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Arsenio C Jesena

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by Arsenio C Jesena   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, August 02, 2011

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Gradually, I found
myself desiring to imitate them, to be like them -- simple, humble,
Christ-like, ultimately content just to do the will of God.

by Arsenio C Jesena

My dear Nyssa,

In March 1952, when I was 11 years old, I finished studying at the Bacolod West Elementary School.

There were about six thousand students who graduated. I ranked third, behind Rudy Javier and Emilio Espinosa, and slightly ahead of Xenia Salle.

Then my dear big brother Rene who had just been promoted Branch Manager of the Ledesma Shipping Lines in Iloilo City, taking pity on us, invited Mila and me to transfer from Bacolod to Iloilo and stay with him in the house of our aunt, Mrs. Remedios Cajili-Ledesma.

There I met a great man and a great doctor -- Dr. Rene Gamboa Magalona. He was the husband of Auntie Meding's only daughter, Evelina. Dr. Magalona, Manang Veling and Auntie Meding graciously welcomed us in their home in #158 Ledesma Street, Tanza, Iloilo City.

Dr. Rene Magalona was the first signicant influence which forever changed my life.

The second was Mr. Roberto Hontiveros
Tirol, the husband of my aunt, Gloria Jesena Lorca.

The third was Fr. Cornelius de Wit, MHM, later to be Bishop of Antique, and
Superior General of the Mill Hill Fathers.

We have frequently heard it said that marriages are made in heaven. The
Magalona and the Tirol couples were I think, in the eternal design
of God Himself, specifically chosen, among other things, to be my
heroes and guardians who would protect and support me, who would exert profound influence upon my sensitive and pliant and hungry soul, craving as I was for truth and goodness and meaning an example and a worthy goal.

The Magalona and Tirol couples had common qualities. They were not perfect but they loved their families very much and they tried to be the best that they could possibly be for the sake of and
the service of their children and their fellow human beings. They were very kind and gentle and generous with those who needed help and with the poor. And they did their charitable work in great
secrecy without advertising it for anybody to notice and applaud.

Maybe they did the good things they did out of loyalty and loving obedience to God. Maybe they did it because it was their nature to be like that. Maybe they discerned a need in me and others, a need to be accepted and understood and appreciated and healed and loved.

Maybe they were angels disguised as human beings, angels who are passionately in love with God and who allowed that love to live in them and to over flow in a never-ending cascade of service to the many who needed their help -- up to the vbery end of teir lives.

Manang Veling and Manang Glory died before their husbands.

Dr. Rene Magalona lived to be 94 -- and he served the people of
Tanza, Iloilo, as a family physician until he was 94!

Manong Nono good and humble and devout, lived to be 93.

The Tirols and the Magalonas, they were very kind to me and to my family. They never asked us anything in return for all that they did for us.

As the days passed by, I found
myself desiring to imitate them, to be like them -- simple, humble,
Christ-like, ultimately content just to do the will of God. And in the
doing of that will, to discover their mission in life and their greatest

I never found them vain, or arrogant, or hungry for praise, or

And not one of them even broached the question to me, "Juni, why don't you become a Priest?" I never felt pressured to become a Priest. And that was a very good example of their unconditional love.

Thank you Father God, for sending me Dr. Rene and Manang Veling Magalona, and Manong Nono and Manang Glory Tirol.

And so at the end of my impressionable, idealistic 13 years, the most noble vocation to me was that of a doctor since Dr. Rene Magalona would often invite me to go with him carrying his little black medical bag and we would make his house calls, healing
bodies and saving lives in poor, poor ramshackle huts of impoverished families, seeing undernourished little children looking like lifeless skin and bones, with only their pain-burnt eyes

Or he would allow me to watch as he stitch up a drunken canto boy just recently disemboweled by other drunken canto boys, who terrorized the unprotected streets of Tanza, Iloilo.

So I wanted to be a doctor because I couldn't find a life more noble and
nothing more inwardly rewarding than a doctor's life in its vibrant,
generous service to humanity.

But then at about the same time, I met a Dutch Missionary, a Mill Hill Priest, a giant of a man, Fr. Cornelius de Witt, MHM. He was six feet, seven inches tall and that was the first thing anyone noticed about him. He also had a deep, deep voice, coming from
deep within him. At all hours, he poured himself out in service for
the souls of us all.

Father de Wit never paused to seek or enjoy comfort or ease in life from the moment he woke up, maybe at 4:30 in the morning to the time he retired deep into the night. His total existence was
always in service for our spiritual lives and for us.

One Sunday after his 5:30 a.m. Mass, he took me with him as he went around Iloilo City to give Viaticum -- Holy Communion to the sick and the dying in his parish.

So there we were every Sunday, a six foot seven inch giant of
a man and with his little altar boy, Juni Jesena from Takurong, Sultan
Kudarat weighing all of 75 pounds.

What impressed me most was
whenever we went to the tuberculosis sanatorium or a contagious
diseases section in a hospital, he would motion me to remain
outside the ward so that I would not be in danger of contagion. Fr.
de Wit -- he alone would go in, and he alone would give Holy Communion and he alone would give consolation and strength to all those very sick and dying people. And he alone would risk
contagion. That was heroism that the young Juni Jesena could nnot help but admire!

I decided I wanted to be like Father de Wit. Noble and generous like Dr. Rene Magalona, but without the human consolations of Dr. Magalona. For Rene Magalona had a wonderful, most beautiful
wife. And he had wonderful children. And a comfortable home. But Fr. de Wit, the Dutch Missionary Priest had no wife, no children, no home. He just had a small room with an undersized cot for a bed, shelves stocked with religious books and rosary beads to be given away free to souls in need of life and of God.

And so I served his Mass and swung the thurible at his benedictions of the Blessed Sacrament and I joined his Legion of Mary and I wanted to be like him, forgetting myself and giving
myself completely to God and to the work of God. The life of a
Priest! What a wonderful, noble, divine life!

But I could not be a Secular Priest because my family had no money to pay for the seminary training of a Secular Priest. And the Mill Hill Order did not receive Filipinos as seminarians and
future members.

I could not be a secular Priest and I could not be a Mill Hill Missionary. So God made me a Jesuit.

While studying in Lincoln School, I met Wilfredo Jesena, a distant cousin -- a holy cousin. Many, many years later, after having
been a Jesuit Priest for 40 years, I would write my cousin, Father
Willy Jesena, CSsR, who was working as a Missionary,
somewhere in Korea

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