Summer Rain

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Calesa Row

It was a beautiful day – salubrious weather, a gentle breeze, quiet, empty streets – the calesas have all gone. Most of the produce merchants have sold their vegetables, fruits, and root crops. The fishermen have sold their catch.

The only folks left in the open market place were the vendors of clothing, blacksmiths from Sinait who locally made and produced machetes, and kitchen knives. In the mix were some folks from the north who handcrafted clay pots for cooking, and hardwood pieces of furniture. They were packing their wares ever so carefully and loading them into Conestoga-like wagons pulled by oxen.

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Panday Sinait

The skies remained clear. Not even an errant sliver of cloud marred the bright rays of the sun. Oppressive heat waves radiated from the simmering surface of the asphalt road.

Then, out of nowhere, droplets of water fell from the cloudless sky. At first, just a few tentative drops.

But with increasing intensity and volume, the staccato beat and sound of raindrops overwhelmed the immediate surroundings.

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Playing in the Rain

Even a tin can littering a ditch hit by dense raindrops rang out a syncopated note… a nice counterpoint to the rhythm of the falling rain.

I loved to watch the roiling muddy waters race through the network of ditches.

The fine dust that covered the hot road surface doused by the rain gave off a unique scent of cleansing.

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Monsoon

 

The memory of that smell stays with me to this day.

I’ve traveled the world. I could never find a place that emitted and gave out such aromas, smells and scents – in the rain – as those I smelled as a child growing up in my hometown of Tagudin.

 

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Batch 1984 Reunion 2015

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SAS Batch 1984 Reunion 2015

Reunions overflow with joy, mirth, nostalgia, and unabashed sentimentality. It’s good to see and catch up with friends, classmates, bosom buddies, and former compatriots in crime.

 

At the class reunion old classmates go back in time to relive their high school days. Oh, there are embellished accounts of crushes and objects of affection. There are untold tales that remain unmentioned, sealed in the hearts of those who hold secrets even when their guard is pulled down by libations liberally flowing and the Karaoke machine blaring the old Elvis tunes.

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“Come Let’s Dance…”

“I’ll take it to my grave,” said one quiet and demure lady nursing her bottle of beer.

“If he doesn’t know it by now, how I suffered over the years pining and longing for him to recognize me – well, I guess he’ll never know. Damn him.”

She took a disinterested sip of her beer as she resigned herself to her gloom.

 

“Hey, come on. Let’s dance. Forget that guy. He’s probably dead by now anyway.” But the words didn’t give her any comfort.

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The guys told the same old jokes

The guys were laughing so hard, telling old jokes they have all told and laughed at before. They croaked like animated toads emerging from their mud holes in the first rains of May. Some of them glanced at the ladies.

 

“Hey Mah Jong, did you know that she had a crush on you?” remarked one, no longer sober guy as he pointed his nose at the direction of one of the ladies.

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The ladies were looking good!

“Is she still single?” asked a curios Mah Jong.

 

“Dunno. Why don’t you ask her?” The guys actually giggled and guffawed at this remark.

“What? Ay yay yay. Such small talk. But it’s a reunion, right? Don’t be such a square. Enjoy!”

The night wore on. Food was spread on the tables. Serving platters were replenished again and again. Plates were filled and refilled.

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SAS Batch 1984 Reunion 2015

Everybody had a great time, a grand old time.

Reunions are great!

Rite of Passage (ROP)

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Ms Phoebe Balala

Phoebe Balala – 7th grade

Phoebe came to the SAS Ai family, from Barangay Pula, about six years ago, having just graduated from 6th grade in the elementary school system. She and her family asked for financial aid to finish her high school education at St Augustine School. SAS Ai accepted her application. That was then.

Ms Phoebe Balala, SAS Ai Class 2018

This year she graduates SAS high school with honors. We look at her today and our reaction is, “Wow! Who is this sharp-looking young lady? Why it’s Phoebe! Where has time gone?”

Phoebe truly exerted her best effort slogging through high school making it to the honor roll. She wrote and filed a couple of beautiful reports about her out-of-the-classroom-job-immersion program experiences. In those reports she spoke eloquently about how she was drawn to those whom she helped. She felt she had an obligation to help those from the community seeking help.

We can say with confidence to Phoebe, “Good luck Phoebe. We know you are very competitive and at the same time compassionate. You will go far!”

Ms Fegie Yvette Layco

Fegie Yvette Layco, 7th Grade

Fegie Yvette’s athleticism percolated to the surface gradually. She blossomed as an athlete late in her 8th grade year. By then she was playing in the school’s varsity volleyball team, spiking the ball so hard and so precisely that she instilled terror in her opponents. She also joined the dance troupe that won several regional and provincial contest awards. She’s a good dancer with excellent moves.

Ms Fegie Yvette Layco, SAS Ai Class 2018

Fegie Yvette attended St Augustine School all throughout elementary school maintaining good grades with a Grade Point Average of 89% or better.

She, her parents, and family were forthright about their request for financial assistance based on family employment setbacks and other health concerns.

Fegie Yvette is very outgoing and makes friends easily. She’s sharp and is very competitive. She’ll go far!

Ms Juzel Ann Macanas

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Juzel Ann Macanas – 7th grade

Juzel Ann joined the SAS Ai family from Libtong. She graduated valedictorian of her 6th grade class. All thru high school, she maintained her competitive edge in academics, student government involvement, and community work participation.

 

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Juzel Ann Macanas, SAS Ai Class 2018

She’s graduating high school this year with hard-earned and well deserved high honors.

 

We believe that Juzel will go places and do many good things. She will continue to be a productive member of society. She will also be an advocate for the needy, just as she is today, helping distribute food to the poor and needy in her community.

She will also participate in the arts just as she did during the Libtong fiesta where she competed in the “Libtong’s Got Talent”. But most of all, Juzel will be successful because of her strength. She has deep faith – in God and in those with whom she works.

Ms Reggie Ann Padiwan

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Reggie Ann Padiwan – 9th grade

Reggie joined our SAS Ai Family when she was in the ninth grade. She hails from Sigay, Ilocos Sur. Sigay is a municipality a few kilometers north of Tagudin, where the SAS campus is located.

 

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Reggie Ann Padiwan, SAS Ai Class 2018

Sigay is a beautiful town nestled in the mountains, complete with waterfalls and green forests that rim the rice fields and other cleared patches for cultivation. The climate is temperate and accented by the chilly mornings specially in December.

 

It appeared that Reggie’s family source of tuition assistance fell into hard times caused by deteriorating health. She and her family searched for other sources of help. When Reggie’s family approached SAS Ai, there was no question in everybody’s mind (members of the board) that she deserved the help. She has been with us ever since.

Reggie’s strength is in her consistency. You can always count on Reggie to file She regularly files updates and reports on what is going on with the scholars on campus, their activities, their trips and adventures.

Ms Jazelle Rose A Peck

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Jazelle Rose A Peck – 10th grade

Jazelle Rose joined the SAS Ai family when she was in the 10th grade. Her father, who lives and works in Singapore, suffered a heart attack and got laid off work. He could no longer send money to help with Jazelle’s tuition.

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Jazelle Rose A Peck, SAS Ai Class 2018

Jazelle and her Mom, and members of the SAS faculty sought help from SAS Ai. She had maintained good grades, was part of the campus journalists for the school paper, and also was very active in student government.

 

We believe that part of SAS Ai’s mission is to extend help to deserving students, who suddenly find themselves no longer able to pay tuition because of circumstances beyond their control. Such was the case with Jazelle Rose.

This year, she’s graduating high school with honors. What a journey it has been. We know Jazelle will do well in whatever field she chooses to enter.

We are so proud of all of our graduating students:  Phoebe, Fegie Yvette, Juzel Ann, Reggie Ann, and Jazelle Rose.

(All photos courtesy of Ms Margarita Bayan, SAS Ai Student Affairs Coordinator)

 

Kyle Zyra Lazo, PMA Class 2021


Kyle Zyra Lazo

Kyle Zyra Lazo, SAS Ai Scholar Class 2014-15

SAS Ai stands proud of one of its outstanding scholars, Kyle Zyra Lazo, Batch 2014-15. Congratulations Kyle Zyra!

She was admitted to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), a promising member of PMA Class 2021.

Ms Kyle Zyra was a very disciplined high school student. Her strong suite has always been leadership, team play, a hard driving effort – all traits of a good soldier. She declared early on in the program about her plans to eventually seek a scholarship at PMA and a Congressional commission to serve in the Philippine Armed Forces as a commissioned officer.

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Cadet Lazo’s first photo at PMA

Her dreams came true. She was admitted to PMA.

But before she could outright enroll and register at the military academy, Kyle Zyra had to work very hard to prepare for the very competitive nationwide admissions test that also included a multi-faceted and rigorous physical exertion test culminating in a thorough physical examination.

May 28, 2019. It was incorporation day. Kyle Zyra was formally admitted to the academy on this day and became a proud member of PMA Class 2021.

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Cadet Lazo in full dress uniform

PMA Cadet Lazo, fully attired in her dress uniform, stood at attention by her neatly made up bunk,  awaiting further orders.

Notice the clean, spartan and minimal amenities that furnishes a cadet’s sleeping quarters.

Before the official day of incorporation, and while Kyle Zyra went through the processing phases, she stayed in a transient barracks along with the other cadets. Her family was granted a few minutes every day to visit with her.

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Mr Lazo and Cadet Kyle Zyra Lazo

Here is Mr Lazo (photo at right) visiting with Cadet Kyle Zyra Lazo at the transient barracks. Notice how proudly Mr Lazo stands by his daughter.

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On a Bivouac

A helmeted Kyle Zyra Lazo (left bottom) grinning and enjoying the trek, along with another cadet who participated in a bivouac during her physical training prior to being admitted at the academy.

We at SAS Ai feel privileged to have reached out and extended financial aid to Kyle Zyra Lazo’s high school education – an excellent investment.

We thank our generous donors who believe in and stand by our mission and cause and who support all the kids in the program. We thank our many supporters, benefactors, and volunteers for believing that Education is Freedom. Below photo is Kyle Zyra Lazo’s graduating class of 2014-15. She stands second from the left in the front row.

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(L-R) Front Row:  Leonardjon Buenavista (BOT), Kyle Zyra Lazo, Kristine Joy Cardenas, Kim Shelly Tan, Melvie Legaspina, Melanie P Florentino (SAS Ai President & CEO). (L-R) Back Row:  Albert Bunoan (Fld Ops VP), Everlyn Jamandra, Maiah Genelle Dauz, Mariella Stephanie Tacho (Graduating Class Valedictorian), Rocel Ann Vinluan, Krisha Teodosio, Geraldine Layco, and Tina Laycano (SAS Ai Auditor)

 

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.”

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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.

Typhoon “Lawin” Damage

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Convent Roof Compromised

If my memory serves me right, the last typhoon that flooded Tagudin and outlying areas, tore up buildings and homes happened earlier this year or sometime late last year. That storm brought rains that made the river waters rise, overflowing its banks, inundating its tributaries with tons of water-borne mud, rocks, and debris that came raging downstream. Barangays like Sawat were cut off and the emergency response units had to ferry folks and their livestock to higher ground on make shift rubber rafts and other motorized water craft.

Another typhoon came by recently, only this time it didn’t spare the town proper. It directly hit the Sister’s convent. The hurricane-force winds tore up the convent roof made up largely of nailed corrugated tin sheets. Once the tiny swirls of dervishes (tornadoes) whirling along the fringes

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Ceiling slats couldn’t keep the rain off of convent furnishings

of the major gusts found the exposed seams of the corrugated tin sheets, it was only a matter of time until the entire roof was ripped off of its sub-roof foundations and underlayment.

With the roof compromised, the convent became a veritable open vessel for the torrential downpour. You can just imagine the devastating effect of the unchecked water pouring freely on exposed furniture, books, filing cabinets, chapel statuary, beds, linens, and other household items.

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Mayor Jun Verzosa inspecting the damage to the Sisters Convent

Headed by Mayor Jun Verzosa, local government officials inspected the damage to assess the repair costs. The ICM Sisters sent out requests for financial help to the alumni at large. SAS Batch 1958, headed by Mr & Mrs Niceto and Delia Batac of San Diego, CA., along with Engr Apolonio and Emilie Villanueva, Mr & Mrs Sam and Lolita Hassan, Mr & Mrs Fred and Margarita Lasmarias to name a few, immediately collected contributions and sent the amount to Sr. Nida

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SAS Class 1958 at the SAS Centennial

Buyuccan, ICM and Sr. Connie Gacutan, ICM.

We ask all fellow Augustinians to please take a few moments to make a generous donation toward the repair of the badly damaged Sister’s Convent. Thank you.

“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.

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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.