Chasing the American Dream

Only a few individual Filipino immigrants in the country can probably equal the extent, magnitude, and socioeconomic impact of the philanthropic work Rene Medina has started and sustains to this day in the United States and in the Philippines

Whiles Rene’s philanthropy has evolved from his success as a U.S. based entrepreneur and businessman, his generosity is legendary by most accounts is rooted, however, in the life of meagerness he led as a poor farmers son in the Philippines. It was there, in his country of birth, that he first learned how to work hard as an office messenger for day-to-day survival and for paying his way in to night school.


Early years

Yet Rene still considered himself very lucky then. Every time he visited his hometown of Arayat, Pampanga (50 miles north of Manila), he would be awed by the sight of human deprivation and abject poverty.

Many youths were kept out of school for sheer lack of transportation of lunch money. Although they had the means, few schools offered a good learning environment as most of there have inadequate facilities and were in a state of disrepair.

The problem of funding insufficiency was not confined to schools, however. While growing up in Pampanga province before venturing into the metropolis, Rene noted that the very institution to which townsfolk turn for solace in the face of hardships was likewise in need of revitalization. Crumbling and crowded churches, he thought, did not sit well with their assigned function of offering peace and comfort.


First Job

He landed his first job in the United States of America as an office printing clerk at the US Attorneys Office in San Francisco. There he soon became known as a bashful but extremely hard-working employee who met impossible deadlines on printing the lawyers appellate briefs.

One Saturday in 1973, he decided to gibe himself a break and took his wife Mila Reyes on a bus tour to Reno, Nevada. It was a trip that would change his life forever. Lucky Tours Inc. thus born.


Lucky Tours Inc.

Lucky Tours purchased its first bus in 1981. Behind the wheels of a reconditioned and repainted Greyhound unit, was Rene-the first drivers of Lucky tours. By 1988, having built a credible reputation in the business, Lucky Tours became known as Bay Areas biggest operator to Reno. Today, Lucky Tours operates a fleet of twenty five(25) deluxe buses and maintains nine (9) offices around the Bay Area. Lucky Tours further expanded its business operation to include overseas air travel to major cities in Asia.

Lucky Tours Bus


Lucky Money Inc.

Rene’s business acumen could only get sharper and his luck even better. In 1991, through the encouragement of a banker-friend visiting the Philippines, he established Lucky Money-a currency remittance company. Rene obtained the license to operate the company only after passing the exhaustive background investigation and rigorous test of financial stability and integrity as required by California Department of Financial Institution.

Lucky Money, with over 200 employees of diverse ethnicity is considered today as one of the biggest remittance service companies in the United States catering to ethnic communities. It maintains around 100 offices and agents in America, Philippines and offshore branches in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, and Guam.

Lucky Money HQ at Mission St., San Francisco


Lucky Chances Casino

With both Lucky Tours and Lucky Money firmly anchored on profitable ground, Rene was now ready to pursue an ambition he first conceived his early days as a casino bus tour operator; to own and operate a casino. His plan of establishing a casino in the San Francisco Bay Area town of Colma was met with fierce resistance, mainly from Casino owners Northern California. Rene hurdled all the challenges put in his way to prevent him from living his dream

In 1998, his dream came true! Lucky Chances Casino began its operations in Colma, thus opening a new chapter if the success story of an immigrant who came to the United Stated with only $100.

As soon as Rene determined that Lucky Chances Casino was well on the path of profitability, he set himself upon the task of giving back to his community and to the motherland for teaching him the value of hard work.

The progressive little town of Colma has been a major Bay Area beneficiary of the operational existence of Lucky Chances Casino, enhancing the town’s motto: “Its great to be alive in Colma!” – “Its great to be living in Colma!”

He lives up to his strong desire of sharing his hard-earned fortune to the deserving and disadvantaged in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. As Rene would quip; “It is the least I can do for a community that allowed me – a driven Filipino to chase the American Dream”


Giving Back

Rene’s Philanthropic Work in America

The idea of “giving and sharing” led to the formation of The Rene and Mila Medina Foundation. The young couple, Rene and Mila formed this non-profit entity where many of Rene’s entity where many of Rene’s projects, contributions, and donations in the past years have been coursed through

One of the first things Rene Medina learned about the people of the United Stated when he arrived in 1971 is their great capacity for compassion and strong spirit of volunteerism. Americans, he noted, spring into action to aid humanitarian and charitable causes, and to respond to calls for sharing with the less fortunate their time, talent and treasure

Rene quickly embraced the American spirit of caring and sharing. He began his mission of giving to those in need upon determining that there would be enough resources to sustain a meaningful philanthropic work.

The Lucky Chances Casino in San Francisco Bay Area town of Colma has been the springboard of Rene’s philanthropic, and socio-civic programs that today count around 300 individual, organizational, and institutional beneficiaries. Everyday, Rene receives solicitation letters and thank you cards/notes from across California and Beyond.

Recipients of Rene’s resources-sharing programs in the Northern California:

Rene is a regular benefactor of the Primary and Secondary Schools in the Bay Area including the following churches and religious organizations:

  1. San Bruno Church in San Bruno
  2. Patrick Church in San Francisco
  3. Holy Angels Church in Daly City

Civic and non-profit organizations in and around the San Francisco Bay Area being supported by Rene Medina;

  1. Daly City Youth Health Center
  2. San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs Association
  3. Mid-Peninsula Boys and Girls Club
  4. Filipino American Coalition
  5. Commission on Disabilities
  6. Asian Law Caucus
  7. Japanese Community Center of San Francisco
  8. Vietnamese Community of San Francisco
  9. Family Service Agency of San Mateo County
  10. Feed the Hungry
  11. Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary

Philippine Hometown Civic Organizations whose activities are supported by Rene Medina are:

  1. East Coast Aguman Arayat
  2. The Northern California Arayat Association
  3. The Southern California Arayat Association

Building and Rebuilding Churches

Functionality. Aesthetics. ComfortSt. 

Functionality, aesthetics and comfort are the three pillars that’s an ideal House of Worship would need. Old and rundown as they were, many of these parish churches and community chapels were even further damaged by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and worse, by the avalanche of volcanic water and mud (lahar) which continued unabated for a number of years. Rene Medina felt that most of the churches in Pampanga can use his assistance. through the Rene and Mila Medina Foundation, the building and rebuilding of these Churches came to life.


St. Catherine Parish Church

Arayat, Pampanga

In Rene’s hometown of Arayat, Pampanga, a town known for its classic architecture stands St. Catherine Parish Church, on of the oldest churches in Pampanga. Built in the late 1800’s the church was already giving way to age even as its structural integrity remained sound. The shell, however, practically housed eyesores and un-serviceable fixtures including an altar in need of extensive restoration and repair.

St. Catherine Parish Church

Solely funded and spearheaded by The Rene and Mila Medina Foundation, Rene spent three years funding the complete renovation of St. Catherine Church. This by far stands out as this biggest and most ambitious church renovation project.

Rene funded the renovation of the center altar, installed eight (8) chandeliers in the Church interior, refurbished window panes and installed religious inspired stained glass. Furthermore, the Church’s facade was given a facelift and the churchyard with a fresh landscape architecture.


Today, the clean, spacious, and well appointed St. Catherine Church serves as a sacred monument. The Church symbolizes the spiritual strength of the parishioners. Rene’s generosity and determination to complete this gargantuan project on his own inspired the people of Arayat. It rekindled in their hearts the spirit of volunteerism and public involvement across town.


It has been the same volunteerism Bayanihan or community commitment of moving and making things happen together that a dozen other parish churches and chapels were built from the ground up, renovated, or modernized.



Poor Clare Monastery of the Sacred Heart

Betis, Guagua, Pampanga

 Through the generous assistance of Rene and Mila Medina, a monastery located in one of the provinces of Pampanga was refurbished.

The renovation included brand new roofing of the building, total exterior cleaning and interior renovation including the main altar of the Monastery.

Poor Clare Monastery facade

Monastery’s interior and main altar

Saint Andrews Parish Church

Candaba, Pampanga

A Church located in Candaba, Pampanga of which Rene initiated the renovation of the church parish office as well as the repair and repainting of the Church ceilings and walls.




San Ildefonso Parish Church

Balitucan, Magalang, Pampanga

Rene, through the Rene and Mila Medina Foundation, responded to the townsfolk’s need for a place of worship conducive to prayer and meditation, as well as for public religious services. In this church, a new sound system was installed along with new lighting fixtures.



Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Parish Church

San Luis, Pampanga

Along with other churches in Pampanga, the Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Parish Church has been rated excellent in terms of preserving its original architecture and design. Rene Medina thus ensured that the team of engineers, architects, and workers took extra care and caution in giving the church a facelift inside out. Retouching work, especially on the ceiling mural right above the retablo of the main altar depicting the Holy Trinity, required the skill and expertise of artists who had a working knowledge of Renaissance art and architecture.


Santa Ana Parish Church

Santa Ana, Pampanga                                              

Rene provided funding assistance to the renovation of the Santa Ana Parish Church. With the new coat of red and white paint, it provided a contrast to the otherwise stone color of this centuries old church. The massive hexagonal four-story bellower has blind and open recesses, in keeping with the symmetry of the facade. It ends in a balustrade dome topped by a cross. Much of the refurbishing work was done inside the church. A fresh coat of varnish was applied to the ornate church pews.


Saint Jude Parish Church

San Agustin, San Fernando, Pampanga

As with the other churches and chapels that Rene Medina helped rebuild and renovate, The Saint Jude Parish Church was repainted inside and out, with a lot of intricate refurbishing work done on the altar.

The open patio with a centerpiece fountain, now boasts of colored bricks laid out in geometric patterns, replacing the grass and weeds that previously gave the churchyard an unkempt look.


Santa Lucia (Sasmuan)

Sasmuan, Pampanga

The Santa Lucia Parish Church in the town of Sasmuan never fails to inspire awe among visitors of Pampanga. Rene assisted in funding its renovation. As such, one travel writer noted that the round and rectangular openings may have been meticulously aligned, lending further uniqueness to the church.

The church interior is spacious and airy, and can comfortably seat well over a thousand parishioners. The religious flocks to this church to seek the divine intercession of Sasmuan’s patron saint Sta. Lucia, who, townsfolk believe, is a miraculous saint.



Helping Filipino Youth

Scholarship. Allowance. Food.

At Pampanga High School in the Philippines, some 300 academically performing but financially handicapped students avail of free nutritious lunch during the school week under the Rene and Mila Foundation Feeding Program. This same group of students also avails of a monthly transportation allowance from the Foundation. Most, if not all, of them live in the outskirts of the city of San Fernando and need to take public transportation to and from school.

The students are pre-qualified based on their families’ financial circumstances and the children’s commitment to finish their high school studies. Additionally, the school administration periodically reviews their academic standing and performance to ensure the integrity of the program.

Volunteers prepare the scholars Lunchboxes. Before their lunch hour, the Food for the Brain: Scholars are assembled and together they are engaged to listen to a regular pep talk of some school officials.




Rene Medina Foundation – Chasing the American Dream


Rene has dedicated the Rene Medina Priesthood Scholarship Fund in memory of his brother, Robert, who served the town of Arayat for many years. Robert was a lay minister in the Parish Church and was known to have extended his assistance in the name of the Lord.

The Funds primary purpose is to provide financial assistance to qualified seminarians in the course of their priesthood education. Elmer Salonga, in the photo is one of the seminarians with four (4) others who are at various theological levels at the Mother of Good Counsel Seminary in San Fernando, Pampanga and in the University of Santo Tomas, Manila Asia’s oldest university.

Rene is now contemplating on expanding the Fund to accommodate the growing number of qualified applicants.

Seminarian Elmer Salonga at the Mother of Good Counsel Seminary

All these Education Assistance Programs Secular and Theological keep Rene Medina proactively attuned and focused on the needs of his fellowmen especially the needs of the present-day YOUTH the equal learning opportunities made available to them


Better Schools, Better Learning Experience

Education, Infrastructure, Technology

Pampanga High School in San Fernando, the capital city of the province of Pampanga, counts among its outstanding alumni Diosdado Macapagal, former Philippine president and late father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Here, the quality of secondary education has been the best that it can debut could in fact be better, given the appropriate and adequate facilities that make for a motivated student entry.

Rene Medina is a graduate of Pampanga High. He stayed in touch with high school classmates through these years. Therefore he is made aware of the present condition of his Alma Mater. Several structures within the school compound, already in dire need of rehabilitation, simply had to be abandoned after the Mt. Pinatubo catastrophe. The post-eruption buildings that remained in use were soon begging for total repair and renovation. Classrooms either had no ceilings or had panels precariously hanging over students heads. Given the state of the buildings, the safety and health of the students were compromised and the learning experience is described as anything but wholesome.

Pampanga High School

At the close of the 90s, San Fernando’s school officials and civic leaders were ready to embark on a fund-raising campaign to save Pampanga’s oldest secondary school. Unbeknownst to them, however, Rene had been burning the telephone and fax lines with a team of architects and engineers to finalize the blueprint for Pampanga High’s total facelift. The massive work was to be carried out in phases over a period of time to minimize disruption of classes and campus activities. To date, some minor work is still in progress as new needs emerge.

The major components of the project are completed, which include the following:

Rene Medina Hall

The new Rene Medina Hall is among the first structures in the Pampanga High School compound that underwent total rehabilitation. It used to be an eyesore, a dilapidated structure that was rendered unserviceable by the devastation wrought by Mt. Pinatubo.

Now, the Hall is a well-ventilated and lighted facility that boasts of audiovisual equipment and sound system. It has also become a source of additional income for the school, which rents it out to individuals and organizations for their special functions and gatherings.

Rene Medina Hall

Repair and rehabilitation of School Buildings

Jasmin, Sunflower, Sampaguita and Cadena de Amor these are not flowers in Pampanga Highs garden. These were among the structures that the Rene and Mila Medina Foundation repaired, renovated, and refurbished as part of the schools massive facelift program carried out over a number of years. Aside from classrooms, the Calixto Viray Library was among the structures repaired.

Rehabilitated School Building

Construction of Nipa Huts

Nipa huts were likewise built to serve as classrooms for hands-on Agricultural Arts courses.

Nipa Huts for hands-on Agricultural Arts courses

Conversion of a classroom building into a gym

The Camia Building was converted into a Virtual gymnasium and sports learning center where taekwondo, badminton, and table tennis classes are being held today. The center even offers dancing lessons to students.


Camia Building

Campus Beautification and Landscaping

Campus Landscape

Construction of the Home Economics Laboratory

In July 2007. Pampanga High School inaugurated and opened the Home Economics laboratory. built under the auspices of the Rene and Mila Medina Foundation. The facility offers hands-on training in vocational fields that open up livelihood opportunities to high school students who may not be able to pursue college education.
The Home Economics laboratory is fully equipped to provide intensive training in cooking and baking. hair science, cosmetology, and spa and message therapy. Pampanga High School. in addition. has coordinated with the Technical Skills and Vocational Development Authority (TESDA) — a government agency assigned to integrate, coordinate and monitor skills development programs of various schools nationwide- to administer competency tests to graduates of the laboratory. TESDA will then issue the Certificate of Competency to those who pissed the test, a virtual license for them to seek employment in established shops or to put up their own business.

Home economics laboratory

Picture of President Diosdado Macapagal

The late Philippine president Diosdado Macapagal (center). Pampanga High School’s most distinguished graduate. would have been proud of a fellow alumnus like Rene Mendoza Medina Together with the school administration, faculty and the entire community they joined hands to strengthen the physical presence of the schooL thus enhancing its institutional role as molder of Pampanga’s youth. Photo was probably taken during an alumni homecoming of Class 1929. to which President Macapagal belonged.



Sharing Friendship and Concern


Rene Medina with President George W. Bush at Carolan Mansion, Hillsborough, California

Fil Am Coalition celebrating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 60th birthday at Carolan Mansion, Hillsborough, California

L-R : Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, FAC President Mario Panoringan, Robert Reyes, Rene Malimban, Colma Councilwoman Joanne Del Rosario, Rene Medina, Rommel Medina, Ruell Medina and Ademan Angeles.



The following are the individuals who have direct knowledge of the philanthropic work of Rene Medina in the United States and in the Philippines.

Their valuable contribution made this presentation possible:

Town of Colma, California

Hon. Helen Fisicaro

Vice Mayor (four-term mayor)

Town of Colma

Tel. (650)9978300


Patricia Hatfield


Colma Historical Association

Tel. (650) 7571676


Colma-Daly City Chamber of Commerce California

Mario Panoringan

Chief Executive Officer

Tel. (650) 2196488


Saint Bruno Parish Church, San Bruno, California

Rev. Michael Brillantes


Tel. (650) 5882121


Pampanga High School, Philippines

Dr. Imelda Macaspac, Ph.D.


Pampanga High School

San Fernando City, Pampanga


Tel. (045) 9614261