Fortes Pakeong Sequeira

Fortes’ unlikely journey of faith

Marco Carvalho

“At one point, I felt the need to look at myself and sense that I was a good person.” The verdict belongs to Fortes Pakeong Sequeira and this is how the Macanese musician and illustrator sums up the extraordinary personal journey that came to a head with the rediscovery of his Catholic roots and the proclamation of an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.

The lead singer of Blademark, arguably Macau’s most successful heavy metal band, Fortes Pakeong Sequeira has, at 43, a successful career in areas as diverse as music, graphic design and illustration, but his life prospects were not always as bright. Founder of “A Porta da Arte,” a small vintage cafe on one of the narrow alleyways that surround the city center, Fortes was born in 1978 and he saw his parents go separate ways when he was just six years old. Now a well known illustrator and artist, Mr. Sequeira spent his childhood with his father, but the rather troubled relationship that emerged between them reached a breaking point in the early 1990s. 

Aged 13 and barely a teenager, Fortes left home, dropped out of school and found himself living on the street: “I abandoned school, ran away from home and became homeless. I was 13 years old,” recalls the Blademark frontman. “During the day, I worked in a restaurant and at night I would sleep on the street, most of the time at Vasco da Gama Garden,” he told O Clarim.

The decision ended up propelling Pakeong Sequeira to the margins of society. Vulnerable, the then teenager found himself an easy prey of criminal organizations and soon he was traveling down a dizzying path that ended, five years later, in a Hong Kong prison, after he got involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities. 

The compassionate attitude of a police agent of the then British colony, who managed to locate Fortes’ mother in Macau, became the spark of hope that most certainly rescued him from a life as a criminal. His mother’s love and the sense of belonging he never felt in his childhood did the rest: “My father was a very strict, very traditional person and there were a lot of experiences that I never went through. I never shared the lifestyle that my mother’s family used to enjoy. As I said, my father was a very strict person. I couldn’t wear perfume or things like that,” Fortes Pakeong Sequeira recalls. 

“My family on my mother’s side was deeply Catholic, in particular my grandmother. My grandmother went to church every day. She made us trust God. The problem is that I didn’t grow up with my maternal family and when I left home, when I ran away from my father, all I wanted was to be like them. I tried really hard to be a Macanese. And returning to the Church was something I was looking forward to doing,” the artist adds. 

After more than a decade of estrangement, Fortes Pakeong Sequeira was once again reunited with his mother, willing to make up for lost time: he reconnects with his family on his maternal side, goes back to school and rekindles the love of learning and drawing. In between, he makes new friends, with the help of a basketball first and, then, with music: “It’s funny because I never wanted to be a musician. It never crossed my mind to join a band. Well, truth be said, I have always loved singing. When I was in the 9th grade, some of my friends started playing guitar. It’s curious, all of them were Macanese,” Sequeira admits. “At that time, we would go to karaoke rooms quite often, we would sing a couple of songs and those friends of mine started saying that I  had a good voice and one thing led to another. The first band I was a part of was called MP. The other members gradually left the project and, at a certain point, I was the only one left from the original line-up. As I was not the only founder of the band, it seemed to me that it made sense to opt for another name and that’s how Blademark was born,” the lead singer of Macau’s most successful rock band recalls. 

Simultaneously, with his dark days as a homeless teen long behind him, Fortes completed a degree in graphic design at Macau Polytechnic Institute School of Arts. In 2005, the Ox Warehouse received his first solo exhibition – “Mad! Mad! Mad! Fortes Sketches Solo” – and, ever since then, his work has reached the four corners of the world and has been exhibited in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Lisbon and New York. With Blademark, Pakeong Sequeira performed in Hong Kong, Australia and several Chinese cities and represented Macau at the Asian Broadcasting Union Television Song Festival, the Asian equivalent of the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Following a difficult childhood and a turbulent adolescence, the young artist – regarded as one of the most versatile and promising artists in Macau – was completing what, ten years earlier, would had been seen as an unlikely path to redemption: “Back then, what I wanted, first and foremost, was to be a good person. I wanted to be at the same level my family was. I wanted that to become my own style. One of the problems that I had wasn’t even baptized when I was a child,” Sequeira recalls.

But Fortes had to deal with a new stroke of faith in 2013. His mother’s death hollowed him out, but, at the same time, pushed him closer to Christ: “My mother died in 2013 and after that I found myself going to church quite often. We had several Masses celebrated for my mother’s soul. I started to attend Saint Lazarus Church more often and the priest and the sisters there picked me up and gave me support. I was completely disoriented at the time. I missed my mother so much that I couldn’t do anything,” says Fortes Pakeong Sequeira. “I was baptized in 2015, in Saint Lazarus Church. And I return there every week. I go to Saint Lazarus Church to pray every single week,” the artist concluded.