By Rexan Dayao
Program Director of KKFI
I have known him since I was 16. He was introduced as the husband of our Executive Director and he loves to write articles for newspapers. There’s an image of him that I cannot erase from my mind and imagination whenever I see him–cuddling his cute little daughter, Jasna. Another Kuya Fort image I will always have is him talking to members of our Board of Trustees.
Sir Fort, (foremost left), with daughter Jasna, wife Nancy and son Derrick
He is Fortunato Nicolas, or Kuya Fort as we fondly call him. He has the ability to process thoughts. That’s why, whenever we run out of things to say or have difficulty generating ideas, Ma’am Nancy, his wife and I will always go to him and let him talk. Everyone knew him as a walking encyclopedia.
He is very jolly and will surely crack a joke even in the middle of a very serious conversation. I must admit, that nearly all the proposals and reports I wrote passed through his meticulous editing, grammar check and proofreading. In the end, I’ll end up loving my reports even more.
We had countless breakfast sessions together because the Nicolas family adopted me for a time when I had to stay at the office beside their residence since mine was far from our place of work in the metropolis. I saw his family’s genuine love for each other that made me aspire to have the same when the time comes that I’ll have mine.
When I moved to Davao to administer a shelter for trafficked children, Kuya Fort incidentally was also there to try setting up business in order to provide for his family. While in the southern part of the country, Kuya Fort mentored me on how to effectively write articles (I do hope that I was able to live up to his expectations).
He has been my mentor for more than half of my life.
Last December 2014, while the KKFI staff members were having breakfast, I saw Ma’am Nancy teary-eyed and uncharacteristically seemingly unsure of what to do. I learned that she had just received a call from her son. He told her that there’s an emergency and that his daddy had just suffered a stroke!
I remember feeling numb of sort, definitely something terribly uncomfortable. I felt a sort of panic because of the thought of losing someone that I considered as my father.
Few months later, there he was, up and about again, albeit with a cane. I saw Kuya Fort talking to trainees of massage therapy at KKFI. Our foundation has been providing skills trainings to hundreds of individuals and equip them to provide wellness while generating income. He has been undergoing therapy in order to bring back his health.
But while being provided with healing, Kuya Fort became interested in learning massage therapy himself. In less than three months, he was able to graduate and secure a national certification in therapeutic massage.
While being with the massage therapists, Kuya Fort came up with strategies on how to enhance the economic status of his colleagues. He facilitated BEST or Basic Entrepreneurship Series of Trainings and was able to provide entrepreneurial mindset to more than one hundred individuals.
Last Monday, the KKFI inaugurated its latest livelihood venture—a bakeshop called, Daily Bread. It has the sub-title that states, “every bread you purchase gives life to a child in need.”
Our bakery is just one of KKFI’s innovations aiming to provide people with decent income and uplift their quality of life. We also have our spa and canteen that provides jobs for at least 20 individuals.
The KKFI considers Kuya Fort as the Father of Economic Empowerment. For overcoming a debilitating stroke and becoming a better version of himself, he was able to help individuals realize their worth and become productive members of the society. We thank him for his service and his concern to KKFI programs and its participants.
As for me, I just want to thank him for being my father. Although we are not related by blood, our passion connects us to bring change in the lives of people we work with.
Being a father is not just having a family. It is not measured by how much wealth you acquire. It is measured by how much passion you have given to hopeless and helpless individuals a fighting chance to survive.
Happy Father’s Day to all!