Jun 14, 2024

Rey Fortaleza and wife Araceli.

Former Philippine Olympic boxer turned businessman Rey Fortaleza rose from humble beginnings in Manila to become a prominent entrepreneur and community builder in British Columbia.

 Rey came from a family of boxers. Three of his brothers also boxed for the Philippine national team. They may not be heavyweights on the ropes and financial reward was far from promising, their father insisted however that boxing was their best route to get an education.

“We were trained as pugilists but then our goal really was to get a scholarship and get a proper education,” Rey shared. Fortaleza ended up winning six golds, one silver and two bronzes in 11 international amateur boxing competitions. Representing the Philippines in the 1976 Montreal Olympics was the highlight of his boxing career.

After completing his Bachelor of Science Major in Accounting degree at the Far Eastern University in Manila, he gave up his gloves for a new career in the banking industry. Over the next decade, he worked with Gintong Alay and the Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines as a technical consultant to develop and enhance the grassroots level of amateur boxing in the country. This work included coaching then up-and-coming boxer Onyok Velasco, 1992 Olympic silver medalist and Roberto Jalnaiz, lone Gold medalist in the Asian Games in 1990 in Beijing, China.

Rey’s entrepreneurial prowess was tapped when he opened a sports equipment trading business in Manila but was cut short when his parents sponsored him to immigrate to Canada.

“Life was not all glitz and glamour when we immigrated to Canada and just like boxing, you don’t always come out as a winner. We have to learn how to roll with the punches,” Rey said.

Fortaleza attempted to open a boxing gym in Richmond, BC but he had to close it down after a year. He worked for a silkscreen printing company at $8 per hour. He then took a custodian job at the Vancouver General Hospital as it paid $16 per hour.

“It was frustrating but I kept the job for years.” Rey said.

Working in a menial job wasn’t a problem for Fortaleza, though, because he knew of a special move that could take him out of that temporary status.

“Education is a formidable force to reckon with. I went back to school and trained to become a licensed life insurance broker.” Rey said.

The moment Fortaleza took the gloves off and started to get his hands dirty by establishing an independent insurance brokerage in Surrey, his business flourished and took off in different directions.

“I’ve learned a lot about the Filipino community in BC and learned to readjust along the way,” Rey said.

The size and scale of his “fight” have expanded exponentially to publishing newspaper and glossy magazines; producing TV shows for airing in news cable; promoting concerts and bringing famous entertainers and celebrities from Manila.

“I am happy to keep right on fighting. The fight is not over until you have tried to turn failures into gains.” Rey added.

The Philippine Asian News Today is the flagship publication of the ReyFort Media Group. It then published Living Today, a Filipino-Canadian glossy magazine and subsequently produced Philippine News Canada – Balitang Vancouver, a TV news production capturing the day-to-day life of the third largest ethnic community in BC.

Aside from providing diverse media opportunities for the Filipino community, Fortaleza also heads the Filipino Canadian Cultural Heritage Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating Filipino culture, heritage, values and traditions. The society gives out the Maharlika Awards recognizing individual and organization’s outstanding achievements and contributions to the Filipino community.

Fortaleza encourages everyone especially those who feel stuck in a listless job to follow their hearts and turn their passion into a career or a business.

“Just like in boxing match, analyze what went wrong and readjust. Pick yourself up and do what you have to do to be better. Make sure to come back stronger in the next round.” Rey concluded.

For further information on Rey Fortaleza, click http://www.philippineasiannewstoday.com/

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Emmy Buccat is a donor relations professional at the University of British Columbia’s Development and Alumni Engagement office. She supports the communications, stewardship and events team in keeping donors informed, involved and engaged. She moved to Canada in 2008, bringing 10 years of experience in marketing communications, public relations and event management for brand FujiXerox and Speedo. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, Asia’s oldest university, and a certificate in integrated marketing strategy from UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

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