Divine Intervention


“Her father will not recognize her as his daughter,” the distraught woman lamented. “He threw us out of his life like used rags. We haven’t received any remittances from him for years.”

Mother Superior sat there motionless. She listened, occasionally nodding her head in sympathy. She’s heard it all before. “Go on,” she would say. “How can we help you this time?”

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Now middle-aged Remedios

The middle-aged woman, we will call her Remedios (not her real name), was close to tears as she spilled her guts out to the Mother Superior of the school her daughter attended. She was there to plead her case of dire poverty, requesting that her daughter be allowed to take the finals even though she can’t come up with the tuition balance.

This wasn’t the first time Remedios had to grovel before the school administrator pleading for mercy and understanding. She did it when her daughter was a freshman in high school. Now, her daughter – who is a gifted child – is halfway thru her junior year.

As a young woman fresh out of high school, Remedios worked in Singapore as an OFW. She

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A Young Remedios

was young, highly energetic, and engaging with unbounded curiosity. She loved to dance and socialize. She loved to meet new people and make new friends. Wide-eyed and eager to see the world she gladly took on domestic employment overseas. New to a universe bustling with highly driven people, young and impressionable, she soon found herself entangled in a doomed, superficial relationship with a married man.

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Filising – a gifted child – in grade school

She bore him a child out-of-wedlock, a daughter, whom they named Filising (a combination of Filipiniana-Singaporianense). That was years ago.

Returning to the Philippines upon the non-renewal of her domestic contract, Remedios and Filising went to live with her eldest son, Sotero, in their small home with his family of four. As her son’s family grew bigger with the addition of a new baby, Remedios felt like she had to go to the big city to try her luck once again for overseas employment. Of course, Sotero and Filising protested. Sotero respectfully reminded his mother, “Besides, you can help us out by babysitting the new baby. We need you Mom. Don’t go. Stay.”

One day, without so much as a goodbye, Remedios left. Just like that. She left no address, no word as to where she was going. She just took off.

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Filising (left) with a friend

Filising felt the sting of complete abandonment in her heart. Not only did her biological father disown her, now her mother has left her. She felt utter worthlessness. Her grades began to slip. She lost her appetite. Her beautiful, flowing, black tresses began to fall off. She was withering away in broad daylight.

Sotero was at a loss; he didn’t know what to do. He had no resources to take Filising to see a doctor. Why, Sotero was so penniless he couldn’t even summon the local quack-doctor-herbolario for some superstitious quackery; this local shaman charged too much for his services.

At school, Filising’s teachers noticed the change in their star pupil. Alarmed, they informed Mother Superior of what was going on. It was out of pure concern for her welfare that Mother Superior had Filising brought in to the office one afternoon for an informal chat. Divine intervention was at work. Mother Superior took it upon herself to use her own personal money to help Filising finish her junior year. Additionally, she gave Filising a job at the convent, helping in the library and in the sacerdotal vestments upkeep, and giving her board and lodging.

Filising graduated high school class valedictorian. She never reconnected with her mother Remedios, who walked out on her… long ago.

 

You Can’t Take It With You


Cash Stash Under Mattress

Cash Stashed Under Mattress

Each and every night, after counting her money, she went into dreamless sleep, her ears insulated from the sounds of the world. She had no worries, no fears; just sheer joy in knowing that she had a pile of money at her disposal.

No situation fazed her. She luxuriated on an aire-ride bed taking delight in the fine layers of Turkish quality linen. The rustle of brocade covers combined with the lightness of the goose down stuffed pillows titillated her imagination. The silk sheets provided her with maximum opulence.

As was her nocturnal habit, she counted her cash in the dim candlelight. No bright lights for this lady. That would compromise her privacy. She confidently stashed her cash underneath her mattress. No bank ever won her trust. She contentedly went to sleep each night – the captain of her own destiny.

Out in public, when asked for a small donation for a charitable cause, she would quickly break into a satisfied grin and haughtily declare, “Well, I’d love to help but the money is at home. Really. I don’t carry cash. Maybe some other time.” And off she would go on her merry way.

Her obituary suddenly and unexpectedly showed up in the Church weekly bulletin. Our secretly wealthy lady passed away in her sleep. The emergency responders came to gather her remains. On their way out one of the technicians noticed a dollar bill on the floor but kept on walking.

The next day, the cleaning lady came to clean the apartment as scheduled. She saw Ben Franklin’s image on a hundred-dollar bill lying on the floor by the bed. She remembered the deceased woman very well. There was a time, when she started working there, that she begged the rich woman for a small loan so she could buy some groceries for her family. Of course her plea went unanswered. It was as if the deceased woman was deaf… or feigned deafness.

The cleaning lady went about doing her cleaning routine. Lifting the mattress to tuck in the new sheets, she discovered the deceased woman’s wealth and riches. Money… dollar bills stacked up four deep. The money … inanimate paper… lifeless green bills… just lying there. What good are they to the dearly departed woman now?

As I Wake Up Every Morning

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teouched heart

If your heart feels empty, fill it with love for others, and with deeds of goodness, compassion and mercy.

Here’s my daily routine: Slithering out of bed and from underneath the soft blanket and comforter I fall down on my knees and pray, “Thank you God for giving me another day. Thank you indeed – I slept well thru the night.”

Scooting to the mirror I greet myself, “I like myself. I like myself.” This is my simple confidence-building formula. I figure that if I like myself there is hardly any reason for me to want to be somebody else.

I feel great even after that wretched burrito dinner with pulled pork con frijoles negros. Oy vey. Guacamole with a dollop of sour cream, salsa caliente and pulpo ceviche, Serrano peppers up the kazoo – all packed on scoop-shaped corn chips. Did I have tequila with lime slices? Can’t remember.

Confidently I go ahead with the 3-S essentials, slap my face with a squirt of Old Spice, stretch both arms high up and toward the ceiling while standing on my toes. Exercises over.

Today I will do something good for somebody. I am ready. Care to join me?

May Your Heart be Filled With Joy and Gladness


teouched heart

If you feel a hollow in your heart, it is there waiting to be filled with joy and gladness by acts of kindness toward others

“When you give, give expecting nothing in return…” so the Good Book says. Peace be with you dear friend. We are still trying to raise enough money to send our kids to school that begins this coming June 2013. These are the bright and promising kids who come from disadvantaged families and who are eager and desirous to finish high school. A disadvantaged family makes less than P50,000 (Philippine pesos) or $1167 USD annual gross income.

Go to our secure online acceptance portal and use your credit card (VISA, M/C, DISC) to transact your tax-deductible donation. You can also open a monthly $45 dollar allotment if it makes it easier on your budgeting process. It costs $540 a year to send one kid to high school. Any amount you wish to donate helps send a promising child to school. Our program holds the sponsored child accountable for maintaining good grades, and the child’s family for making sure the child gets time to study.

To find out what the $540 USD annual cost covers go to our SAS Ai, Inc. website. While there, meet our scholars and those who volunteer to run the program. Consider your donation as an investment for the future. Consider your donation as an act of kindness toward those who can’t pay you back. Consider your donation as necessary in helping a child realize his or her childhood dream. Consider your donation as liberating these children from poverty – because education is freedom!

Thank you dear friend for your donation and support. May your heart be filled with joy and gladness.

My American Friend


Bamboo Shoots

“But what will happen to the Pandas?” my American friend asked.

I still remember one hot summer day (during Cuaresma – Lent in the Ilocano language) we spent in the Philippines. Our ship moored dockside at Alava Pier, NAS Cubi Point for a couple of days of rest and recreation en route to the Indian Ocean. Sunshine drenched the countryside and the weekend beckoned.

“You want to come with me to the public market?” I asked a shipmate buddy who was folding his freshly washed laundry.

veggies

Squash and katuday flowers, eggplants, camote, ginger roots and bittermelons

“Why? What’s there to see?” he replied never taking his eyes off the linen he splayed in front of him.

“You might be surprised,” I said, quickly grabbing my baseball cap to leave. I thought I’d share some Filipino culture with my American friend. And the public market would be a good place to begin such enculturation.

“Wait,” he said. “Give me a second and I will go with you.” I knew he was just trying to be nice. He probably figured I needed company.

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Getting ready to haul stuff

Before long we were off to the public market, dodging weaving tricycles, avoiding wobbly ox-carts piled high with rice straw, and politely turning down independent shish-kebab merchants lining the sidewalks hawking their wares.

Entering the open bazaar we first came upon the fresh vegetable stalls. “Whoa… are those things what I think they are?” he exclaimed pointing at a stack of freshly cut bamboo shoots. “They look like 16 millimeter projectiles.”

“You’re right. Them’s bamboo shoots – not projectiles,” I shot back.

“But what will happen to the bamboo plants if you take the shoots? What will happen to the Panda bears who eat bamboo? Who buys that stuff anyway? What is wrong with this picture?” My friend went on and on. He was Mr questions. I smiled contentedly. Here’s our cultural teaching moment.

Sausage

Sausages – Sorizo – Longaniza

We walked deeper into the center of the bazaar. The air became staid. Different odors met our nostrils, some sweet and some downright repugnant. Then we came by the salted-fish merchant stall. “Eeeeks…” even I felt repulsed by the fish left fermenting in those huge gray clay jars.

My friend loudly protested. “What in the heck is this place? Let’s get out of here. I’ve had enough of this &%^#!” (the euphemism is my choice since his very words are unprintable here). I felt embarrassed for my friend but what could I do? We hurried back to the ship.

Inabraw

Vegetable stew – Inabraw

Since it was already past noon, we stopped by the Exchange Cafeteria for a cup of coffee and some lunch. I paid all charges; a peace-offering. My friend couldn’t stop telling me how much he enjoyed the Filipino food items I ordered for lunch. He said the vegetable stew tasted like something he ate in Thailand, and the soup was reminiscent of the seafood soup he ate in Vietnam. He went on and on about how much he liked the fish lightly battered and cooked in sun-dried tomato sauces. I listened intently.

Bagnet

Bagnet for Sitsaron (Chicharon)

I told him about the basic food ingredients used, the seasonings and spices that made the dishes tasty. I told him also that he saw all those ingredients in the public market place when we went there earlier.

He took a gulp of chilled coconut juice but largely remained silent. I wondered what he could have thought. “Didn’t he like the food?” I silently asked myself.

Then he said, “I have concluded that Filipino people are good cooks. And I can eat this food all day.”

He Heard and Listened to the Clarion Call


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Clarion Call – “Education is Freedom”

I know of a man who heard and listened to the clarion call. Since the beginning he knew only of spartan surroundings, growing up in a large family of modest means. All his brothers and sisters competed for honors in school. Not to be ignored he earned his fair share of achievement medals and academic awards.

His mother worked hard as the family’s primary bread-winner. His father’s waning health and strength bound him to the wheelchair. This young man, who was once faintly recognizable amongst siblings heaped atop one another, survived the ever-changing family dynamic to emerge a success in his own right.

He heard and listened to the clarion call. An inner voice cried out:  Education is Freedom! Come away, come away. Set sail for distant shores and cast your net in the deep waters. After graduating from Santo Tomas University with his Chemical Engineering degree he landed in Chicago where he set the world literally on fire. Feverishly working his way up the ranks, he earned patents on several chemical concoctions bearing his signature. He ascended the leadership ladder steadily and became the Director of Research and Development at L’Oreal, the perfume giant, until his retirement.

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Engineer Apolonio Villanueva III (BSEChem)

Meet Engr Apolonio Villanueva III. He and his lovely wife Emilie (Nee Valdez) originally from Baguio City live in Chicago, he having happily retired from industry and she from the medical field. Engr Polon (as we fondly call him) thinks very highly of SAS Ai’s mission to help bright and promising kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS thru financial aid. So much so that he supports the scholarship fund for these kids. And we thank him for his donations.

Today, many former SAS graduates work, live, and have retired all over the world. Many are doctors of medicine, engineers, accountants, government workers, teachers and politicians. They heard the clarion call and listened to it. More importantly they acted on it.

The clarion call rings out once again. Listen. Education is Freedom… come away and help send these bright kids to high school with your donation to the scholarship fund. Every bit helps. Surely, with your gift you are making one child feel most fortunate attending high school.

Imagine. . .


Scholars at the store

Imagine if these bright kids never attended high school just because their families are too poor to send them to high school… what kind of future would they have?

What does the future hold for these bright kids who come from poor families?

They want so much to attend high school and to finish it – yet can only dream about it.

They own academic skills, an aptitude to learn, and a burning want to rise above the clutches of poverty that’s pinned them down all their life.

We see these kids – they are all around us – and we can help them. Can you imagine yourself doing nothing to help them become more hopeful by helping them get a good high school education? Can you imagine yourself being unmoved by their plight when all it takes is for you to give a little donation to the scholarship fund – and SAS Ai does the rest handling your investment?

School year 2013 starts in a month or two. Now is the time to give them a hand. Now is the time to share your blessings with these bright kids so they can attend high school and become hopeful again. Now is the time to send in your donation to the scholarship fund. Imagine… you are investing in the future!