As I Wake Up Every Morning


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?


A Living Legacy

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

St Augustine School Girls Department Circa 1958

Founded in 1910, St Augustine School (SAS) started out as a mission school erected and run by the Belgian nuns and priests (CICM) who came to Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, Philippines to help spread the Good News. A short history of the school may be found at the SAS Ai WIKI. The last 103 years has seen the steady ascent of SAS as the premier private school of Ilocos Sur province. SAS Alumni work, live, set up private practice as doctors, engineers, certified public accountants, registered nurses, and do entrepreneurial commerce internationally.

Today’s global economy makes the job market keen and competitive. We have bright, promising and highly motivated kids in the community who come from very disadvantaged families and thus are financially unable to attend SAS high school.

It is so that these kids may get an opportunity to finish high school at SAS that our non-profit organization SAS Ai dedicates and commits its efforts. We solely rely on public financial support. To this end we humbly ask you to please generously donate to the scholarship fund. This is the only way we can fund these kids’ high school education.

We believe Education is Freedom. These children have known nothing but poverty, hunger, and even hopelessness throughout their lives. But they are the future. Investing in their high school education makes possible the ushering in of a living legacy – the next generation of teachers, scientists, doctors, engineers, civic leaders, clerics, fathers and mothers raising healthy families, and highly competitive overseas workers.

This holiday season, we ask you to please consider making your charitable contribution count. Invest in these kids. Help make their dreams come true. Give them an opportunity to finish high school. A $50 dollar tax deductible donation can help send a student for one month of schooling with the funding spread to cover tuition, books, school supplies, and school uniforms. You can even open a monthly allotment using your VISA, MASTER CARD, or DISCOVER card. Any amount you want to donate is truly appreciated and will help tremendously.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A Success Story

Jonel Leal

Jonel Leal (center) shows his certificate of recognition award, flanked by his Mom Mrs Monica Leal (left) and the Field Team Director, Mr Albert D Bunoan

The Field Team was at the Leal residence back in 2010 talking to Mrs Monica Leal and Jonel Leal about the scholarship program. It’s been a long, hot day and their trek to Ambalayat, where the Leals live, was long and tiring. The pre-qualifying process progressed slowly but they persevered and are they glad they did.

Today, Jonel Leal is an outstanding student at SAS high school going into his fourth and senior year.

During the first interview Jonel appeared too quiet, shy and even timid. The Field Team took a break to compare notes. Of the three Field Team reps, a couple gave Jonel an average rating. One remained high on Jonel. He observed that Mrs Monica Leal leaned heavily on her son, encouraging him to be more animated.

Jonel is a quiet young man who goes into deep thought when asked a question. He is not given to flashy exhibitions of flamboyance and open cockiness. He took his time answering questions. Sometimes going into a trance-like phase Jonel took his time giving cogent and well articulated answers.

When the Field Team politely asked Mrs Leal to leave them alone with her son, Jonel seemed to come alive. He appeared liberated, even emancipated. The Field Team left the Leal home late in the afternoon united in recommending him for the scholarship program. That was three years ago.

SAS Ai is so glad we gave Jonel an opportunity to attend high school with the scholarship program. He shows and typifies a SAS Ai scholar – in intelligence and in persistence.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.”

Living Free… really?


The man’s in need, the dog’s for feed – but the cat, look out, she’s into over-acting!

It was at the airport that I saw this display of an excellently choreographed  begging technique. The cat caught my eye. She’s flat on her back, feet splayed, paws outstretched, her facial expression unmistakably of deep hunger. Not a single passer-by failed to stop, notice, smile, grin, admire, and give.

While this ensemble may amuse and entertain, what really lies behind this life of begging? An investigation followed and found out that:

  • The man was down and out of his luck, was homeless with no family.
  • He and his pets are on the move and have run out of funds temporarily.
  • The man is happy with his life – no responsibilities, no bills, no financial obligations, no taxes, and they can move freely when and wherever
  • On a good day all three members of the begging team can come up with $500, with the cat fetching the tidiest sum of $200-$250, followed by the dog at $150-$175 and the man at $120-$150.

What a life, eh? Living free, or free-living, or living for free isn’t for everybody. What do you think – would you consider this kind of lifestyle?

Personally, I prefer responsibility, the daily challenge of making it by hard work, prudence, competitiveness, and accountability. I need the satisfaction brought by making it through the day with a minimum of hassle, the least amount of self-inflicted mistakes and mental errors. I need my daily triumph over life’s many challenges.

Nightfall finds me in the comfort of my dwelling and with faith bursting out of my heart I gratefully lay my head on a soft pillow, sleep through the night, secure and confident that God will wake me up in the morning in time to enjoy my cup of fresh hot coffee, ready to face life once more – and win.

SAS Ai Excellent Comments at GREATNONPROFITS Come in 3’s

2012 Awards

SAS Ai, Inc. Winner of the 2012 Greatnonprofits Top Rated Awards

Writes Melanie Florentino, Sales & Mktg Director, Public Relations Vice-Chair and Philippine Bureau Chief (read more of Melanie’s short bio):

“I am extremely proud to be affiliated with SAS Ai, Inc. as a volunteer. Our mission is to help bright, promising kids who come from financially deprived families get a good high school education at a decent and respected school – SAS.

Other organizations also offer financial aid to needy kids but SAS Ai’s very makeup and program efficiency make its aid package to stand out. SAS Ai’s all volunteer staff selflessly and tirelessly performs its duties and responsibilities, working and collaborating together, sharing their time, talent, and precious resources. The SAS Ai financial aid program is the most generous of its kind; SAS Ai’s Field Team, under Director Albert D Bunoan, runs it efficiently.

SAS Ai’s mission does not end with merely soliciting donations to the scholarship fund; it extends way beyond and over fund-raising activities. The mission includes coaching, role modeling, personal guidance, counseling services to our scholars and community outreach.

SAS Ai provides free high school education to bright kids who are financially poor. Perhaps what SAS Ai does may seem like a simple way of caring, compared to the bigger programs, such as, UNESCO, UNITED WAY, or The RED CROSS. SAS Ai’s educational welfare outreach nevertheless greatly impacts children’s lives. SAS Ai wishes only to help more kids – deserving because of their pure intellectual abilities and their intense want to learn, but stilted in growth by abject poverty.

Donations to the scholarship fund from generous people can change this equation from hopelessness to hopefulness, from uncertainty to a window of opportunity, from ignorance to enlightenment. It is SAS Ai’s hope this educational opportunity propels them to pursue and chase after their dreams and aspirations. Every precious child has a right to be free. Education is freedom.

SAS Ai does its work in the true spirit of charity – the absolute finest rendition of same – in the world!”


2012 Awards

SAS Ai, Inc. Winner of the 2012 Greatnonprofits Top Rated Awards

Writes Zaidee Tumangan, Business Entrepreneur:

“The scope of work that it entails to keep a nonprofit organization afloat is not easy. It takes guts and an extraordinary business acumen to do so. After all, nonprofit organizations are not after making a profit. Instead, it is a business for a cause.

Witnessing the dedication, commitment and enthusiasm of everyone involved at St. Augustine School Alumni International – whether in management, as a volunteer, fund-raiser, and/or field team member – made me a BELIEVER. I started as a donor and recently invited to become a member of the Board of Trustees. It gives me great pride to be working with these dedicated and hard-working volunteers.

I once read that our greatest responsibility in life is to take care of one another. St. Augustine School Alumni International mission statement epitomizes this responsibility. My hope as a donor and a member of this organization is for every person to find that call in their hearts.

To our scholars, keep up the good work. It is a privilege to be able to join and help you in this very remarkable journey. All of you think that what we have given you is something special, but, please know that what you are giving us in return is much more.”