Fortich: A Man for All Seasons

A Sound Mind
The exhibit poster 
The exhibit poster 
Fr. Brian Gore at the exhibit with Museo staff, students and guests
Fr. Brian Gore at the exhibit with Museo staff, students and guests
Fr. Brian Gore sharing his experiences to the LaSallian community 
Fr. Brian Gore sharing his experiences to the LaSallian community 

Museo De La Salle – Bacolod of the University of St. La Salle is home to an exhibit to honor Most Reverend Antonio Y. Fortich, the third Bishop of Bacolod.

Fortich: A Man for All Seasons is open to the public from February 12-29, 2024 (except weekends and holidays) from 8:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm-4:30pm. Guests are advised to pass through USLS Gate 2 and inform the guards that they are going to the exhibit.

This project was made possible in collaboration with the USLS Student Government – Legislative Branch. YAL CBA Council (Spiritual Formation Committee) and the USLS Political Science Society.

I was able to connect with Sen. Yuval Adera, Project Head and Head Researcher. We talked how the Student Senate of their Student Government is not just making laws but also doing activities “out of the box.” Moreover, Sen. Yuval was inspired to create this project since this is a part of our local history that is not well explained to students. “There are some students who share that the only Insta they know, which is the motto of Bishop Fortich, is Instagram” he adds. This exhibit is one of their efforts to create spaces for dialogue about how faith and politics interplays, reflective of the Lasallian Graduate Attribute of being “socially responsible Christians.”

Here are some facts that I learned from the exhibit.

Most Rev. Antonio Yapsutco Fortich, D.D. was born on August 11, 1913, in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. He was ordained as a priest on March 4, 1944, and his first assignment was in Bacolod City. He became the Vicar General after a year and worked with Msgr. Manuel Yap who later became the Bishop of Bacolod.

Fr. Fortich was known to collaborate with the communities and mediating conflicts. He organized the Cursillo de Christianidad Movement, a group that translates Christian faith into concrete pastoral work. He also established the Barangay sang Virgen Movement (BVM); a mass-based organization aimed to promote devotion to the Virgin Mary through the Holy Rosary.

He became Bishop of Bacolod on February 24, 1967.

As the Bishop, he reached out to the poor and the oppressed. He established the Social Action Center – a center for the poor and needy. The SAC is still active to this day. He also started the Basic Christian Communities. He has been noted as a social activist who fought for social justice. He was a champion for the poor.

I have noticed his sense of humor. He was popular with political leaders and was close to Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul II). Pope John Paul II visited Bacolod on February 21, 1981. I was one of the young students who lined up in the reclamation area to welcome him.

He also made enemies. His home was mysteriously razed to the ground. It was said to be an accident, but many believed that it was not.

Another legacy of Bishop Fortich was founding the Diocese’s radio station, DYAF 1143 (Radio Veritas). The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, through Fr. James Reuter, SJ, encouraged dioceses to open or revive radio stations. Fr. Reuter visited Bishop Fortich to urge him to reopen Radio Veritas. He assigned the late Fr. Felix Pasquin to entrusted to rebirth of the station. Radio Veritas, now known as DYAF – Catholic Media Network (CMN) Bacolod is still on air.

Bishop Fortich retired on January 31, 1989, after reaching the mandatory age of seventy-five (75). He died on July 2, 2003.

Another recent activity in USLS, was the Jose W. Diokno Memorial Lecture Series (inaugurated in 1992), which commemorates the legacy of Senator Jose W. Diokno, a distinguished La Sallian and a pioneer in human rights advocacy in the Philippines, invited another lecturer.

Fr. Brian Gore, a Columban priest, shared his memory of the past, his memorialization for the present and the future. Fr. Gore was a Martial Law survivor. He was one of the Negros Nine, a group of priests and lay people who were wrongly accused of killing a municipal mayor and his companions. They were imprisoned for about fourteen (14) months.

Fr. Gore was also close to Bishop Fortich. After his talk, he visited the museum where as one of the photo contributors of the Exhibit, shared the stories behind the photos of him during his detention as part of the Negros Nine, and memories with Bishop Fortich.

The exhibit is open until February 29, 2024. Please visit and learn more about the legacy of Bishop Antonio Fortich, a man for all seasons.

This writer would like to thank Mrs. Lyn Marie Mapa and the staff of the Museo De La Salle-Bacolod and Mr. Yuval Adera (Project Head) for allowing me to interview them and to share this story.

See you in LaSalle! Animo!*


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