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Rayla Melchor Santos

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on Mom’s birthday today, November 9, 2014

MOTHER AND LEGACY are two very formidable words.  

Formidable because formidable means “inspiring awe, admiration and wonder, extremely impressive in strength and excellence … great, powerful, tremendous, mighty, terrific, awesome, invincible, indomitable, redoubtable, puissant … having great power or influence”.

Each word, mother and legacy, has an expansive life of its own and for all intent and purposes, is about life and … is ALL that life is!


A MOTHER gives birth to life and is the chosen vessel through which our existence on this planet and our humanity is manifested and realized.  Being that, she becomes the thread that binds humanity together, the common denominator of all of humankind. 

Referring to their own mothers, American Presidents Lincoln and Washington said, very similarly:  

“All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother” and “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.  -  Abraham Lincoln 

“My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw.  All I am I owe to my mother,  I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. -  George Washington

Rather candidly, Harry S. Truman made this famous quote about his mother:  “No one in the world can take the place of your mother.  Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right.  She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones.” Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the mother as “ the one supreme asset of national life; she is more important by far than the successful statesman, or business man, or artist, or scientist”.   Lincoln adds: “I regard no man poor who has a godly mother”. 

Napoleon Bonaparte declared:  “Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.” 

In an address “Peace through Inner Peace” delivered at the University of Minnesota, the 14th Dalai Lama invoked with fondness the memory of his mother: “riding on his mother’s shoulders and mischievously “steering” by tugging her hair to the right or left, pouting if she didn’t obey”. He attributes his compassionate nature to her: “my warm-heartedness originally came from my mother”, further saying that “those who receive maximum affection from their mothers as children have much greater inner peace in their adult lives”. He recognized the role of mothers in the quest for peace: “we can strive to embrace compassion and teach the warm-heartedness that might make our own kids pick up the quest for peace and say, “It’s mine” … too!
Mahatma Gandhi speaks sensitively of the anguish and agony, the painful and arduous effort of carrying a child for 9 months: “Only a prospective mother knows what it is to carry.  The onlookers notice her illness and pity her.  But she alone knows the travail.” 

Our own Jose Rizal called his mother “loving and prudent”.  It is known that she was his first teacher who taught him reading and writing at the age of three. 

Poignantly, Mother Teresa shares: "I once picked up a woman from a garbage "I “I once picked up a woman from a garbage dump and she was burning with fever; she was in her last days and her only lament was: ‘My son did this to me.’ I begged her: You must forgive your son. In a moment of madness, when he was not himself, he did a thing he regrets. Be a mother to him, forgive him. It took me a long time to make her say: ‘I forgive my son.’ Just before she died in my arms, she was able to say that with a real forgiveness. She was not concerned that she was dying. The breaking of the heart was that her son did not want her. This is something you and I can understand."

Authors in their distinct and respective styles speak of mothers in glorious and impactful ways:

The real religion of the world comes from women much more than from men from mothers most of all, who carry the key of our souls in their bosoms. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. –  William Ross Wallace

My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart - a heart so large that everybody's joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation." - Mark Twain

She is my first, great love. She was a wonderful, rare woman - you do not know; as strong, and steadfast, and generous as the sun. She could be as swift as a white whiplash, and as kind and gentle as warm rain, and as steadfast as the irreducible earth beneath us. – D.H. Lawrence

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always
find forgiveness.- Honore de Balzac

The mother is everything - she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly. -  Kahlil Gibran

The Spanish have a proverb: “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy”.  
“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers” is a Jewish proverb. “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.”, a Chinese Proverb. 

From Divine reference and slightly in jest: Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? (Jeremiah 30:6) LOL! … and 
All generations to come shall call me blessed (Luke 1:48), referring to Mama Mary. “Hope is what Mary sheltered in her heart during the darkest time of her life: Friday afternoon until Sunday morning. That is hop: she had it. And that hope has renewed everything. May God grant us that grace (Pope Francis). 
The last instruction in Life’s Little Instruction Book I by H. Jackson Brown, Jr., No. 477 reads: Call your mother, seemingly prefixed with, ‘when all else fails’. 

There is a strange charm in the hope of a good legacy that wonderfully reduces the sorrow people otherwise may feel for the death of relatives and friends. - 
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (author of 'El Quijote', 1547-1616)

Interestingly, LEGACY speaks especially about our mortality. 

Stephen R. Covey is cited by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential Americans of the 20th century, largely ascribed to his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which he authored in 1989 when the internet was “born”. His prescriptions for effectiveness were embraced by corporate America then, and has since sold 30+ million copies. In 2004, in his book, ‘The 8th Habit’, he writes that we are in the Age of Wisdom, where it is not optional to simply be effective. He says the call of the time is for significant contribution and passionate execution within one’s circle of influence …to live, to love, to learn… and to leave a legacy. 

This is what Mommy left me with her legacy.  To live for others and not just exist for one’s self, to love like I’ve never been hurt before. Mom taught me,  the “dash” is what matters. The dash – between birth and death.  

Mom died in my arms on August 25, 2013.  Holding her ever so tightly, clinging on to her literally for dear life, I was reading, through tears and sobs, whispering in her ears, Psalm 23. Not one nano-second before or after the last word, she breathed her last. “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord ……forever”.  

Mom was most generous, even to the end, to her end … or should I rather stand corrected and say, the Lord was/is most gracious.  Losing her was my greatest fear, from whence I was a child. But for some reason, her dying in my arms gives me peace that knows no understanding. 

Merci Melchor
November 9, 1928 – August 25, 2013

“It’s the dash, Rayla (sometimes Sam) that matters.” Yes, Mommy and …

it is your birthday today, Mom. There is no gift I can give you that can ever equal your gift to my life.  You have left me much. I live now,  loving myself well* for you taught me to love and respect myself again. You taught me to find my voice so I can influence others to find theirs. 

[* I can hear you, Mom! … more discerning, more smart trusting (Stephen MR Covey), more emotionally and mentally tough]

Mom joked that SAM also means Sol** And Merci. It does. (**Dads’ and) your legacy for Significance, Service And Meaning, shared with my brothers in each of our respective ways.

I love you, Mommy, today and “forever”, and I remain humbled and beyond grateful. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life … and I shall always remember and know … It’s the dash, Mom!


Prayerfully, soon(er than later), I AM SAM will launch the Merci Melchor for Women and Children Treasured Box of artistic masterpieces. It is “Unconditional Love and a Conspiracy of Hope and Possibilities” for women and children through the I AM SAM PEP (Prevent-to-Empower Protocol). This treasured box will contain Mother and Child renditions in mixed media by Mom, Merci Melchor and Mom’s dearest artist friends: Vicente Manansala, H R Ocampo, Jose Joya, Anita Magasaysay- Ho, Manuel Rodriguez Sr., Cesar Legaspi, Mauro Malang Santos, Romulo Olazo, Onib Olmedo, in all - occasion notecards, you would probably rather frame than write on! LOL!

What a legacy! As a child, being the youngest and only girl, Mom took me with her to her painting lessons with Manuel Rodriguez Sr, Mang Enteng (Manansala) and Dean Joya. Many a Saturday growing up, in the glory days of the premier Saturday Group of Artists, I have been by her side, either watching her paint or listening in on serious discourses and banter alike, with H R Ocampo, Titos Cesar (Legaspi), Malang (Mauro Malang Santos), Ola (Romulo Olazo), Onib (Olmedo)! With Tita Anita (Magsaysay-Ho), it included out-of-town trips and dancing sessions ☺

Mom left me explicit instructions for this and I will need your help and loving kindness to spread “unconditional love, hope and possibilities” for women and children because of My Mother’s Legacy!
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May I share part of a talk I gave in 2007 which I wrote into article entitled "LEADERSHIP: THREE POINTS"? The THIRD POINT is entitled, 
"III. FIRST AMONG FIRSTS (PRIMUS INTER PARES in Latin). Here I speak about Minister Lee Kuan Yew. 

Today on the day of his funeral, I wish to share my thoughts then. 
Minister Lee, thank you for being great human being. Thank you for showing it can be done. You made it happen ... fr Third World to First! May political leaders be shaken and moved by your example. I share Pope Francis' quote: I ask everyone with political responsibility to remember two things: human dignity & the common good. 
Rest in peace, Minister Lee. You have left quite a legacy with your vision of Singapore realized during your lifetime. 


Lee Kuan Yew is someone I admire. For many reasons. I admire him for what he has done for, rather, what he has done to his country. In 1959, Mr Lee became prime minister of Singapore when the city-state, part of the Federation of Malaysia won its independence from Britain. Then, it had zero resources and using ‘third world’ as reference to depict it would be an English understatement. A NY Times writer described it then as “malarial”. By 1994, it had the world’s busiest port, was the third-largest oil refiner and was a major center of global manufacturing and service industries. From less than $ 100M in its coffers, it is today one of the world’s economic powers with US $ 200-300B in sovereign wealth funds (2009). How enviable as a neighbor in the ASEAN region. Not without his critics who have lambasted and lampooned him for his micro-management, curtailment of civil liberties, laws banning chewing gum and spitting, lack of entrepreneurship, among others, the social order he conceptualized and imposed to create world class citizens within world class infrastructure, has translated into material well-being enjoyed by his people. When questioned, Minister Lee replied: “These are my choices. I go by what is good governance. What are the things I aim to do ? We have now a healthy society that gives everybody the chance to achieve his maximum”. Many times I have thought, we (the Philippines) need a Lee Kuan Yew. I personally experienced a thin slice of life in Singapore. During a respite from education for the stretch from 2002 -2005, I made a few visits to Singapore and my business then exposed me to entrepreneurship and Singaporean entrepreneurs. I want to say, “What are they talking about?”. 

I admire him for what he has done for and to education. Again, it needs to be appreciated in context, of Singapore as a backward and remote 700 sq mile fishing village and a populace born and raised in this meager setting composed of multiracial and multicultural Chinese, Malays and Indians. In 1995, Singapore placed No. 1 in math and sciences in the celebrated and reliable TIMMS or Trends in Math and Science Study ( and has stayed consistently on top of the world till today. As he has brought Singapore to first-world status, he is steadfast and mindful, constant in reminding us of the Confucian values of discipline and hard work, perseverance, value for learning and scholarship, thrift and the deferment of present enjoyment for future gain. I admire him for his razor sharp mind then and now in his eighties. Though undoubtedly, The Father of Singapore, Mr. Lee still officially part of the cabinet as Mentor Minister since 1994, is less ‘father’ and more ‘grandfather’ enjoying a relished and revered role in geopolitics, as thinker, analyst and unquestionably, master. It is in this phase and arena that I am in awe how he perceives, responds to and connects personalities and events and scenarios in current events and in history. Why do I even wonder? Why of course, leaders see, must see connections. He too has an astute and honest ability and disposition to tweak when tweaking is called for. 

The leader’s leader; the statemen’s stateman. First amongst firsts. From Fareed Zakaria of CNN, I learned Richard Nixon once compared him to legendary statesmen Disraeli, Bismarck and Churchill. President George Bush enthused: "Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew is one of the brightest, ablest men I have ever met. All of us who have worked with him have benefitted from his wisdom, insight and dedication.” From Margaret Thatcher: "He was never wrong." Quite recently in October 2009, Minister Lee received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the US ASEAN Business Council attended by top US foreign policy bigwigs. As one of these bigwigs, Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1973 and 56th Secretary of State of the US paid tribute to Minister Lee: “He is a seminal figure for all of us. As I have said I have known him for 40 years. I have not learned as much from anybody as I have learned from Lee Kuan Yew”.

On a personal note, I have loved ones and family very close to my heart in his Singapore. I have a niece, Lorie, the eldest daughter of my eldest brother taking her doctorate in NUS (National University of Singapore). I have a nephew, Red, the eldest son of my second brother, a Computer Engineering honor graduate also from UP with his fiancé in IT in Singapore. Also and not incidentally, part of the pioneer mentoring team of my 2 schools: saccharine Teacher Jeannie and feisty Alex Festin and industrious Teacher Mickie Sangalang, all quite dear to me, are in international schools in Singapore.I can be hilarious and strange at the same time: hilariously strange or strangely hilarious. I was tickled with childlike affectation (so do forgive me) to read that Minister Lee and I share at least two words in in our vocabulary: riff-raff and first-rate*, two words that can sometimes label us perhaps as intellectually arrogant at least when I choose to be. He does have an influence on me. I borrowed ‘mentor’ from him for use in the school. He was Senior Mentor (from 1990-1997) and now, Mentor Minister (from 2004 to present); I sign report cards as Mentor Director :) When I read that he was reading Miguel Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”, I ran to PowerBooks. I had to read it as well. “To dream the impossible dream” (Man from La Mancha)…

All these said, nothing impressed me more than an answer of his during one interview. The interviewer clearly ‘starstruck’, asked him: So Minister Mentor, is there anyone in this world that you look up to? I am certain that the interviewer actually meant: “Being Lee Kuan Yew, is it at all possible that you can even look up to someone?”. His answer was: “Yes, Deng Xiao Ping”. Quizzical, the interviewer retorted: “But what about the Tiananmen Incident of 1989?” The image of this lone man, slight in physique undaunted by a column of formidable tanks, flashed back. Still indelible in my mind and perhaps in the minds of millions all over the world witnessed through CNN, this scene is now immortalized in LIFE** for what it is, a photograph that changed the world. Minister Lee replied: “I cannot judge, because I did not have his information.” I can not start to explain why his answer ‘blew my mind’ but it did and my feeling, my instinct, my emotion then, albeit not totally devoid of reason, was: “That is a leader”.First amongst firsts. Not riff-raff. First rate (mind). In a class all his own. A cut above the rest. S, for sterling. “I cannot judge, because I did have not his information”. Gosh ! if I could teach that to your children [and many of my (so called) friends]. LOL :)

May I end with these words, words that have been comfort and companion in many a dark night and day:

 “People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true friends; succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;be honest and frank anyway. 
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;build anyway. 
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;do good anyway.
Give the world your best anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them,anyway”. 
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Mother Teresa. First amongst firsts. 

Rayla Santos is the Co-founder and President of the I Am SAM Foundation.
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Wayne Jacoby, Founder and President of Global Education Motivators (GEM)* pays tribute to Dr. Dominico C. Idanan, Superintendent of the School Division of Makati City, Department of Education (DepEd), Philippines during the 10th UN Educators Conference on Human Rights and Peace (UNECHRP) held on March 27, 2015 at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, USA.  

To quote Mr. Jacoby:   “Related to the work of Teacher Sam (Rayla Santos and the I AM SAM Foundation) in the Philippines, I want everyone to be aware of the help she has had behind the scenes in both Muntinlupa and Makati Cities and that is through Dr Dominico Idanan. Dr. Dominico Idanan is the former Superintendent of Schools in Muntinlupa and now, he is in that capacity in Makati City.

I wanted to specifically mention him today as he has been a strong supporter of the work of Teacher Sam since 2012 both in the UN Student Leadership Conference on Development and the UN Educators Conference.  He has had a special and important influence.  He is an educator, an administrator who understands the value of upholding human rights and especially, children’s rights and  he is one with IAMSAM and GEM in focusing on the development of self-worth as clearly stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I wanted to give special recognition at the beginning of this conference to Dr. Idanan.”

For perspective, Rayla Santos / Teacher Sam is the 9th recipient of the Global Educator Award given during the 9th UNECHRP on April 4, 2014 at the UN in NY. 
Rayla Santos acknowledges with deepest respect and gratitude, Dr. Dominico Idanan and his immeasurable and unqualified support to the I AM SAM Foundation without whose love, support, understanding and like-mindedness I AM SAM would not be where it is today. 

*Wayne Jacoby founded Global Education Motivators  in 1981 when there was no internet! Mr Jacoby is the tireless and inspiring spirit behind a mission to “bring the world into the classroom and help schools and communities meet the complex challenges of living in a global society”.  GEM is the convenor of two UN conferences: UNSLCD and UNECHRP. It  is the recipient of the UN Messenger of Peace Award.  Mr Jacoby has been working with the UN for 32 years. 

IAMSAM’s partnership with GEM enables IAMSAM to fulfill one of its goals, that of  creating global citizens. 

Maraming Salamat, Dr Dominico C. Idanan!  Mabuhay ka, Wayne Jacoby at GEM! 
(Thank you very much, Dr Dominico C. Idanan!  Long live, Wayne Jacoby and GEM!)

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Capt. Jose Mari Roa or “Captain Joy” of Asian Air Safari invites Rayla Santos, co-founder of the I Am SAM Foundation (IAMSAM) to visit a community of Aeta women and children and share blessings and the message of the foundation in the San Fernando, Pampanga episode. 

The IAMSAM Foundation focuses on the development of self-worth in women and children. With its tagline, “I Am Special, Unique and Precious”  (Ako Ay Mahalaga, Naiiba at Natatangi), Rayla Santos shares this empowering message with the Aeta children through its signature IAMSAM pink and green baller bands. This life-changing statement is underpinned by three UN documents: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR,1947), the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (UN CEDAW, 1979) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989).  To quote Rayla Santos, “you do not have to be anyone or do anything, simply because you are born into this world, you are special, unique and precious”!

IAMSAM’s flagship program, Prevent-to-Empower Protocol (PEP) in A Capsule, engages women and children and every human being for that matter to know and embrace in no uncertain terms that:
“I Am Special, Unique and Precious because I am a human being (UDHR);
I Am Special, Unique and Precious because I am a woman/child (UNCEDAW/UNCRC);
Because I am Special, Unique and Precious, no one can abuse me, not even my partner/parents;
Self-worth is my tool!”

The IAMSAM PEP is rolled out in public schools in Metro Manila & other cities and in Africa, among other countries and continents.  Rayla Santos has shared this message at the UNICEF HQ in New York, USA in August and Sept 2011, at the UK on Conference on Rights Respecting Schools in Nov 2011,  at the UN 7th – 9th Educators Conferences on Human Rights and Peace on March 30, 2012, March 15, 2013, April 4, 2014. She has been invited to share this message at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland in October 2013 by Civil Society (Mothers Legacy, Inter-African Council, etc). Her latest engagement at the UN in Geneva was  during the Human Rights Council Session No. 26 where she spoke in two panels: Protecting and Safeguarding the Human Rights of Children on June 11, 2014 and Harmful Traditional Practices Based on Religion, Superstition, Tradition and Culture on June 18, 2014. 

Rayla Santos is the Co-founder and President of the I AM SAM Foundation

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At once humbled and proud, may I share am article I wrote published in Business World: 

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SAM: A Choice :)

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Mother's Legacy is Afton Beutler's brain child & baby (no pun intended).  My love and gratitude to Afton (right most in photo) for making my UN Geneva trip utterly magical and significant.  Together we will Shake And Move the world! First stop for a joint IamSAM-Mother's Legacy's mission:  Nigeria :)

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Mother's Legacy is Afton Beutler's brain child & baby (no pun intended).  My love and gratitude to Afton (right most in photo) for making my UN Geneva trip utterly magical and significant.  Together we will Shake And Move the world! First stop for a joint IamSAM-Mother's Legacy's mission:  Nigeria :)

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This video was put together through the generosity of spirit of Levi Labra, newly retired VP of Proctor & Gamble.  Levi is president of Hillsborough Alabang Village Assn., village/ subdivision Mom & I live in.  He is also an artist and is opening an art gallery in Global City / Taguig supporting starving artists from our main islands of Visayas & Mindanao.  Levi has gratefully been most supportive of the foundation's mission since its inception and has worked/dealt with Mom too, sharing their great passion for art and artists, the  foundation & life in general. He brought in Sinag de Jesus, UP- educated videographer who produced videos for P&G, among others, and produced this in record time for my trip to Geneva & the UN. Many thanks as well to Ting Tanglao, IamSAM Director for Rights Respecting Schools for taking many of the photos with me & Tacs Dolina, IamSAM Director of the Young Educators Program/ Rights Respecting Organizations. 

Not incidentally, SAM stands for Shakers And Movers*
May God bless us all.

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