“Please Missus, I am soaking wet and your floor,” Soledad started to cry.

In a comforting tone my mother reassured Soledad, “What’s wrong my dear girl… never mind the floor, come in out of that rain before you catch a cold.”

Soledad stood in the rain. “Missus, my family, the kids… we haven’t eaten in two days. There is no rice. Please I beg you loan us even just five cups. We will pay you in fish when the waters calm down and my husband can set his nets again.” She was sobbing by now.

“Oh Soledad,” my mother said, “we only have enough rice for a couple more days. I am so sorry…”

From where he sat at the dinner table my father heard the entire exchange. My father signaled my mother to come back to the kitchen. I followed my mother to the kitchen. “Just give her the rice she needs,” my father said reassuringly to my mother. “God will make sure we have enough. He always does.”

Just like that. My mother put five cups of rice in a plastic bag and handed it to Soledad who by now was drowning in the rain and in her tears. Soledad tucked the plastic bag close to her breast and bidding my mother goodbye she hurriedly cleared the gate on her way home.

I never forgot that exchange of words between my mother and the woman in the rain. Neither have I forgotten my father’s reassuring words to my mother: “God will make sure we have enough. He always does.”

The Big Sleep-over

Sleep over

Scholars using the SAS Ai laptop donated by Jim and Wanda Parker of Florida

In addition to attending classes, our scholars take part in out-of-the-classroom activities, such as, hosted sleep-overs, picnics, educational excursions and community volunteer work. We find such activities helpful in developing camaraderie, friendships and good interpersonal relationships among the scholars. These extra-curricular activities also promote civic and environmental awareness, encourage peer-to-peer mentoring, and enhances development of social skills.

Hosted by Field Team Leader, Mr Albert D Bunoan and his wife, the SAS Ai scholars enjoyed a sleep-over at the Bunoan residence in Barangay Dardarat. After the event, Mr Bunoan filed a report with the Board of Trustees summarizing the agenda and observable results. The great meals prepared and served by Mrs Bunoan highlighted the event followed closely by the computer tutorials. The story telling was a close third in the event popularity scale.

Some of the comments:

“Sir Albert I hope and pray we do this sleep-over again soon,” declared an excited Rocel Ann Vinluan.

“Mrs Bunoan makes the best sweet rice cakes and the most delicious roasted chicken. Thank you Ma’am. Thank you Sir.” This statement came from three or four scholars.

“I learned how to send, copy and forward to multiple recipients email messages,” shared Michelle Pera.

“Thank you Karen Paola for helping me with my Math,” commented Randy Doctor, Jr.

Success! The sleep-over experience became the most talked about event of the quarter. We are looking next at an educational excursion to the old city of Vigan to visit the old Spanish era Bishop’s residence, the cathedral and the modern section of the city.