Pro aliis” (For others) is the motto of my alma mater, the Ateneo, the school’s aim being to mold “men and women for others.” This does not mean dedicating one’s self to full-time charity work or advocacies. Rather, being for others is an attitude, a life orientation which drives a person to be proactive in serving, helping, and giving comfort to other human beings he encounters in life.
Fortunately, this trait seems to exist inherently in people, not only among Ateneans in whom it is consciously ingrained by the school.
Archie Lacson, a senior in his 70s, is from “the other school,” La Salle, Ateneo’s perennial friendly rival. In his younger days, he was a mainstay in a popular TV dance program, and since boyhood, an accomplished low-handicap golfer. Today, he is the president of a large golfing group, Alabang Senior Golfers Association (Asga).
As everyone knows, golfers are passionately focused on their lifetime sport—their proficiency, their complicated bets, their seesawing handicaps, their latest equipment and much more. But Lacson, as head of this group of senior golfers, looked beyond, saw a need and found a unique way to use his position as an avenue for helping others.
These “others” are the caddies, mostly mothers with young children of school age, whose job is to lug the golf bags of their players and assist them during a round of golf. They earn a modest caddy fee, which often is the main source of livelihood for their family. If their turn does not come on a given day, or if it rains, they go home empty-handed. In short, they virtually live a hand-to-mouth existence.
Come school-opening time, these caddy-mothers can hardly afford the basic necessities—uniforms, shoes, school bags and numerous supplies their kids need every school year.
Seeing their plight, Lacson looked for and found ways to raise funds for the school needs of the caddies’ children. Soliciting support from a generous and like-minded company sponsor, Petron Corp., and with the personal contributions of his board members, Lacson and Asga have been able to send close to a hundred caddies’ children (and even grandchildren) off to a good start for the past several school years, and counting.
On a specified day in June, Lacson, together with his Asga board members and Petron executives, and by special arrangement with SM Southmall, accompany the excited kids and their mothers to “shop” for their needed items early in the morning before the store opens to the public. A sure way to make any child about to start school feel extra special!
Although relatively modest in scale, for Lacson and his band of senior golfers, this undertaking is their special way of being “for others” in action.
A few weeks ago, one of the scholars of our family’s foundation was about to graduate with a BS in Psychology degree. Unfortunately, because she accumulated arrears in her dorm payments (not covered by the scholarship), she was told that she could not attend the graduation ceremony and receive her diploma unless she settled her debt first, which she could not—a true heartbreaker for any graduating student.
When I learned about this, I immediately called a doctor friend, another senior who was a former trustee of our scholar’s university. In turn, he volunteered to talk to the president of the school, although he warned me that this would be a long shot.
But two days before graduation day, my friend called me to say that the school’s president, upon learning of the student’s predicament, went out of his way to personally guarantee the payment of her debt, the amount deductible from his own salary if she would not be able to pay at a later date.
I can only imagine what impact these simple generous gestures, first on the part of my doctor friend, and then of the school’s president, have made in the life of that student, who will always remember proudly marching and publicly receiving her precious diploma in one of the biggest days of her life!
I know that every single day, many seniors like these are doing their share in this world’s countless acts of compassion, big and small, which show that they are truly human beings “for others,” even in their later years.
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”—Jesus (Matthew 25:40) —CONTRIBUTED