Monday, January 31, 2011

The Great Memoirs and Lecacy of a Man With a Humble Beginning

I had been away from home after the Christmas holidays for almost a month now  and I had no earlier plans to cut off my vacation. I was too busy packing  my two daughters'  belongings  in carton boxes, trash bags,  and traveling bags. It was back-breaking, but we had to do that all 3 of us. They found this new apartment closer to their office that makes their daily travel time comfortable and practically affordable.

We just moved in a week ago. If it was hard to pack their things, it was harder to unpack despite our coded list. Well, it was  tiresome but it was fun, too! Then suddenly, my sister-in-law called up from the province to inform us that my brother's "bakas" (end of mourning over his death) will be held today, December 30 at their residence. I was to make a short memoir of him for the misallete  which will be used during the mass.  So, I sat down the next day to beat this day's occasion. Before I knew it, I was already writing an article, I was actually blogging!

Great Memories My Brother  Left Behind

When this baby boy was born almost 66 years ago on February 12, 2011, fate destined Benigno to grow up with an innate distinct character- reserved and shy. Young Ben who talked less was a silent achiever. His poor self-projection was offset by his good scholastic standing with the ribbons his proud parents pinned on him during Closing Exercises in grade school.
His peculiar trait was a blessing. He never ran into troubles in and out of home and school. He worked at home either in silence or he sang. He tinkered on almost anything. He made his own playthings as the family's priority is on basic necessities rather than on  toys all boys normally crave for. He deviced his own fish traps like the “pasiklong”, “parokdok”, “bintol”, to name a few. He would come home with “kelatla”, “bonor”, “begsang”, “talangka”, oysters, crabs, clams, fish, and more, when classes were over. He loved the boat rides in search for these food. He simply loved the river!
As he grew older, he slept in “parigdig” with friends in a big Burma sack that protected him from the cold. Early in the morning he would come home with a big “ongot” of jumping shrimps, crabs, and “sari-sari” for breakfast.
This youth excelled in construction. He helped his father build houses, made large and heavy pews and benches for a chapel, and anything that required hammer and nail. He helped augment the family’s meager resources for a family of 9 children He never complained going to high school without any cent for fare or allowance. He walked extra kilometers daily on worn-out rubber shoes he perpetually sewed with wire or nailed on the soles that tore on his socks and flesh. Yet he excelled and graduated with flying colors.
He wanted to be an engineer, but his parents could only offer education course in PNS Bayambang which he declined just like his 2 elder siblings. So, when a wealthy relative in Manila offered to enroll him in PSAT, Manila, he left his comfort zone for the first time. However, before the semester ended, his angry parents forced him to return home. They learned that Ben ended up a houseboy for that man’s family. He did odd jobs, washed their laundry, cooked their food, and took care of that man’s bedridden old father. He just took it all in silence probably still hoping he would go to school when the right time came.

Out of school, Ben read a lot- from borrowed pocket books to throw-away “tinapa” newspaper wrappers. He continued fishing after doing home chores. He worked in a bocayo factory that left the palms of his hands black and calloused from husking and grating coconuts. His mother cried when she discovered.

Ben’s sister (that's me) next to him, saw his struggles due to poverty. She vowed to make a difference, enrolled in PNS for BSEEd. Three months after graduation, she landed a permanent teaching position. She persuaded her Kuya Ben to go back to school. He agreed but insisted that he would take his second choice- a 2-year vocational course- Machine Shop Practice in PSAT, Lingayen.  He doubted if the family could really afford to send him to  college . As expected, Ben excelled and won his teachers’ respect. On graduation day, they urged him to pursue a degree, “Sayang ka, Ben”, they said.

Full of apprehensions due to financial constraints, he enrolled in LUSAT, La Union, for BSE major in Math. Ben’s education career began. He balanced his studies and his becoming the editor in chief of the college paper. The trail to his dreams was rough and bumpy. Still, with patience and hard work, he prevailed. Again, he graduated with flying colors.

Did he have social life? Of course! He was president of the Young Leaders’ Club in the barrio. He was their Mr. Valentine. He was the idol of the youth for his good examples. Did he have a love life? Whenever his mother asked if Perla or Nena or Siony or Flora , who used to visit home unexpectedly, was a special interest, he just smiled.
It was obvious that he  enjoyed his days in college and began to like education for his course. He was too thrifty, he didn't come home often. His parents just sent him allowance by money order.  One occasion, he badly needed ph250 but he received only ph25. He went home with  fare that took him only as far as Dagupan City. It was through God's  helping hands that a friend bailed him out. He graduated despite all odds, anyway.

His first teaching as a substitute at Pangasinan Provincial High School, Lingayen, introduced him to a group of American Peace Corp Volunteers who hired him as trainor for Math and Physics in a graduate school. He wanted to enroll in graduate school, too. He said it would be a shame to be teaching those teachers in graduate school by one like him who had no masteral studies.

The following year, he transferred to Bayambang National High. His dream of a higher degree  was answered. He enrolled at the nearby PNS for his graduate studies.  It was there where the best things in his life would happen. He found his soul mate , a beautiful Rose by that name, who became his ever loving and supportive wife and a doting mother to their 3 children.
This point of Ben’s life and his struggles as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and a career- oriented man, is now an open book that anybody close to him are able to read, and understand. Despite the odds, he rose from the ranks through honest and dedicated service without stepping on somebody’s shoulders.

From BNHS, he transferred to PNS where he pursued his master’s degree in education. Again, he graduated with academic excellence.Not long after, he became the College Secretary, a delicate position that ushered him into a world of secrecy only those in power knew and shared. He started to question the legality of their actions. He was sent on study leave for his PH.D at La Salle, an obvious ploy to keep him out of the way. He was never intimidated. He formed the Magic 7 that purged the erring college president out.

His growing popularity to discipline the wrongdoers merited him a higher position- as Dean of PSU Urdaneta Branch, where more problems were solved by him. He was dubbed Mr. Clean, the blackbuster, by his adoring siblings. He was groomed as University president, but he chose the vice presidency for Academic Affairs with base in Lingayen. His interest to protect the welfare of the youth was greater than his personal merits. He was apolitical. He said he saw himself in the hard struggles of these students and their poor parents. The bumpy road proved harder to travel. To cross it, he met the forces of evil, in his desire to cleanse and still the madness of graft and corruption that had eroded the institution, down to the core. The F-9, a group of honest and dedicated college professors, emerged to run after the evildoers. Despite his hard personal struggles over the untimely deaths of his 2 sons and his failing health condition, he stirred public and media awareness that something wrong was going on. Litigations to prove this are still in progress to this day.

Until finally, God said, “Ben, your time is up”, to which he answered, “Father, into your hands I commit my soul, and into Your loving kindness, I leave everything behind”. On February 11, 2010, Dr. Benigno Ferrer-Castro died in the flesh, but will live in epiphany in spirit, to all who trusted in his goodness. To his family, siblings, and real friends, Ben didn’t die in vain. 

The Legacy

Benigno didn't have to struggle hard to bring into everyone's  awareness his way of life- of patience, hardwork, honesty, charity, love for others, and love for his poor relatives.  It just oozed out of him in his dealings and relationship with people that surrounded him. He just did what he believed was the right thing, for every person who wanted to live by God's will, would do.

He didn't regard poverty as a punishment, but as a challenge, that could bring out the best and the worst in man, if one would want to succeed. He showed all those he loved that our life's journey could be beautiful  despite the rough and bumpy roads. It's just a matter of choice- of either the good or the bad. He was not a saint- but he struggled and chose the good. I know it, I'm his sister!

To God, be the Glory!


  1. Lita-A beautiful tribute to your brother, who was obviously a brave and honest soul. Sounds like he left a wake of love and good works behind him, and what else can a person hope for in this life. His shyness and quietness cloaked a fierce determination to live by his own considered values and principles

  2. nothingprofound,
    My brother was a good man. He deserves this tribute, although if alive, he won't allow me to parade around what he does. I just want to send a message to all my readers that "poverty is not a hindrance to success" and "success doesn't always align itself to fortune amassed from shady deals".

    Success achieved in humility and good works will be my brothers immortal legacy to us, his family. Isn't that great, Marty? Thank you for being the first again to give me support here. Peace to you and your family.

  3. Lita you have done a wondeful job to bring your brother to life for readers who have never heard of him. The quality of an inspiring eulogy should never be underestimated.

  4. Neil,
    Thank you for these endearing words. You make me feel proud of what I did for my Kuya. Tomorrow, February 11, will be his first death anniversary and February 12, could have been his 66th birthday.

    Yes, Neil, as I said, Kuya will live in epiphany in spirit to all who benefited from his goodness and kindness. Peace to you and your family.

  5. Hi,
    It's so inspiring to come across articles that talk about achievements, and this is one of those inpirations. I adore people who inspite of difficulties, they are able to get by, through faith and determination and the unbelievable hardwork to concretize a dream. And i like the way you appreciate the significance of this in your brother's life. Indeed he is an example of a success story. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Earlie,
    I may sound biased because he is my brother, but it has become my philosophy in life to talk about people's achievements to inspire others. My Family Life Apostolate connection in our Catholic parish brings me face-to-face with would-be couples. Such encounters bring out the best in me as I talk to my young clienteles about successful people whose lives are focused in the Lord- who rose from the ranks, and who struggled honestly from rags to riches. Thank you, Earlie.



Related Posts with Thumbnails