Brother Josiah Benedict FSC Eulogy
A Eulogy for Br. Benedict by Dr. Carmelita I. Quebengco
At DLSU - Manila, Br. Benedict was our Tatay... not because
he was much older; more because he behaved like one. He claimed to have
had three Litas - Lita Reyes, Lita Lucero, Lita Quebengco and being the
youngest, some people began calling me his bunso. I will not praise him
to high heaven, where the good he has done is already known, not also
because that is not my style, but more because if I do so, he would
holler with "for Christ's sakes, be yourself!" Instead, I'll mention a
few incidents, that show who he was to a Lasallian Partner of long
standing, though I refuse to say how long.
Some 6 years ago, Br. Andrew, the late Tony Calvo, and I received death threats from someone, who we knew was one of us on the same campus. After reporting it to the NBI, our lawyers told me to stop driving myself to school, instead get a driver, and change my daily schedule and route, to and from the university. I flatly refused, arguing that I am no coward, and will go when the Almighty calls, all I ask is that it be fast. For an entire week, Br. Benedict berated me daily in my office, for being too stubborn and living dangerously. However, at ten o'clock at night, which was way past his bedtime, on each of those days, he also called me up at home, to check whether I have arrived safely, and still in one piece ending it with a yell, "don't be hard-headed, get a driver."
We did not see
each other often, but whenever there were university problems caused by a
few people, he visited my office daily, first to scold me, for having
an excess of patience, and bothering to reach out and communicate, with
those who he saw as the "undeserving trouble makers," instead of just
declaring martial law. After the scolding, however, he'd slap a bar of
chocolate on my desk, then say "eat that so you'll have enough energy,
to banish those who make your life unjustly miserable." Once, when he
didn't have chocolates, he said "I don't have chocolate today, because
it does not produce the effect I want. Instead, I'll go to the south
gate, get into a car, and run over those b-a-s-t-a-r-d-s, so you won't
be bothered anymore." On such situations, when almost everyone kept as
far a distance from me as they can, perhaps not wanting to hear about
problems and difficulties, Br. Benedict was always there... unmistakably
and loudly present... as a good Tatay would.
In meetings when he was present, before I could reply to anyone too critical of administration, he'd yell at them with "if you're not happy here, you can always go to the other university." After such meetings, he'd ask, "Was I a little too much?" and I'd say, "Not just a little, but much too much." And he'd chuckle and say, "Ok I won't do it again." And the next meeting, I'd see him shifting his weight from side to side, uncomfortable in his uncharacteristic pockets of silence.
This school year, when I began handling two full-time jobs, he came to the office more regularly. No longer to scold me, but to just chat leisurely and humorously, realizing perhaps, that the best way for me keep my balance, and avoid more wrinkles on my face was to make me laugh... still, shoving something on top of my desk, but this time, an orange. At long last I thought, our Tatay was rewarding me for working very hard.
In September, I blacked out one day and had to go to a hospital. Since then, though he had difficulty walking, he came to the office almost daily, and always with an orange shoved on my desk with the line: "Go eat that to keep the doctors away, and I refuse to leave until you consume all of it."
To Lasallian Partners who had the opportunity to work with him, that was Brother Benedict -- grouchy, quick to retort, fast to conclude, aggressive, and brutally frank, WHENEVER, one is guilty of not taking good care of oneself, or allows others to take advantage of him/her, or doing anything destructive to the university community, or tolerant of injustice or unethical practice, or too laid back on the job, so we may become better persons... as a good Tatay would. Then, as quickly, he balanced that, by becoming thoughtful and (I know he won't like this, but I'll say it just the same), sweet, yes sweet, assuring the other that he does care... as a good Tatay would.
Another side of
him seems uncomfortable with verbally and directly expressing the more
positive, softer, gentler sentiments. Last October, a day before I left
the country, he was feeling sick and experiencing much arthritic pain. I
asked him what I can get for him in the US -- medicine, food
supplement, any form of support that can help relieve his pain. He said,
"Call my sister and tell her I love her." When I replied, "Why me,
she'd be happier if you tell her that yourself via e-mail, or better yet
by phone so she can hear you say it," he looked very embarrassed,
chuckled, gestured with his hand signaling dismissal of my suggestion,
and said, "Oh c'mon just do it for me." And I did. Maybe he controlled
such sentiments, not wishing to appear OA... maybe he wanted to appear
macho... maybe he dreads being called pusong mamon... maybe... But I
know and have witnessed many times over, that behind the facade lurked a
genuine pader na masasandalan at maaasahan at all times... a deeply
supportive, truly caring and loving soul, who as the Bible says was
always ready to "give his life for his friends."
So, to our beloved Br. Benedict, sayang, you won't be with us for the centennial celebration of the District and the University, to actually see the fruits of your hard labor. But just like children of parents, we shall inherent all of them from our Tatay. You must be dancing with glee from above, because you now know, that you've made a difference and a positive impact on countless lives, besides no more back aches, no more arthritis, no more hardness of breath... only lightness and joy. So, sige na nga... God's will be done. Ok na lang even if we feel like mga naulila sa Tatay, even if no one will make me laugh and shove an orange on my desk anymore, even if we will all miss you immensely because you are irreplaceable.
His presence may no longer be physical, but I am certain that whether we like it or not, in the true nature and spirit of Br. Benedict, he will INSIST on being a part of us, because he truly, genuinely, really loved the University, the Philippine District, and each one of us, who he rendered richer, just by having known his person.