Vocation Story of Brother Raffy Besonia
Mati, the Philippines, 12 July 2018 -- When I was a young 7-year old boy, I already heard of the name ‘Don Bosco’. I got it from one of my uncles and aunts. My mother had three siblings who joined the Salesian Family— one became a Salesian cleric who died in a bus accident in Baguio, the other one became a Salesian cleric too but was called to another life later on, and the third one remains an FMA missionary to Cambodia. My parents could not afford to send me and my older sister in a formal school together. So in 2006, my uncle Romy adviced my parents to let me take a one-year manpower course in Don Bosco Training Center in Mati as a stepping stone. It was 148.9 kilometers away from home and was a 4-hour and 47-minute travel by bus. It truly was far, far from the comforts of home. I became a resident in the boarding house due to the distance. I took one year training in automotive technology. This was my very first time to be separated from my family.
New place. New routine. New life as a Bosconian student. I am fond of eating but not cooking, therefore, I really don’t know how to cook. At my very first instance in cooking rice was a funny incident. So that I won’t embarrass myself, I sat at one corner in the kitchen talking to my new companions but secretly observing how they cook their portion of rice. A few clicks later, I performed it by myself and at the back of my mind I was sure that I will get embarrassed if the rice will be uncooked. Surprisingly, the rice was cooked well. For sure, no one noticed it and I learned so much from that. We had house chores and I did my assigned house chore as early as five in the morning— this I adjusted so that I won’t be late for the students’ assembly. I was assigned in the comfort room and in the poultry with hundreds of chickens.
Other things I experienced was that I played football during games, listened to morning and good night talks, prayed the holy rosary, the holy mass on Fridays and Sundays and have the courage to go to confession. Then I met the Salesians— priests and a very simple Salesian brother. It was a partial inspiration that made me desire to become Salesian, but that time it was really just a desire. The Salesian brother there was an old but very enthusiastic Salesian and loves to teach us drafting. There was a time that he was sick but still gave a morning talk. He was always present during our game time, outings, and even did some gardening despite his age. He loves to plant vegetables and fruit trees. His name— Brother Tena.
After experiencing the Bosconian life style, I was convinced that I love to stay in Don Bosco. My life became meaningful. In fact, I was planning to come back after my on-the-job training and the rest of the one year course and take another course just so that I will be in Don Bosco again. After six months of training in theory on Automotive technology I was sent for apprenticeship in one of the shops in Davao City. It was a 183-kilometer and 5-hour travel by bus. After the 6-month OJT, the company assessed that I was eligible to start working with them for good. And so, I worked for the company when I finished the Automotive course. After seven months of real world work, I received an invitation via text message that all the Bosconian alumni of the training center will have a gathering in Don Bosco – Maa. This setting is a residence for poor and abandoned boys. When I arrived in the place, Brother Tena saw me and wanted to talk to me. He personally invited me to become one of his pre-aspirant in DB-Mati. I was shocked. I asked him for clarification about it and he said, “Yes, pre-aspirantate in mati”. At that time I cannot decide immediately and told Brother Tena, “Brother, I would like to ask permission first from my parents if they would allow me”. After a week, I asked my mother first, that I want to join the pre-aspirantate and enter then the seminary. My mother was shocked too and cannot believe what I was saying.
“Are you sure!?”, she asked to confirm if I was truly really serious in entering the seminary.
I told her, “Yes!”.
She added, “If that is your desire, then go”.
I never asked permission from my father because I am sure he will not allow me. My mother told my father about my desire but he doesn’t want it but I was already in mati before he said no.
Finally, I was back in Mati like I thought of before. We were five pre-aspirants but only three were sent to Don Bosco Formation Center in Cebu and professed as Salesians. One left and two remained— Brother Genson and yours truly. Brother Genson is presently assigned in Mati where we come from. In our novitiate year, I was discerning to be a lay brother and so here I am. I could say that to be a lay brother is not easy. I experienced many difficulties and pressures because my sister wants me to be a priest, but my heart screams for the Salesian brother vocation. During vacations, some neighbors would always ask me.
“When is your ordination brother?”
I would patiently explain to them.
“Sorry po, I chose to be a Salesian brother and I will not be ordained.”
Every year they asked me same question.
At this moment I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Sandor community, first and most especially to Fr. Arnold for the unending support and for being so fatherly to me and to all of us as you also give happiness to the community. To Fr. Vic for sharing his great wisdom and smiles to the community. To Brother Joe for the loving example and generosity since he really treats us with very good food especially when we are taking our meals outside. And of course to Brother Peter for being very understanding and generous with his time. Every time I reported something or asked for help to repair something in my room, he would really give his time to check it personally or he will be the one to follow it up to the maintenance and have it repaired. And to all of you brothers, thank you for your well-wishes, loving greetings, prayers, and preparations for the decors in my room, for your friendship, understanding and support.
I would like to ask for more of your prayers for the grace of fidelity in this life. Let us pray for one another for a happy and loving community. For these two years, let us help one another to grow in the love of Christ and with mother Mary. Once again, Thank you very much! Good evening!
Sandor Community, 12/7/2018