by Jose F. Rafols Jr.
Read by Cheryl Rafols Woodard on the 80th Birthday Celebration
on May 3, 2003 at Covina Women’s Club, Covina, California.
Bersine Fallarme Fesalbon Rafols was born on May 3, 1923, 80 years ago today at Barangay Poblacion, Sibale Island, Province of Romblon, located in the Central part of the Philippines, Bersing as friends called her is the second child of seven children of the late Severino and Juanita Fallarme Fesalbon. Her grandchildren, 15 of them called her Lola and her great grandchildren, 2 for now and one coming called her super Lola.
Her early elementary education was spent at the Concepcion Central Elementary School from 1933 to 1939. As a child growing in a rural environment helping parents toil the farms and raising animals for family subsistence, was her daily normal tasks when out of school. On weekends, time was spent washing clothes in tinigban “chiseled water falls” or in some running water streams together with friends. Life in Sibale is slow and there are no entertainment for young kids that is why so many children are running around.
After graduating from elementary school in Sibale, Bersing pursue her high school education at Mindoro High School in Calapan, Mindoro from 1939 to 1941. At that time Mindoro was not divided yet into Occidental and Oriental provinces. She was on her third high school when the Second World War broke out.
Without finishing high school she went back to Sibale and there she met a young teacher from Cadiz, Negros who was boarding at her parents house at that time. This meeting started the blossoming of their love for each other and they were married on July 17, 1942 to become Mrs. Jose P’. Rafols Sr. On April 30, 1943 their first son was born and as the years passed by 10 more children followed.
In 1957 she entered local politics and garnered top vote for Councilor representing the town of Sibale Island. Her term expired in 1961 and she did not seek reelection after that.
Aside from being a one term town councilor her profession was a full time housewife. Raising eleven children to become engineers, nurse, accountants and teacher is a tremendous task but she happily handled it without any reservation. As a mother Bersing was one of a million that preserve love, respect and harmony among families, friends and relatives. Even if she is hurt, in pain or ignored, no words of complaint or blame can be heard from her. Everyone loves her for her patience, strength, frankness and kindness.
In 1965 Sibale Academy was established in Sibale Island to provide high school education to local residents. In her desire to finish high school she enrolled and made history as the oldest and one of the first graduates of Sibale Academy
In 1982 she came to the United States and stayed in Riverside, California. At first it was tough adjusting to the new environment but she was very patient in everything she does especially in caring for her grandchildren. While in Riverside, she petitioned the remaining children in the Philippines and eventually started arriving to the United States in 1989. When her first grandchildren (Charlemagne, Rheena and Cheryl) started going to school she moved with the other children in West Covina were she is residing at present.
In 2001, the second child after thirty years in Brazil joined her in West Covina together with his three Brazilian born children. All of her eleven children and families stays here in California.
At West Covina Bersing is very active at St. Martha Catholic Church prayer group. In 2001 she was awarded “Mother of the Year” for her exemplary devotion to her family. At 80 this could be the beginning of new challenges in her life’s milestone.