Things were going great and then. . .

After her husband died, she suffered a severe stroke

After her husband died, she suffered a severe stroke sending everything into a tailspin

In pursuing our mission to help bright kids from poor families finish high school, we come across many special applications or requests for financial aid. One such request came across our desk for consideration earlier this year. We can relate to this story. All of us are just one paycheck away from being homeless.

Maria, (we changed the names to keep the privacy of the parties involved) and her husband Taliofero operated a small cafe-diner. The place was no bigger than four office cubicles joined together, furnished with four tables with four chairs each. The simple menu included many local dishes affordably priced and targeted toward a clientage composed of the local government workers, school faculty and staff and a few students from wealthier families, who carry sizable lunch money allowance. Bottom line, business was booming. Maria was able to send her daughter Donna to private high school.

Then the unimaginable happened. Taliofero had a massive heart attack while cooking a batch of Dinuguan (a local blood pudding delicacy with pork innards). Their sense of loss and grief exponentially doubled as Maria suffered a stroke soon after they buried Taliofero. Utterly devastated, the family began to sell some of their belongings, jewelry and home furnishings to help run the business and to survive. Although it was touching and inspiring to see Maria and Donna try everything to mitigate the ravages of physical handicap and erosion of morale, the situation was nevertheless a portrait of raw despondency and frustration. Creditors repossessed their home. They moved back to Maria’s mother’s house.

Donna was going into her last year of high school. She had been an honor student all three years earlier and actively involved in the school paper as assistant editor. Donna’s bright and shows tremendous potential. But now, out of money and essentially broke, she faces transferring to the public high school. They applied for financial aid so Donna can graduate at the same high school wherein she started.

Our committee didn’t take long to decide. Donna will graduate this year from St Augustine’s School.



We Thank Our Donors

Cely Bilaoen Bautista SAS Class 1958

Cely Bilaoen Bautista SAS Class 1958

Mrs Celestina Bilaoen Bautista (left) – we call her “Cely” – supports our mission to help bright kids from poor families finish high school with financial aid. She staunchly believes that education is freedom.

She’s a retired registered nurse (RN), having worked in the Bronx hospitals of New York city for many years. Earlier in her life before finishing college and earning her Nursing degree, she attended and graduated from St Augustine School in Tagudin, province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. Cely is a member of the famous SAS Class of 1958.

Never one to forget her humble beginnings, Cely is no stranger to hard work and self-reliance. She remembers the goodwill of others bestowed upon her specially when she was first starting her Nursing career. Her success story is our success story. She loves these disadvantaged kids. She backs her hope for their success with her continued support and donations to the high school fund.

Thank you Cely and may God bless you always.

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?

The CICM Missionary Nuns

The CICM Missionary Nuns ran a tight ship

The CICM Missionary Nuns ran a tight ship

Above is a photo of members of the first wave of missionary nuns to arrive in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. Hardy and not afraid to roll up their sleeves, they ran a tight ship St Augustine School (SAS). They were a no-nonsense bunch of very pious, saintly, and hard working sisters of the Immaculati Cordis Mariae – ICM Congregation or Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Mary (CICM).

A long time ago, SAS ran as a gender-segregated school. The Boys Department buildings were separate and removed from the Girls Department buildings. The only places where the boys could catch a glimpse of the girls were the Church during afternoon prayers and singing, and on the basketball court when a game would be played. SAS had a championship basketball team during those days – but that is another story. Other than these two common areas, the boys had to be satisfied with casting perfunctory glances at the girls as they walked home after school.

We didn’t address the nuns “Sister;” we addressed them “Mother”. Mother Anatole, a tall, willowy, blue-eyed, bespectacled Belgian nun with acne problems took care of leading the church singing during the afternoon prayer service. With her podium positioned in front of the girl’s pews away from the men’s pews, Mother Anatole stood tall as the powerful symbol of discipline, reverence and rules of acceptable behavior. No hanky-panky in church, like, passing little notes on paper to the girls. No side glances at the girls.

I craned my neck just to be able to see her hand movements as she led the singing. In the afternoon heat and humidity the sonorous chanting sounds and sweet church music transported me to a different zone. I remember Mother Anatole’s dainty hands sticking out of her nun’s gartered habit sleeves. From where I sat, her hands looked like the heads of two swans dressed in white and cloaked in black. She moved them in an undulating, oscillating, pecking forward and again pulling backward motions in time with the music. The fluid motions of her hands were hypnotic and rhythmic.

To this day I could never understand why Mother Anatole just didn’t sway her arms with abandon just like other musical, or choir conductors did. I have seen Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, and even Henry Mancini conduct their orchestras and man they do move those arms. But not Mother Anatole. Instead, she kept her hands close to her habit sleeves, pulling out from time to time the garter ends of her sleeves to cover her wrists, as if trying to decrease how much of her arm could be overexposed to the public gaze and heaven forbid to the wandering eyes of the men sitting on the other side of the girl’s pews.

Going Back to School; I’m Excited – by Fegie Yvette Layco

Fegie Yvette Layco, SAS Ai Scholar Class 2011-12

Fegie Yvette Layco, SAS Ai Scholar Class 2011-12

School’s starting once again. There’s excitement in the air. I never thought I’d feel this way about school. First of all, going back to school and stepping up to the next higher level, or rung means progress, advancement, achievement – one step forward toward the finish line.

At the moment I feel like sprinting, dashing toward that yellow ribbon… both my arms up in the air, palms opened and waving to the crowd, I’m gasping for air with every sinew in my body aching… but the race… it’s won – Yay! That’s all that’s on my mind right at this moment. But wait. First things first. I am getting way ahead of myself.

Field Team Director, Mr Albert Bunoan met with us SAS Ai scholars and our parents today. He welcomed us back to the SAS campus and exuberantly announced before the end of the day we would all be enrolled and registered. The room burst into instant, unrehearsed but organized pandemonium. Shouts, howls, yells, screams, and shrieks of joy and jubilation drowned Mr Bunoan’s voice but only for a few seconds. He restored order quickly and continued, “Today we also get all our school supplies!” The applause was about to erupt once again but Mr Bunoan was quick to add, “Though not until we go over certain points.”

Scholar's school supplies

Scholar’s school supplies


“What could Mr Bunoan mean?” I thought. I felt somewhat uneasy. Mr Bunoan had my undivided attention now and I craned my head to catch every word he had to say.

“Dear scholars and parents,” he began. “Welcome back. Today SAS Ai proudly announces school year 2013 open and you are the reason for the mission.” Mr Bunoan paused for a sip of water. “Let us work together to make 2013 our best year, welcoming those joining our community for the first time.” Mr Bunoan outlined our responsibilities as SAS Ai scholars and the responsibilities of our parents supportive of our schooling. He was most thorough. Critical things like good grades, perfect attendance, personal behavior and development, humility and honesty, and most of all that we enjoy our learning experiences. Yes – that is why I am so excited to go back to school. I enjoy learning.


The mind is like a field. The furrows are straight. Ready for the seeds of Knowledge to be sown.

Each day on my way to school I pass by the open fields. Some parts of the fields lay fallow while some parts look plowed and cleaned, tilled and readied for the planting. My mind goes through images, scenarios and a collage of mental artwork only I can appreciate. I think to myself, “What if my mind is like that field over there,” I look to my right and see the neat and straight furrows.The soil looks fertile, ready for the seeds.

Isn’t that the same as going to school and learning? Our minds are like fertile fields. We prepare the soil in neat furrows, straight and single-minded, focused and ready for the seeds of knowledge to be sown by the teacher. That is why we go to school.

“Hey Fegie,” I heard a voice. It was Mr Bunoan. “Are you ready for 2013? Are you going for the honor roll again this year?”

Feeling a bit embarrassed for my dizzy-fantasyheadedness I blurted out, “Of course Mr B… yes Sir I am going for the ribbon…” is it the yellow ribbon of the race’s end or the red ribbon of the honor roll… gosh, I don’t know, but I am going for it.

Thanks SAS Ai for this opportunity to go back to school. Thanks for all your caring, kindness and generosity.

We are ready and hummin’. Education is freedom! Yay!

A Time For Bonding – by Maiah Genelle Dauz

Maiah Genelle Dauz

Maiah Genelle Dauz enjoys the summer with her siblings and her Mom… it was a time for bonding and good times


Tina Laycano, SAS Ai sponsor

Maiah Genelle Dauz (photo at left) is a SAS Ai scholar sponsored by Tina Laycano of Canada (photo at above right). Tina worked for the Canadian government as a computer and networks analyst and has since retired. Like Maiah, Tina hails originally from Barangay Dardarat.

Maiah sent us this short article she wrote about her summer vacation spent there locally in Barangay Dardarat.

“Summer vacation affords us time for myriad activities. Some activities involve long road trips to the metropolitan city of Manila, certainly a sojourn accented with detailed plans for elaborate evenings of dancing and fine dining.

Other activities include visits with relatives who work and live far away – some as far away as Australia and Canada. I heard about a couple of friends who spent time with relatives in Mindanao – a long way from Tagudin. Mindanao is the southern most island of the Philippine archipelago. I heard stories of them eating large pineapples, duhat, Guimaras mango, santol, rambutan, jackfruit, and dorian. My mouth watered at the mere mention of these exotic fruits.

For me, summer vacation was necessarily kept simple but loaded with fun. My older brother and sister came home to spend a couple of days with us. They took breaks from their work – something I knew they could ill-afford at this time. Yet they were there; it made my mother very happy.

This summer school break I realized that this time of year isn’t only for vacations. It is also a time for making memories with family; it is time for bonding. I dearly love spending time with my mother – no matter what we do – it could be as simple as a trip to the public market, or a short trip to the rice mill to buy a ganta of rice. When I am with my mother I feel like I am walking on soft cotton clouds. I just love my mother’s company.

I made sweet memories this summer – not only with my mother but also with my siblings.

A famous saying goes, “Time flies when you are having fun.” This summer was no different for me – my family and I enjoyed boatloads of fun. The couple of days my older brother and sister spent with us were gone even before I could unpack their handbags and tell them my stories. Good thing I bonded with them. With their busy schedules who knows when we will all get together again?

Soon the school year begins. Once again we will work hard with our studies. This year I want to make sure my generous sponsor, my Tia, Ms Tina Laycano will feel proud of my accomplishment. I made up my mind to write her to let her know how I am doing. I will also write to the members of the board to thank them and assure them of my ongoing drive to succeed and to be in the honor roll.

Summer’ been way too short. Where has the time gone? By the way, did you get to bond with your family?”

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.