Totet Banaynal SJ

He Will Never Grow Old

By Totet Banaynal, SJ

It was October 17, 1996. The Jesuits in their theological formation had just arrived form a three-day rest in a beach in Tali, Batangas. Refreshed, everyone was in high spirits as they took their lunch in the refectory of the Loyola House of Studies in the Ateneo de Manila University.

Suddenly the house went black. News came that Richie Fernando, a young Filipino Jesuit missionary in Cambodia was dead. At 9:30 that morning, Richie tried to stop a troubled student in the Technical School for the Handicapped from throwing a hand grenade at a class of other handicapped students most already injured by landmines. Her ordered the other to run away and tried to restrain the young man. However, the grenade fell behind Riche and the powerful explosion inside the school building hit Richie in the base of the skull, the upper and lower back and his legs. As he was hit, he flew into the air and dropped on his back but in the process fully shielded the man who wielded the grenade from being hit. Two other handicapped students also suffered from minor injuries but the rest of the students were safe. In a second, Richie was lying dead on a pool of blood gushing out from his back. It was his last act of love for his students and friends in this foreign land.