Dr. Raul Geronimo Forés, eminent surgeon, former President and CEO and medical director of the Makati Medical Center, and father of Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2016, Margarita Fores, passed away last June 21. He was 89.
In 1969 and barely in his forties, Dr. Forés was the youngest member of the consortium— dubbed the founders group— that spearheaded the Makati Medical Center, upon the prodding of Enrique Zobel, which was to rise in the then developing Makati Commercial Center.
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Along with his father Dr. Jose Y. Forés and brother-in-law Jorge L. Araneta, the younger Forés joined other distinguished individuals in business and medicine in organizing the hospital, including Obstetrician-Gynecologist Constantino P. Manahan, cardiologist Mariano M. Alimurung, Dermatologist Manuel C. Fernandez, Sr., Neurosurgeon Romeo Gustilo, Physician Carlos L. Sevilla, Architect. Luis Ma. Z Araneta, Businessman Daniel Go, and philanthropist Julieta Ledesma.
Described as a ‘man of generosity and warmth’, he was born on November 6, 1930 to Dr. Jose Y. Forés, professor of surgery at the University of Santo Tomas Medical School and Hospital, and Angela Fores, an heir to the El Porvenir Rubber Products enterprise (the company, during its heyday, operated a large factory at Grace Park, from which daughter Margarita named one of her restaurants).
The man they call Pappy
Like his father before him, Dr. Fores graduated from the University of Sto. Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, and he wed Maria Lourdes “Baby” Araneta, youngest child of industrialist J. Amado Araneta and Ester Araneta, on January 24, 1957. The couple’s principal wedding sponsors were the bridegroom’s mother and the bride’s uncle, Speaker of the House Jose Yulo. The breakfast reception was held at Bahay na Puti, the Araneta mansion in Cubao. The union bore five children: Ma. Victoria aka Veanna, Margarita aka Gaita, Ma. Mercedes aka Bledes, Jose aka Joe, and Jorge aka Oye.
The Forés kids grew up visiting their father at the hospital all the time—in the operating room in the early days, and mostly at his clinic so they could spend time with him—“Since he hardly spent time away from there,” says Margarita, the chef. “He knew every inch of that hospital. We his 5 children have always felt that the MMC is our 6th sibling.”
Margarita says her Pappy was a strong, steady presence in the lives of his children. “Although growing up our mom did the everyday parenting because he was constantly at work in the hospital, his slightly stern but gentle energy was always with us,” Margarita adds. “He was cool too, dressed well, loved fast cars, and was a foodie in his own way...he ate every meal with his own dessert set on his place, since he needed something sweet always with the main meal.
“He knew every inch of that hospital. We his 5 children have always felt that the MMC is our 6th sibling.”
“All of these things have influenced us, and we, hopefully, have each taken a bit of him and made it our own. Not only because he was everyone’s obvious go to person when they didn’t feel well, he was always just caring and concerned, always with his big strong arm around you that made you feel totally protected.
Even when the family moved to the US in the 70s, the children found their ways to remain close to their father. “We stayed close and always consulted him during the most critical and challenging times in our young lives,” recalls Margarita. “He was our moral compass, the rudder that steered us even from a distance.”
The doctor and Mother Teresa
Owing to his stature and position, Dr. Fores was top of mind for the well-known. He was the personal physician of President Fidel V. Ramos, who had to undergo surgery to clear a blocked artery in the neck while in office. When TV host and socialite Elvira Manahan and her two househelp were rushed to Makati Med following the gruesome shooting in the former’s Forbes Park home, he was part of the team of doctors present in the emergency room. “Raul Fores shouted to everyone who was not needed to leave immediately,” recounts Larry Henares in his book Make My Day.
He did not hesitate to attend to underprivileged and charity patients, including the wards of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. “Our hospital started serving these nuns and their patients way back in the early 80’s when they were cared for by Dr. Raul G. Fores,” writes John Vincent G. Pastores, MD, Member, Makati Med Advisory Committee. “Every Monday from 12 noon to 6 in the evening, patients of Mother Teresa gathered at the famous and iconic Room 200, incidentally but symbolically adjacent to the charity wards of MakatiMed. They wait for their turn to be seen by Dr. Fores and his clinic staff. I was very fortunate to have worked with him at this stage of his career.” (The Fores family keeps a treasured letter to Dr. Fores from Mother Teresa.)
It looks like they‘ve been reunited up there. My father, Raul G. Forés,MD, had a very special relationship with Mother Teresa, now known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, and always helped the sisters and beneficiaries of her order here in Manila, the Missionaries of Charity. Monday afternoons in his clinic were reserved solely for them, sometimes nearly 70 patients for him to check on each afternoon. These photos were taken when she visited him at the Makati Medical Center in 1990. To those who donated to the Missionaries of Charity in lieu of flowers in his honor, my family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have made him very happy, and I am sure Saint Teresa too...big smiles like these on their faces. #motherteresa #teresaofcalcutta #missionariesofcharity #raulfores #makatimedicalcenter
“He taught us to never turn anyone wanting and needing assistance away, and to do it without fanfare and wanting anything in return,” Margarita says about her dad. “Fr. Tito Caluag said during one of his sermons about Pappy, that perhaps he was inspired by Mother Teresa in all that he did, because it was not just about doing great things for others, but it was more about doing even the small things with great love...one of her most important teachings.”
One celebrated indigent case Fores worked on in his career was that of the Clemenia twins, Peter and Paul, who were born fused at their hips in a rare congenital anomaly. Without much pause, Dr. Fores agreed to take them in, housing them at Makati Med’s pediatric ICU. On May 1998, after extensive study and research, the conjoined twins were successfully operated on by a battery of doctors in what was a daring and milestone 17 hour procedure, the first such surgical separation conducted in the country.
Honoring his numerous contributions as one of its founders, and “in celebration of his steadfast commitment and dedicated service to the healing of the poor and underprivileged,” the Makati Medical Center Health Services Department (HSD) was christened the Dr. Raul G. Fores Hall on December 2016, in an intimate ceremony graced by friends, family and colleagues.
“My dad was only in his late 30’s when he helped start the Makati Medical Center with other doctors more senior than him,” Margarita says. “His vision was to make it the best institution for medical care for all, most especially fof the disadvantaged in our society.”
Last Sunday, when he lay in state at the hospital the day of his funeral, doctors young and seasoned spoke lovingly about Dr. Fores. “[They] spoke with so much emotion, many in tears, about how he supported them and gave them their big breaks in the early days at the MMC,” recalls Margarita. “They spoke about the countless lessons they learned from him.” There wasn’t enough time to listen to everyone that day, and many more wanted to speak. So instead these doctors took members of the Fores family aside and shared to each their stories and gratitude.
“He was a firm mentor, but was a doctor who had a warm, very comforting bedside manner,” adds Margarita of her Pappy. “His big, steadfast presence at the MMC was felt strongly by all, equally, whether they were his peers and colleagues, or the ER guards, elevator girls, orderlies, nurses or janitors. They were all his family.”
With additional reporting by the staff. Photos courtesy of Bledes Fores and the Araneta Group Archives.