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

maidnannyserving

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.

 

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!

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,

Philippines

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.

He Heard and Listened to the Clarion Call


Saratoga

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.

Polon

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.

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?


Overacting

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


Ondoy

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.