Big Rig Drivers



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.”


Baby’s Breath

Plain and uncomplicated but stunning in their lace-like simplicity

Plain and uncomplicated but stunning in their lace-like simplicity

In the field grew all kinds of plants – no particular organization, just plants randomly taking root and thriving, reaching for the sky. Some more established plants stood tall above the tangle of weeds and grass, their flowers dominant under the bright sunlight. How beautiful a sight to behold. Purple, orange, pumpkin, bright yellows, oyster shell white, hot white, even lavender and of course red – myriad of colors. I stood there transfixed soaking in the view, breathing in the subtle perfume and sweet scents wafting all around me.

Cropping up in bulges like a rooster’s comb, out to my far right at the edge of an irrigation ditch or water splash culvert, several layers of tiny flowering plants grew in profusion. The plants themselves were not showy at all. They looked rather plain and common – much like weeds, saw grass and dandelion. In the breeze their spindly branches danced. Their tiny flowers sprouting at the end of long stems looked like tiny popcorn bursts, or white buttons and even tiny white daisies. But upon closer scrutiny the flowers were actually very dainty and fragile like snowflakes.

What’s so special about Baby’s Breath? These plants are definitely related to the dandelions and buttercups – lowly ground creepers largely ignored by nursery growers. Bunched up in a bouquet by themselves, they would look like some white duster contraption – or even maybe a witches’ fly swatter. Yet when tiny Baby’s Breath blossoms surround long-stemmed red roses, the roses seem more prominent – almost ostentatious in their red velvety petals becoming deeper red still.

Such is the way our organization works. We are a non-profit manned and operated by unpaid volunteers – each doing their specialty, keeping the organization humming like a well oiled engine. We have our executive officers – I suppose they would be the long-stemmed regal roses, or exotic blossoms and orchids. And all around them are the support folks – the baby’s breath blossoms in a bouquet, simple, uncomplicated – or the many volunteer workers in the background dedicated to making things work. Ultimately all members of the organization as in a bouquet – be they roses, orchids, ferns, baby’s breath, squash flowers or plain ever green leaves – help our group achieve its mission and vision.

SAS Ai Scholarship Program – How it Works

"It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Like the word “love,” the term “scholarship” has undergone many a metamorphosis. Take love first. When people mean to say they “like” mangoes, they rather exuberantly blurt out, “I love mangoes”. The same with scholarships. Even though the student recipient of the financial aid does not do well academically or at a scholarly level, that some group finances his or her studies makes the aid-recipient a scholar. Many groups profess to do good works, even charitable works, such as, giving aid to student recipients for a myriad reasons – all mind-boggling just the same. The announcement clamor and din is deafening.

The SAS Ai scholarship program stands high and above this loose amalgamation of “handout” programs masquerading as scholarships, as the gold standard scholarship program to help bright students who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS through financial aid.

The program uses this twofold criteria with no strings attached:

  1. The student applicant must come from a disadvantaged family with a gross annual income of less than P50,000, or $1167 USD depending on the exchange rate
  2. The student applicant must have a grade point average (GPA) of 85% or better

And here is where the SAS Ai scholarship program leaves the rest of the pack huffing and puffing in the dust. SAS Ai offers the most generous package ever. For every sponsored scholar, the annual financial aid pays for:

  • Tuition – matriculation costs
  • Books, reference materials and publications
  • School uniforms – Skirts and blouses for the young ladies and a pair of pants and T-Shirts for the young men
  • Pair of shoes and socks – patent leather shoes for the young ladies and a pair of rubber shoes for the young men
  • Athletic wear for PE and intramural sports – (the scholar’s family pays for special uniforms for volleyball and/or basketball teams)
  • School supplies – stationery, writing tools, notebooks, sewing kit, crayon kits, paper
  • Computer Lab fees, family fees, miscellaneous fees
  • Internet Cafe fees for online research and eMail services
  • A USB storage device for every scholar to store computer school work

Refinements of the SAS Ai program that sets it far and apart from the “random acts of kindness” dubbed as scholarships:

  • If accepted to the program after a battery of pre-tests, interviews, home visits to establish need, parental guarantee of co√∂peration, scholars are held accountable for maintaining their grade point average to 85% or higher.
  • The local SAS Ai Field Team headed by Director Albert D Bunoan stays on top of all scholars:
    • taking care of their school supply needs,
    • looking after their personal safety and welfare
    • disseminating pertinent information from corporate.
    • The Field Team also regularly files update reports to the board of trustees (BOT) on periodic exam results, and on status of scholar’s school work and attendance.
  • If accepted to the program, all scholars are held to a high standard of personal behavior, active community involvement, and exemplary social, spiritual, and emotional development.
  • If accepted to the program, all scholars must acquire skills in the use of current technologies to electronically communicate and to develop a good oral and written command of the English language used in business communications.
  • We recruit prospective applicants from all over the public school system, in Tagudin, Santa Cruz, Sudipen and Bangar, La Union, Suyo, keeping the competitiveness for acceptance tight and keen
  • When recruiting prospective applicants we look for inner-drive and reason, maturity and a dire financial need with no strings attached. More specifically, SAS Ai does not expect or need everlasting loyalty, allegiance and/or payment in kind from the families of accepted scholars.

If you know of anyone – a family in need who may want to send their bright and highly motivated child to attend SAS high school, please let us know. Click on this link to find out more about SAS Ai, Inc. and how to make a tax-deductible donation to support the scholarship fund. We solely rely on our generous donors and mission supporters to send these bright scholars to Saint Augustine School.


Is That All There Is?


She spins the lightly starched yarn, gawgaw rendered sag-ot threads… it is her occupation… it is her life.

The poem begins with, “Scorn ye not man’s humble trade…. For honest work brings honest wages…. We only need enough for our daily bread…. Life is short; we leave behind faint illegible traces.” The poem implores the reader to judge not a person by his or her occupation. The person’s character or lack thereof will uplift or indict the person soon enough.

But in the world, people stay intoxicated with labels, drunk with titles, People with no titles get stuck in the rut of peasantry. These peasants work in domestics – mundane, menial, and mental-less labor, what upwardly mobile young people call “no-brainer” jobs. Often their work settings demean human dignity, erode self-esteem, and cut them to sub-human status.

I can hear the coconut husk scrubbers scraping the cotton threads strung tautly on a Tagudan stretch easel. From the top of the roll the scrubber engages the threads and pulls in a downward motion – up and down, two hands with scrubbers alternating. The rendered threads dry in the bright sun then gathered to be spun. Given to a weaver at the loom, soon a colorful blanket or richly designed sheet of cloth emerges. The cycle goes on. The woman embraces her daily occupation without emotion. Life must go on.

For the bright child born into this peasantry who wishes to attend school this scenario must seem rather tedious and non-challenging. The child would have a point. Weaving takes manual labor and the child dreams of science and mathematics. She sees a spider’s web in geometric designs and admires the advancing dark clouds heavy with rain. She wants to know why eggplant is purple and cucumber is green. This child doesn’t accept that is all to life. She wants more.

Watching the child grow I feel a strong urge to help her realize her dream. What will it take to free her mind – a mind-set anchored in poverty and given to despair? A spark of hope glimmers behind her mental and emotional curtain of anxiety, worry, and angst caused by the most basic of human needs – hunger. I ask you dear friend, would you join me and others help this child attend school? So that she can meet and realize her full potential, let us together get behind the mission to help these bright kids who come from poor families attend high school through financial aid. DONATE to the scholarship fund today.

A Portrait of Poverty

the face of poverty

Father and son sleeping their hunger away on a flower-pot ledge

Life paints a portrait of poverty in stark, broad, and undeniable strokes. No scumbling of grays to soften the edges, no “photoshopping” or “airbrushing” to infuse a romantic glow to lessen the pain, to hide the shame, and to reduce the human torment.

A father and child find rest on a narrow raised ledge made for flower pots to decorate this office building. They have walked the streets rummaging through garbage bins and trash cans for half-eaten hamburgers. The day was long and their foraging turned up mostly empty. The child now exhausted needs sleep and the father cannot leave him to sleep by himself out there exposed to the elements. So he stays. He rests with his child hoping the hunger pains would go away.

Some forms of poverty appear extreme. Other forms, as exemplified by the kids we help here at SAS Alumni International (SAS Ai), aren’t so extreme. Nevertheless, their bracket of poverty relegates them to a life sustained on an annual gross income of less than $1167 USD. These kids show tremendous mental drive, curiosity and love for learning. Out of responsible charity and generosity we recognize and acknowledge their need for a good high school education.

Our mission helps these bright and promising kids attend high school. We ask our donors to be generous. Together we can make sure such brilliant minds do not go to waste. Donate now to the scholarship fund. Open a monthly allotment of $45 USD using our secure credit card (VISA, M/C, and DISC) acceptance portal. You can donate any amount you wish; we appreciate it and a child will get an opportunity to attend high school with your generous donation. Thank you.

Luncheon Meeting


SAS Ai Field Team

The SAS Ai Field Team with Estrellita G Purugganan, Treasurer (Seated L-R) Hely Somera, Albert Bunoan, Mariano Taay, Eden Dungan, Estrell’s Sister, Estrellita G Purugganan, Aleli Mae Villaros, Remy Sagun, Louella Bayan, and Annie Nasog. (Standing L-R) Michelle Costales, and Hermes Purugganan

Estrellita G Purugganan, SAS Ai Treasurer, visited with the Field Team about a year ago and hosted a luncheon meeting. According to the report she filed, she and members of the Field Team covered an agenda that included the following topics:

  1. Requisitioning school supplies and accounting for the cost
  2. Pre-testing applicants before they fill out a formal application for financial aid
  3. Streamlining the recruitment process to save on transportation expenses
  4. Petty Cash account and its use, replenishment of same
  5. Annual financial reports and updating registration costs

Members of the Field Team actively listened and joined in the discussion. Today, most of the topics discussed during Estrell’s visit are now part of the company Procedures, Policies and Guidelines (PPG). Thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers we now ably use resources more effectively.

Congratulations to all.


Scholarship Candidate Selection Process

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Our SAS Ai scholarship candidates for school year 2013 registered high and respectable Grade Point Averages at the end of their graduation year 2012. All proving competitiveness, their first hurdle was their state of financial need. Without exception, these kids all come from poor families with a gross annual income of less than PhP50,000 (Philippine Pesos). That roughly translates to $1167 USD.

The qualification process continues. Next, the Field Team administers the pre-test (Scholastic Achievement and Aptitude test) to check for readiness for high school work. Those passing the pre-test advance to fill out a formal application for the financial aid program. This formal application form includes:

  • background information questionnaire
  • written 500-1000 word essay on why attend high school and what guarantee does SAS Ai have the candidate completes the course
  • a disclaimer page – submitting false information disqualifies an applicant
  • Character references and Signature page

Applicants with “strongly passing” applications interview with the Field Team to check the candidate’s communication skills and spoken English language skills.

At this juncture in the process the Field Team informs the scholarship committee with their first candidate findings and recommendations.

The Scholarship committee informs the Field Team of the applicants selected on the “first pass” after evaluation of application forms, pre-test results, paperwork and interview results.

These first pass selectees get visited by the Field Team in their homes to clearly corroborate and establish true financial need per their statements in the signed application form.

From the poll of candidates successfully passing this visitation, the Field Team sends a final list of recommended applicants to the scholarship committee for finalization.

The scholarship committee sends the Field Team a final list of selectees for the school year.

The Field Team invites back candidates making it to the final list for a final interview along with both parents in attendance to sign the scholarship contracts.

Lastly, the Field Team notifies the candidates and parents of their final choice and acceptance to the scholarship program. The President and CEO and the Chairman of the Scholarship Committee jointly send congratulatory letters to all selected candidates.