Today, I’m Grateful for


Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

“Just in case you were wondering what to be thankful for, just feel your pulse.”

Got up this morning and automatically went through my routine. Stretch. Bend. Touch  toes. Reach. Flex. Yawn. Shake. Bathroom. Shower. Toothbrush. Shave-splash. Socks-shorts-shirt. Trousers-tie. Coat. Shoes. Briefcase. Phone. Car. Keys. Drive. Office.

“Good morning folks,” I greeted a group of co-workers as I passed them by the coffee station. “Don’t drink it all; leave some for me.”

“Mornin’. It’s Monday. What are you so happy about?” one of the women feigned a snide remark.

“Good to be alive!” I shouted back hurrying to my work station.

Reaching my cubicle, I plopped my case on the counter, turned on my PC, hung up my coat and reached for my coffee mug. “Thank you Lord for helping me through today’s morning commute,” I prayed underneath my breath as I proceeded to the coffee station.

The beverage station emptied quickly. The group had already gone back to their Call Center stations. The morning shift change was underway. I filled up my mug. The strong, steaming, delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee overwhelmed my nostrils. I took in a deep breath. “Ummmm… now that, is coffee.”

hot-coffee

Nothing like a fresh hot cup of Java in the morning…

For the first time in a very long time I paused in the middle of an exhale excursion. A strong sense of gratitude ran over me and I felt the urge to pray. “Thank you God for coffee beans… for my cup of Java. Bless those who grow them, those who harvest them, those who process and grind them, and those who package them into those coffee cans they stack up in the stores for us to buy. Lord I am grateful for this cup of fresh coffee this morning. What a blessing and I thank you.”

Man, that felt good. I should do this more often, you know, express my gratitude for blessings received. It is the right thing to do.

“Learn to Concentrate…”


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Our SAS Ai scholars pose for a group photo during a quarterly scheduled meeting

“You must learn to concentrate,” the home room teacher, Mrs Salve Lascota advised one of her brighter students. “There are just too many distractions out there. You cannot let your mind wander.”

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Heavily distracted

Young Cristina nodded her head. “Thanks Ma’am Bing,” she replied, somewhat embarrassed for having been caught daydreaming. She redirected her gaze from the window back to her desktop. She even shook her head lightly – as if to clear the cobwebs that seemed to cover her brain. It was two o’clock in the afternoon and she felt drowsy. She and her buddies had generous servings of Halo-Halo topped with ice cream – a deadly combination of high sugar and fat.

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Halo-Halo with Ice Cream

She seemed to take in the advice. But… then she thought, “Concentrate on what? What could Ma’am Bing be talking about?” Cristina is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. She is a bright young lady, serious and motivated, who dreams of being a dental hygienist someday. But man, it’s hard to stay awake in class in the afternoon, in the oppressive heat, in the asphyxiating humidity. Add to that Mrs Lascota’s sing-song-y presentations that’s so soothing it can lull, even an ornery Tasmanian devil, to sleep.

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Infatuation can be distracting

Truth be told, Cristina is distracted. Big time. And she knows it. It’s that Aglosolos boy from Libtong. Yes, he is a bit rough around the edges, sometimes rude and often ill-mannered but he is a solid young man with a great personality. Charming, crafty, and clever as the asp that long ago coiled around the apple tree in the garden of Eden and seduced Mother Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. So Cristina drifts into dreamland every now and then, thinking about that Aglosolos boy who haunts her every waking moment.

Thinking man

Concentration

Ah… the perils of puppy love. Infatuation. First awakenings. And in high school, things can morph into a wilderness scenario so very easily. Fortunately, we have teachers like Mrs Salve Lascota who, out of love for their craft, their students, exert influence over them, encouraging them to channel their attention to their studies, to focus on their goals, and to concentrate on things that are relevant and important.

No Place Like Home


San Esteban

South China Sea coast of long ago

At thirteen I convinced myself I had already earned my doctorate degree, all done with school, done with education. I saw myself standing, resplendent in my purple toga, proud as can be towering way above the crowd of high school kids all clamoring for recess. I had my Walter Mitty moments and daydreamed a lot. Why, the propeller sounds of a Pan

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Far away places with strange-sounding names

American airliner flying overhead from Hong Kong to Manila could make me imagine “far away places with strange-sounding names.”

 

Yes, and only in my mind was I a PhD having earned it at the University of Hard Knocks.

I couldn’t wait to leave home to explore the world. School was a drag. Earning one’s keep was so unnecessary. Looking back now, I tell myself, “What a fool. How could you leave paradise? The willowy coconut trees, the pristine waters of the South China Sea, deserted beaches stretching for miles, the wind in your face and a carefree lifestyle away from an industrialized world.”

Carabao

This carabao is wise beyond his age

The wise elders used to admonish us kids: “The grass is always greener on the other side.” I was intrigued. And it’s true. Come to think of it, why does the grass always look greener on the other side? Is that why the carabao always wants to move to another field to graze disregarding the lush zacate grass upon which it stands?

I remember I had on a pair of Elpo rubber shoes. I hated them. What I wanted was a pair of Converse All Star shoes. From America. Made in USA. For some reason the Converse shoes were all the rage and I wanted to wear that which was in vogue so I could be in. Thinking about it now, my pair of locally manufactured black and gray Elpo rubber shoes were just as good and fine. They protected my feet walking to and from school. They did their job.

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Rice Fields in Ambalayat

Can I ever go back home again? Not according to the wise sage. Because you see, home is no longer as it was when I was young and growing up. The place has changed and what I expect to see is no longer there. Even the familiar faces – friends, relatives – they are no longer there. Home is a now an entirely different place.

Am I longing for the past? Maybe. There is a saying about leaving part of your heart someplace specially if the pleasure of the stay is so intense it gets seared in the mind. Perhaps that was it. I loved my childhood spent back in Farola… the little fishing enclave by the South China Sea.

Reverie


There were mornings I didn’t want to get up from bed. This was one of those mornings.

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Night Rain

It rained during the night. I fell asleep to the soft, intricate maracas-like sounds of raindrops falling on the co-goon grass roof of our small and humble cottage. The rhythmic sounds were further made into tight percussion riffs by the crickets and night crawlers chirping, by the tiny fruit bats with their syncopated chomping on “kapas-sanglay” fruit, and by the herd of cicadas playing their inebriating kazoo music from the stand of acacia trees.

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Gardenia – Rosal

I woke up to the familiar, musky, animal dropping laced smell of freshly soaked ground – a parched patch of earth that once stood arid and dry for many weeks. The ground percolated and came alive with the rich water infusion, loosening small boulders and clods into mud, awakening the docile earthworms already on the job, laboriously digging, burrowing, all the while leaving round, marble-shaped mud mounds in their wake.

The pervasive scent of flora came from the gardenia, its white blossoms giving out that sweet, unadulterated perfume. Then there were the sweet-sop trees, their branches sagging under the weight of ripening fruit. The guavas, pomelo trees, and goose berries added to the

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Atis – SweetSop

overall garden aroma, accented only by the blooming orchids hanging in their coconut husk nests.

From my cot bed I filled my lungs with healthful rain-cleansed morning air. The spectacular sunrise burst out in splendor lighting up the morning firmament; I wasn’t moved. I just wanted to linger and lounge on my cot bed, wax the grateful dead, oblivious

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Pan de Sal

to life itself and remaining zombie-like.

And so I tarried, half-asleep, but enjoying the smell of freshly brewing roasted-rice coffee. I heard the familiar cry, “Pan de Sal,”… “Pan de Sal,”… the Doppler effect taking over the sound fading into the distance.

Under a Pile of LAB Requirements & Reports


A letter from one of our graduates:  Arthien Lovell Pelingen – SAS Ai 2012

Sunday, February 01, 2015

To: The SAS Ai, Inc. Family

From: Arthien Lovell Pelingen – SAS Ai, Inc Scholar and graduate 2012, now a Junior at the University of the Philippines (UP), Baguio Campus

Whoa... February 2015 already?
Whoa… February 2015 already?

Greetings! I just flipped the calendar to change the month and February 2015 stared me in the eye. Whoa! I realized it’s been a long time since my last update and I am deeply sorry for taking this long.

My Junior Year as a Biology Major started last August (2014). Second semester recently started and everything’s getting serious now. I can’t imagine how my Senior Year will be like. Anyways, the major subjects I am now enrolled in are:

  • Microbiology
  • Genetics
  • Limnology

BIOLOGYAlong with minor subjects, I think I’m going to lose weight again this semester due to a pile of laboratory reports and nerve-racking examinations, oral reports, etc. However, there’s a bright side to studying biology. We get to enjoy learning outside the classroom.

Actually, we’re about to do fieldwork in Sagada, Mt. Province, famous for the Hanging Coffins, to study inland water bodies there. It’s pretty exciting, right?

Oh, speaking of fieldwork, I would like to share my learning-outside-the-classroom-experiences and some studies my classmates and I worked on for the past semesters. I want to share these to give you a glimpse of what people enrolled in a Biology course actually do.

Not all stars are in the sky. This is my favorite sea star commonly known as Blue Starfish, Linckia laevigata.
Not all stars are in the sky. This is my favorite sea star commonly known as Blue Starfish, Linckia laevigata.

First, in my Invertebrate Zoology class, we did fieldwork at Bolinao, Pangasinan. We specifically studied the invertebrate species such as sea stars, sea cucumbers, corals, clams, and sea hares. I can’t describe how amazed I was when I learned all about them.

Second, we did our Plant Taxonomy class in Atok, Benguet where we collected plant species of our choice. We tried to name, classify and describe these plant specimens as an addition to the Herbarium of our teacher. (I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.)

Third, in the Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy class, we dissected a cat and a shark (the species of shark dissected is not the endangered one). And that’s when I felt like a doctor since we were dissecting actually live animals. We just felt sorry for the sacrificed cats and sharks for this kind of learning.

Misty Mountains. We were roaming around the area of study which is near the non-polluted river. (I’m the leftmost one in the photo)
Misty Mountains. We were roaming around the area of study which is near the non-polluted river. (I’m the leftmost one in the photo)

Fourth, we did Parasitology, which I enjoyed as we dealt with so many kinds of parasites. And that’s when I learned the founding of the Tagudin General Hospital and Capillariasis Center. An epidemic caused by Capillaria Philippinensis took over and overwhelmed the vast areas of Tagudin and nearby towns.

Fifth, we did Plant Anatomy and had to do the required Case Study entitled Comparative Xylem Analysis on Imperata cylindrica from Polluted and Non-polluted Rivers conducted at Tuba, Benguet and La Trinidad. We were deep into real research – from problem formulation to data gathering, to the analysis of the results. It was really a tough a job, honestly.

The Search. I and my friend trying to find different species of algae in the middle of the sea.
The Search.
I and my friend trying to find different species of algae in the middle of the sea.

Sixth, we did our Phycology class which made me more curious about marine life. When I took this subject course, I learned that “ar-arusip,” a seaweed edible in the Philippines, is actually an alga. I started a great interest to algae since our fieldwork in Bacnotan, La Union.

Pagudpud. These are my colleagues since first year. (I’m the leftmost one in the photo)
Pagudpud. These are my colleagues since first year. (I’m the leftmost one in the photo)

Lastly, our Ecology Class last semester took us to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Its beauty is jaw dropping. (I suggest you visit this place when you have time for a vacation in the Philippines. I’m sure you’ll feel happy as you set foot on its white sands.) We enjoyed a 2D/2N-stay in a hotel beach resort. I can tell that this is the most fun-filled fieldwork I ever had.

Bangui Windmills. One of the advantages of having fieldworks is the fun of exploring the place itself because of the side trips.
Bangui Windmills. One of the advantages of doing
fieldwork is the fun of exploring the place itself and the attendant side trips.

What I’m preparing for now is my Summer Practical Training Program in June-July this year as required by the Department of Science and Technology Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) for all of their scholars to apply their chosen fields in a real setting. I’m considering:

  • Philippine Rice Institute in Nueva Ecija,
  • Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in La Union,
  • Institute of Biology in University of the Philippines Diliman and
  • National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology also in UP Diliman.

 

Portrait of a future Biologist.  There is only one “ME,” Arthien Lovell Pelingen at your service!
Portrait of a future Biologist. There is only one “ME,” Arthien Lovell Pelingen at your service!

 

 

I like to have as many options as possible to learn more career ideas and to stimulate  interest into possible endeavors in the future.

Thank you very much for reading this letter!  God Bless you all and the SAS Ai organization!

Farewell!

Sincerely,

Arthien Lovell Pelingen – SAS Ai 2012

Social and Moral Development


Choices and Consequences

Choices and Consequences

Even before students contemplate applying for our financial aid program, they know about our stringent accountability expectations. Students are held accountable for their good grades, their health and safety, and their moral-social development. “Actions have consequences,” is a guideline that’s instilled, incorporated and that becomes part of their daily routine.

100% of our students graduate high school. With a zero attrition rate as the norm, we’ve never lost any of our students to truancy, bad grades, or delinquency.

Justice is blind

Justice is blind

Our indoctrination session for new students includes an extensive presentation on “The choices we make decide where we wind up in life” example scenarios. One of these short clips shows a young person who acts recklessly and conducts themselves poorly – as a matter of practice – before thinking seriously about the consequences of their actions.

The dramatization movie trailer shows what happens. A reckless act resulting in an accident. Then there is a preliminary investigation, the arrest and the trip to the police station, the phone call to the lawyer, the deposition, indictment, life in jail, the trial while represented by legal counsel, and the sentencing. These “steps or stages” are the same kind of services and processes a decent law firm would offer a client – such as, see http://mydefence.ca/  to put things in perspective and in context.

Graduation!

Graduation!

Our kids shudder as they watch the show of what can happen as a result of some innocuous, juvenile action – well, action precipitated by an attitude – “it sounded good at the time,” sort of, you know how it is. Like, taking Mom’s car without prior permission for a joyride with the gang.

Our students are also reminded that they must keep up their good grades and that they conduct themselves like the scholars that they are, on and off campus.

The end goal of every student in the program is to graduate. To be successful, they learn early on that they must make the right kinds of choices. The choice could be as simple as doing one’s homework assignment every night as opposed to doing them sporadically and sometimes not doing them at all. Or it could be as big as choosing one’s path or program after graduation.

Our actions and choices have consequences.

Fun Way to Learn Spanish


“Today’s word is ventana,” announced Cleotilde, our self-proclaimed Spanish instructor. She hails from Central America and she’s full of zest for life. She tells us countless stories about how she managed the arduous thousand mile trek across the desert to come here. It took her a couple of years, working odd jobs along the way, scrimping and saving. And, here she is.

officewindowsventanaCRPD“Okay fine, but what does ve…, or did you say wenta…” one co-worker began to ask.

Cleotilde cut her short. “Oy… listen. I said, ventana, the ‘v’ is pronounced with a ‘bea’ sound, not ‘v’ as in ‘Victoria’… O keh?”

“So what does ventana mean?” asked Isidro, our Filipino accountant.

“It means, window,” replied Cleotilde. “So today, we learn window… ventana. Ventana… window.”

A voice from the mail room joined in. “You mean like Windows? Like Windows 7?” Laughter.

Cleotilde was not amused. “That is windows,” she said. “More than one. So ventanas.”

“Yes. Sem ting,” chimed in Lee Ku Huang, our senior sales clerk. “Window is window. So ventana is ventana. O keh?”

Huh? Oh boy, this lesson is quickly turning out to be a UN meeting. But the lesson is free, so we keep going.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea.” It was Cleotilde. “A quiz.” She comes up with these pop quizzes – like clockwork. She says it’s good for understanding and word recognition. “Okay. So Windows is ventanas and 7 is siete.”

I think she lost the whole office crowd at this point. We went back to work. I thought about the word for the day, “ventana”. Good word to know. Ventana is window. Window is ventana. I mentally repeated the word – even silently mouthing it, you know, like Milli-Vanelli. I had the sudden urge to use the word. Why not? All they can do is laugh at me, right?

“Hey Lee, do me a favor and open that ventana,” I looked at Mr Lee Ku Huang who sits by the office water cooler. “Yeah that one,” I said, pointing at the window by his desk above the water bottle.

“O keh. I open ventana,” Lee said grinning as he reached up to crack open the tiny window. “Ventana… window,” he mumbled the words to himself.

Later that afternoon, Linda, our executive secretary came in after attending a corporate luncheon meeting. “Hey guys,” she waved as she zipped by our desks. Slowing down, she looked back our way. “Oh… ya’ll want to know where next year’s presidential awards will be held?”

“Sure, we do… but who all is going?” asked Cleotilde.

“You guys are eligible,” replied Linda. “All depends on the sales, the profit margin, you know, the bottom line.”

“Okay where?” we all chimed in. “This better be good.”

Linda, with dramatic flair said, “In Costa Rica… and… ta da… drum roll please. We’ll be staying at a place called… let me see….” She opened her case. “Ah… here it is. At a resort called Las Ventanas. Ain’t that cool?”

We looked at each other. Well, well… we know what that word means… ventana… yes, Ventanas… windows. We surely learned a good word today.