HEARTS OF MALAYBALAY: In Memoriam—Gov. Carlos O. Fortich (Eulogy for a man and an era)

The author delivers his eulogy for Gov. Carlos Fortich Jr. on March 5, 2019, the day before his remains were laid to rest. Photo courtesy of LGU Bukidnon PGO-PAIA

By Oscar Moreno Reciña

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/11 March 2019)–At the outset, may I express in behalf of my family, my deepest sympathy to Mrs. Amor Fortich and family and to the Fortich clan for their unbearable loss.

It is a disheartening reality that, for many of us who are members of the pioneering families of Malaybalay, our attendance in the funeral of our loved ones and lifelong acquaintances has become more frequent these days.

It is sad that our endearing Governor Carlos O. Fortich is gone after indefatigably serving the province that we love so well and for so long.

Just as it is sad, indeed, that the Fortich home at the entrance way to the Malaybalay City Central School is also gone. The Fortich home was an icon in Malaybalay of the olden days.

It was neither a mansion, a palace nor a citadel, but it was imposing as the Provincial Capitol as it was the ancestral home of Bukidnon’s founding fathers dating back to the early years of the 20th century when this, our home, was a virtual outback in the heart of Mindanao.

Its gates were open to the townspeople and on every Christmas season, my friends and I in the old neighborhood in the center of town would never skip that green house whenever we would go around town caroling in the evening back in the 1950s.

For we always got something to spend for the delectable pancit from Ah Yen’s restaurant and bakery established by the Chings in 1949, firecrackers and sparklers from the Chinese stores, and kerosene from the nearby Mobil Gas Station of the Tabioses for our bamboo cannons that greeted the new year with a bang and reverberated across town on New Year’s Eve.

I still remember it as the only place in Malaybalay where one could find strange-looking hounds then known as Great Danes that, to us, kids, were simply awesome.

It was always my hope that the Fortich house would become the museum of the past and contemporary times for in its halls were important and crucial decisions made that determined the course of Bukidnon’s political history, but even then that it is gone, it will never fade from the memory of those who witnessed its glory during the heydays of an era that brought about the birth and rise of Bukidnon to what it is today.

As a young boy, I can recall that among his peers and townsmen, he was fondly called not as Carlos but Carlitos Totoy Fortich.

On occasions that Totoy Fortich found himself in his hometown, he trudged on the graveled thoroughfares just like everybody else and relished the site of the wayside morning glories and wild sunflowers, butterflies and bumble bees. On Sundays, he would hear the early morning mass and just as every young man would wear neatly pressed cotton trousers and, long- sleeved polo shirts and polished shoes that was the trend in those days, here he was wearing a t-shirt, maong pants and rubber shoes. He was simply modest, serene, and unassuming of a youngster of the gentry. Never prudish nor overbearing.

There was even this campaign jingle that hit the airwaves later in his years as a budding politician that some bugoys of Malaybalay jokingly sang as: “Maoy atong pilion si ToToy maluloy-on nag simba nag pump shoes ug nag maong, haha.”

He was also a motorcycle enthusiast and loved to hug the wind on his BMW and Triumph. And as he cruised the streets, he would glance with a grin from side to side, mindful of the people on the wayside.

He even popularized the wearing of the buntal hat such that this popular head-wear became a hit in town and elsewhere and even immortalized in the WELCOME TO BUKIDNON boundary marker in Alae in the northern territories.

But eventually, the years in the Fortich home that raised and molded the young Carlitos would in no time imbue upon him the aspiration of filling the shoes of his father, Carlos Fortich, Sr.

Moreso, after he realized later in life that the latter was felled, on October 12, 1946, by a deranged assassin’s bullet in Kisolon where his monument still stands today.

And yes, he was destined. Though he was not successful at first, he later crossed the Rubicon and became governor of our dear province, and the rest was history.

And after taking his oath of office, he crossed the divide and paid a courtesy call on my aging father, a most poignant, and admirable act of a quintessential leader that he would soon prove to be.

And personally, I am very grateful to him for giving me my first job after graduation in 1973 when he organized the Agricultural Development Program, a scheme designed to develop pilot areas of the province, a project that brought me to the unspoiled jungles of the Talakag hinterlands and commune with my fellow tribesmen living in remote and forgotten villages, as I relayed to them in the language of my ancestors, the message of hope and assistance from government.

And in parting, I, in behalf of my family, friends, and pre-war neighbors, bid him a fond farewell as he makes that final journey far beyond the sunset and join his progenitors… Foremost Founding Father, Governor –Congressman Manuel Manolo Fortich, Congressman-Governor Carlos Fortich, Sr., Congressman Cesar Titang Fortich, and Congressperson Remedios Ozamis Fortich who held the distinction as being the First Woman Member Of Congress under the 1935 Constitution.

Thank You.

 

(Mr. Oscar Moreno Reciña delivered this eulogy on 5 March 2019 during the necrological services held in the Sanguniang Panlalawigan building, Provincial Capitol Complex, Malaybalay City. BukidnonNews.Net obtained permission from Mr.  Reciña to publish this piece, which was first posted in HEARTS OF MALAYBALAY, the authorʾs Facebook page.)