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.


Manila, Manila – by Mariella Tacho


Rizal Monument

Rizal Park in Manila

The highlight of my summer vacation stay in Manila was my visit to Rizal Park. I think all Filipinos ought to see this place and spend some time admiring the artwork, examining the structures, and reliving the country’s history presented in the many exhibits. I entered the walled city called Intramuros with awe and great excitement. The towering walls appeared old, dark and looming and in some spots crumbling. There were splotches of green moss thriving in some places. The heat and humidity do a splendid job of eroding even the mightiest brick and mortar structures ever built by man. This fungi-action aging process became very clear as I entered the pavilion. The dank smell of mold and mildew assaulted my nose. I guess that was part of the draw… realism the place provides for the tourist and spectator to enjoy.


Mi Ultimo Adios by Doctor Jose Rizal

Termite eaten wood framed the old pictures hanging on the walls. The black and white photographs themselves must have been taken with old daguerreotype. What stories of bygone days they tell. Their voices may be mute but they tell of the days when the Spaniard Conquistadors ruled the islands and demanded blind loyalty and allegiance to the King of Spain. I believe this is what got Dr Jose Rizal, our Philippine National Hero killed – his refusal to personally submit to Spanish subjugation – and his rallying cry to all the Filipino people to revolt. I almost became teary eyed when I saw his famous poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, presented on the wall.

Dr Jose Rizal

Re-enactment of the death of Dr Jose Rizal by Firing Squad

But this last photo reenacting the death of Dr Jose Rizal by firing squad is the most poignant of all the show photographs. I must have spent a couple of hours just reflecting on his personal sacrifice all because he wanted the Philippines to be free. All in all, I will always remember my visit to Rizal Park. What a high point it was to my vacation visit to the great city of Manila. Everybody should go visit Rizal Park. There is so much history, tradition, culture, and heritage to see.

Joyful Realization


The Family of one SAS Ai scholar

Three years ago, our field Team spoke with this family about their eldest daughter who was about to finish elementary school and graduate sixth grade class Salutatorian.

Field Team Leader Albert Bunoan began the conversation, “Mr and Mrs Sotero, we are here because your daughter Soledad expressed interest in applying for financial aid to attend SAS high school.”

“Who are you?” Mr Sotero sounded skeptical. “Why would Soledad want to attend SAS high school? All her friends are in public school.” Mr Sotero seemed bothered about something. His wife Calixta was fixing sweet potato stew in the kitchen. She listened intently even as she stirred the pot.

Mr Bunoan smiled and calmly explained to Mr Sotero about the SAS Ai scholarship program. “SAS is the premier private school in the province. It would certainly be to Soledad’s advantage to attend high school there. The faculty is very capable and the facilities are up to date. Soledad can apply her smarts and learn a lot from what SAS has to offer.”

“Isn’t that school only for the rich?” asked Mrs Sotero finally getting into the conversation. “One of my aunts attended that school and graduated in the late forties. Yes it is a great school.”

Mr Sotero chimed in, “So are you going to pay for Soledad’s tuition? How about her books and lab fees?”

Mr Bunoan showed the Sotero’s the SAS Ai program documentation. “Mr and Mrs Sotero, we will take care of Soledad’s registration, books, school uniforms, shoes, socks, school supplies but you will have to take care of her lunches and transportation.”

“How you doing that? You got money or something?” Grandma spoke her broken English. She was rocking the cradle in the other room. “You taking my Soledad and keeping her in dormitory? She needed here helping with the field and pasture.”

“Grandma Sotero, no, we are not taking Soledad and putting her in a dormitory. We are enrolling her to attend high school at SAS,” Albert said with a smile.

That was three years ago. This year Soledad will begin her fourth and senior year of high school. She has done well, staying in the honor roll after each year. She expects to graduate with high honors.

At the annual parent-Field Team meeting, Mr and Mrs Sotero reminisced with Mr Bunoan. “Remember when you first came to see us about Soledad attending SAS high school?” Mrs Sotero said.

“Yes. I thought Mr Sotero was going to do me bodily harm,” Mr Bunoan lightheartedly replied. “SAS Ai is very happy for Soledad and proud of her accomplishments. And so must you be…”

“Mr Bunoan thank you so much for not giving up on us,” Mr Sotero said in a very humble and subdued voice. “We couldn’t have given Soledad this kind of good education.”

“Yes we are most grateful to the donors of SAS Ai. And of course we love SAS Ai and all the volunteers who run the organization,” Mrs Sotero’s eyes misted.

It was such a different meeting than the one that happened three years ago. Such joyful realization…

Former Classmate Comes to SAS Ai’s Aid

Cely Bautista

Celestina Bilaoen Bautista, SAS Class 1958

” Hi Tom, how and who will I give the donation here in the Philippines? I hope somebody is responsible here who you designated. Regards too and take care of your health coz it’s your wealth, di ba…”

Cely asks me to whom should she give her donation to the scholarship fund while she is in the Philippines on vacation, and how? I replied, please submit scholarship fund donations to:

Albert D Bunoan - PR Committee Member

Albert D Bunoan

Mr Albert D Bunoan

Field Team Director

Barangay Dardarat,

Tagudin, Ilocos Sur,


Such a short sweet note from a friend. Meet Cely Bilaoen-Bautista, SAS Class 1958. After high school graduation she attended and earned her BSRN from San Juan de Dios College in the Philippines. She went on to work as a registered nurse for Montefiore Hospital. She’s now retired and lives in the Bronx, New York.

Her generous gesture and offer to donate to the scholarship fund touches me deeply. Like most of us, Cely lives on fixed income now too having retired. Yet, she supports the cause and mission of SAS Ai, Inc. Perhaps because she attended and graduated from this great school she wants these bright kids who come from poor families to experience the same excellent education she received. Admirable.

Cely knows the meaning of “poor”. She saw all forms of poverty framed within the context of her workplace. She saw squalor in the inner cities. She witnessed families literally trying to make it day-to-day when she lived back home in the Philippines. Cely is no stranger to the poor and her heart tells her it would be a crime to waste such brilliant minds; these kids need an education. They need help to attend high school.

She follows the message of generosity and charity toward those who have nothing. Cely gives to SAS Ai from her own need. That is the most admirable form of giving.

Thanks my friend for your generous donation.

Meet Mike and Karen Sobiecki, SAS Ai Sponsors

Karen and Mike Sobiecki

Karen and her husband Mike Sobiecki think highly of SAS Ai’s effort at helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education, They sponsor SAS Ai scholars,

He led a crack platoon of skilled military men while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War. She worked for a law firm as executive assistant. Finishing his stint in the US Army, Mr Michael Sobiecki worked for Chrysler Motors and rose to Regional Director of Executive Marketing and Sales.

After Mass last Sunday I asked him if he’d already retired. “Too young to retire,” he quipped with a big grin on his face.

Mrs Karen Sobiecki is the more thoughtful, demure one. She smiled brightly and told me, “Don’t believe everything he says,” she winked. “I think he should go back to work.”

I thought, “Hmmm… so Mr Mike is hanging out at home… by himself most of the time… hmm….” I called him up later in the week and asked if I could drop by to talk to him about something.

He said, “Yeah sure. Come on by and I will have a cold one ready for you.”

Mr Mike and I talked about SAS Alumni International’s mission of helping bright kids who come from poor families get a good high school education at SAS thru financial aid. I explained to him what “poor” meant, and what “bright” meant: A gross annual family income of $1167 USD or less and a GPA of 85% and above .

Mr Sobiecki looked absorbed and very interested; he said nothing and remained motionless. I thought I had bored him stiff with my presentation.

Breaking the silence he said, “Yes, I recall having to stay overnight in Olongapo City in the Philippines during the ‘Nam war. I slept in a hut but the folks were super-hospitable. Did you know they offered for me to sleep on the only cot bed in the house?”

“That’s Filipino hospitality for you,” I proudly beamed.

“I’ll never forget that gesture of kindness,” he continued. “In the morning they prepared for me some eggs, garlic rice, and marinated fish. That fish was sure bony! Hot dang, but it was good! How could they eat that kind of fish, bones and all.” The smile on his face registered pleasant memories.

“They don’t chew it,” I gave my smarty pants reply.

After a couple of cold ones, I stood up to leave. “Nice talking to you buddy,” he said shaking my hand. “Drop in anytime. Hey – see ya in Church Sunday!”

As I cleared the foyer and out the front door, I heard him following me close by. Halfway down the walkway I heard him say, “How much does it cost to sponsor a bright student? I think Karen and I just might sponsor a bright scholar!”

The rest is history. Mr and Mrs Michael Sobiecki are proud sponsors of SAS Ai scholars. They have never regretted their decision. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their generosity and support. We need more folks like the Sobiecki’s.

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.

A Silver Lining


There was no river to overflow. There was only rain and the devastating flood

It rained day and night with no let up. The water had no place to go. The storm drains clogged with dead leaves and other debris during the long drought and now these same drains failed to allow the run off to freely flow.

Misery. Devastation. The small houses suffered most as the water level rose. People became displaced seeking shelter in the most unlikely places – atop corrugated tin roofs, bridges, even junk piles in the dump. A cry for help rang out over the countryside.

SAS Ai, Inc. volunteered to broker a voluntary emergency collection among Filipinos living and working here in the United States, and elsewhere overseas. A few kind and generous souls came forward with their donations. SAS Ai then contacted the local municipality and informed the mayor of the emergency funds transmitted to his administration for distribution to the victims. SAS Ai also informed the Principal of St Augustine School of a forthcoming emergency aid package from the overseas Filipino workers for the victims of the typhoon and the flood.

When the rains stopped and the waters receded and the flood victims returned to what was left of their homes, the Mayor’s office and the Principal’s office had already distributed the aid package to 98% of them. The aid was given in a very timely manner.

Although emergency help is not SAS Ai’s primary mission, we can thank the President and CEO of SAS Ai, Atty Romeo J Somera, CPA whose prompt action helped the typhoon victims with the emergency collection. In this instance SAS Ai performed community outreach services, the very umbrella wherein the SAS Ai scholarship program falls under.