Remembering Br. Benildo Feliciano, FSC
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Br. Benildo Lamberto Feliciano, FSC passed away at the age of 82 this week. Ma. Lourdes Bautista wrote an outstanding biography where she divided Br. Benildo’s life into three phases: “Years of Probation” which cover the period from his birth in 1937 to his assuming the post of Br. Visitor in 1970; “Years in Command” from his assumption as Br. Visitor in 1970 to 2005 when he stepped down as purchasing officer in DLSU; “Years of Quiet” which cover the time of his illness and recuperation to the time he was again serving as director of the Brothers Community.

The educational institutions owned and managed by the La Salle Brothers have played a pivotal and critical role in Philippine education. Br. Benildo and Br. Andrew Gonzalez were the first two Filipino La Salle Brothers. Br. Benildo started teaching in 1960 in La Salle-Taft; but, that same year he was assigned to La Salle-Iligan to replace a Brother who was leaving. Three years later he was reassigned and became the first Filipino principal of the grade school of La Salle-Bacolod. In 1967 he was assigned to become the first Filipino director of La Salle-Iligan. His story of becoming the “first Filipino” did not end there.

A confluence of events in the Catholic Church and in Philippine society led to the establishment of the Philippine District of the La Salle Brothers in the Philippines. Br. Justin Lucian, an American, was the first Br. Visitor appointed for the new district. But after two months, he concluded that Filipinos should take over the direction of the District. On July 5,1970 Br. Benildo became the first Filipino Br. Visitor, a title conferred upon the canonical superior in a District of the La Salle Brothers. The origin of this term comes from the practice of visiting every community. 

Br. Feliciano was only 33  years old when he took command. He issued a policy statement to guide the six La Salle schools at that time. The three schools in Manila, Bacolod and Green Hills must offer high quality education and “meet the challenge to provide leaders for society.” The schools in Lipa and Iligan were to meet the needs of a new and growing middle class. The school at Villamonte, Negros Occidental and ten supervised schools were to serve the poor – the vast majority of Philippine society. 

After two three-year terms as Br. Visitor, Br. Benildo was chosen to be a member of the General Council, the highest body of the La Salle Brothers based in Rome. He was there for 20 years. He came back to head the Philippine District again, then was appointed president of La Salle- Ozamiz and finally back to Manila as community director.

After his golden jubilee, one he celebrated with much sadness because he had anticipated that Br. Andrew Gonzalez would be there too, he had said with much humor, “Fifty years is a long time – you wonder what will happen next – they give you a hospital bed... and put you in the Archives to retire...”

Despite Br. Benildo’s physical limitations, there was no retirement for him in terms of helping the needy, lamenting that he wished he had all the resources to help all in need. For years, he was collecting books and school materials to send to La Salle Ozamiz where he was director.  

Another apostolate that gave meaning to his life was his assistance to a family of five living in the Baseco compound near the Port Area, a practice that began five years ago. Their father had abandoned them and their mother was in Saudi Arabia. This was weighing on his mind even on his sickbed the last few weeks. Every Wednesday when he and his siblings would get together for a family lunch at his sister Bong Salazar’s Greenhills residence, he would have the staff prepare six dishes he could bring the family, ready with his own reusable ice cream containers ?for his “take-out”, drive off to the gate of the Baseco compound where his beneficiaries would meet him. 

On Wednesday this week, his  caregiver was contacted by these Baseco friends week because they had waited in vain – only to be told why.

In his eulogy, Br. Edmundo Fernandez FSC said this:

“We often see in posts that Benildo was ‘the first Filipino Brother’. In truth there were others ahead of him that joined the formation program but left. It is more accurate to say that Benildo and Andrew were the first Filipino Brothers that persevered until the end. But it doesn’t take away the fact that he is our “panganay”, our Kuya. We couldn’t have asked for a better set of pioneer brothers. While Andrew built and strengthened the reputation of DLSU, Benildo solidly held the fort of the Brothers. He shepherded the District in its infancy through the tumultuous ’70s, a time when religious life was in flux and many left the Institute. Given his resoluteness I believe that there is no one who could have done that shepherding better than him. It is an understatement to say that without Andrew’s vision and Benildo’s firmness and strength of character we would not be where we are now. We continue to reap, what in love, they have planted.

When the definitive history of the Brothers in the Philippines is written, Benildo will not be a footnote, that I am sure of. And I am certain he’d be happy with that.”

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on July 20 with Gabriela Lee (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC. For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

BENILDO LAMBERTO FELICIANO
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