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.

Big Rig Drivers


Jeepney

Jeepney

An essential part of our financial aid program (FAPHS) that helps bright kids from poor families finish their high school education is student mentoring and counseling. We motivate the kids to continually think about their plans after high school, and to preoccupy their thoughts about what they love to learn and do in terms of skills. This “thinking about the future” exercise serves to awaken and revitalize inner resolve to commit to a goal. It is part and parcel of our effort to direct, counsel and guide our young charges.

Randy, a quiet and serious kid in our program loves any kind of driving experience. On Sundays, when fares are abundant specially Church-goers and small merchants traveling from the outlying barrios or villages into town, he hangs out at the local bus stop plying the “transportation trade”. He volunteers to help load baskets of produce, merchandise, goods and then hitches a ride to town to help unload. We asked him what’s up with the gig? He smartly said that sometimes the driver would ask him to park the vehicle, or to back it out. He considers getting to drive the car his reward.

Mini van to San Fernando

Mini van to San Fernando

He loves any kind of driving, tinkering with engines, and fixing things. He has “driving” in his blood. Randy will drive for nothing – just so that he can get behind the wheel – be it a lowly tricycle for fare, or a modified World War II jeepney, or even a small mini van transporting passengers longer distances.

In our program we also invite vacationing alumni member professionals to come talk to and share with our kids what they do for a living and their careers. We had a guest from Washington state who drove semi trucks for a living. He told his story about transporting apples, peaches, pears, and other produce from Yakima to Chicago, or transporting merchandise to New York. Randy sat there listening, mesmerized. He didn’t move a muscle during the talk. He looked admiringly at the gentleman, like a starry-eyed movie fan in awe of their screen idol.

“I did some cross-border trucking usa… er…yes, picking up a load from Tacoma, driving to Canada and then on the way back I picked up another load from Vancouver and drove all the way down to San Ysidro by the Tijuana border.” He said this long sentence without taking a breath. The kids gave him blank, puzzled stares, as if to say, “What’s he talking about?”

A big 18-wheeler

A big 18-wheeler

Realizing he dumped too much unfamiliar information on them, he smiled and produced a map of the western United States, unfurled it and laid it down on a long table. The kids quickly gathered in excitement. Soon many fingers pointed at places on the map covering the entire surface. The guest speaker and Randy moved to another table.

“Sir… please tell me more about your work. Is it hard to get a driving job in America?” Randy eagerly asked.

“No. It’s not so hard. But the preparation, training, licensing, the rules and regulations, and final certification are quite demanding though,” replied the guest. “But like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

With palpable excitement Randy asked more questions. “What does it take to become a truck driver in America?”

“Well, I don’t think we have enough time to cover everything,” said the guest speaker. “I’ll tell you what. Come by my mother’s house this evening and we’ll talk some more about it.”

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.

A Teacher’s Gift


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Meet Ms Paz Hadoc, teacher at St Augustine School, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. She knows how important and critical her job is in shaping student behavior, not only in cognitive skills, psycho-motor skills but also and more importantly in attitudinal skills.

To the seriously motivated student, Ms Paz Hadoc exemplifies perfection. What gifts does a teacher give besides her attention and devotion to her profession and students? Plenty. Just look at the photos in the slide show. Come up with your own answers.

Whatever Happened to. . .


“I’m so glad to get out of this concentration camp!” Carmen declared as she received her high school diploma. Somewhat hot-headed, she’s had several run-ins with the school principal, Reverend Mother Marie Cabrini. Carmen was a straight A student. Excellent in athletics she represented the school in the inter-provincial intramural contests as the varsity volleyball team captain. Under her leadership they have won titles two seasons in a row.

That summer we heard Carmen won a full athletic scholarship to the University of the Philippines, the most prestigious college in the entire Philippine archipelago. It came as no surprise. The class overwhelmingly voted Carmen most likely to succeed. Carmen’s good fortune was the talk of the town. Her securing a full scholarship inspired many from her graduating class. Even those who had no plans of attending college. Why, the news even prompted Dalub Guro, an otherwise shy and timid geeky young man, to apply for acceptance at Saint Louis University in Baguio City. Dalub was going to just hang out, watch the bull rushes grow by the sloughs of Barangay Dardarat and gather edible snails and frogs.

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Carmen’s Family – (L-R) Muslim Pearl Diver Limahong Al Habandi, Limahong’s mother Palestra, two older children, and Carmen holding the baby.

Their graduating class held a reunion recently. A little over half the class attended. For many, class reunions turn out either good or bad depending on many factors. That’s one reason for the low turnout. Some class members had gone overseas to work, many of them settling for mundane, domestic jobs. Most of the overseas workers didn’t make it to the reunion. Carmen was not in attendance. Everybody looked for her. She was nowhere to be found.

Dalub Guru was there though. Resplendent in a three-piece suit, Dalub was a changed personality. He was no longer shy and timid. He had gotten rid of his terrible acne, traded his thick horn-rimmed glasses for contact lenses and took on the persona of a Tommy Lee Jones. There were rumors that Carmen wound up in Mindanao teaching Math and Science at a local high school. During a class excursion to the coast that Carmen supervised, a secret admirer, a Muslim pearl diver, one of her older students in her class allegedly abducted her. He kept her sequestered in his house for at least six months before letting her free. She married him unwillingly. But as dictated by the local laws and morality rules she had no choice.

Class reunions, where, “Whatever happened to. . . .?” questions allow folks to catch up with former classmates. Class reunions, where the answers given are bound to shock you.