Historic ‘firsts’ as PIDCI finds hospitable welcome in South Jersey

Grand Marshal Dr. Restituto Estacio; Mrs. Kalayaan Demi Kondracki. Photos by Boyet Loverita

Grand Marshal Dr. Restituto Estacio; Mrs. Kalayaan Demi Kondracki. Photos by Boyet Loverita

By Lindy Rosales

A lot of ‘firsts’ were noted in PIDCI’s nearly 30-year history of organizing the Philippine Independence Day Parade.

One, it is the first time the organization is having an Honorary Grand Marshal to lead the parade. It is also the first time the Grand Marshal Ball was held in South Jersey, a city close to Philadelphia and bordered by the Delaware River.

Said PIDCI Vice President and Grand Marshall Gala chair Rely Manacay, “It is historic enough, it’s a lot of firsts. It’s the first time we’re having a Grand Marshal from South Jersey, and first time the ball was held in South Jersey. It was very successful.”

The Grand Marshal Gala kicked off celebrations for the Philippine Independence Day Parade to be held on June 3rd at Madison Avenue. A week before the gala, the Mrs. Kalayaan pageant was held at The Graycliff banquet hall in Moonachie in New Jersey, another first. Mrs. Kalayaan is a fundraising popularity contest for married or previously married FilAm women; the winner gets to ride a float as it cruises down Madison Avenue on June 3, and becomes PIDCI’s Ambassador of Goodwill for the year.

“This is the greatest event I have ever attended,” said this year’s Mrs. Kalayaan Demi Kondracki, a registered nurse.

Introduced as Honorary Grand Marshal was Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr., who served as Consul General in New York from 2011 to 2016. De Leon has retired from public service and spends his time between the Philippines and New York.

Maj. Restituto Estacio, M.D. was introduced as the 2018 Grand Marshal. Estacio is a retired medical doctor who worked at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx and was a Fellow in Internal Medicine at New York University. Following a stint as a medical officer in the Philadelphia Navy shipyard, he became a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force. He settled into his last job as Medical Director at the United States Postal Service for South Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania up until his retirement.

Estacio is the founder of the Philippine Medical Association of America (PMMA) and the organization called the Shrine of Santo Nino de Cebu in America based in Philadelphia. The PMMA is known for its medical missions to the Philippines. Outside of his medical career, he is most proud serving as the Chapter Commander of the Knights of Rizal, Cherry Hill Chapter in N.J. He and his wife (now deceased) Carmen Estacio have three children: Emmanuel, Joseph Michael, and Annabella.

PIDCI officials and honorees take the stage.

PIDCI officials and honorees take the stage.

“I can’t believe I now join the ranks of the prestigious individuals or Grand Marshals of PIDCI,” he said. “There is strength in numbers, and it should make us even more proud to walk down Madison Avenue.”

An avid follower of the Sto. Nino, Estacio stepped into the ballroom wearing gold sparkly shoes and a cane. It was his Sto. Nino attire. He also carried a crown but didn’t put it on.

Kondracki said, “We are very proud of Dr. Estacio because he has been involved with the community for such a long time, and this is a very well-deserved title for him.”

Honorary Grand Marshal De Leon noted how having a Grand Marshall from South Jersey, “expands the reach of the Philippine parade” not only in Northern Jersey and New York but also in South Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia area.

“In the past 28 years, this community has only participated once or twice in the parade, so this is a big one,” he said. “If we work together towards common goals and common causes we will show people the best of Filipinos.”

FilAm Congressman Jeff Coleman, a former Republican member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was one of the speakers. He said he is proud to be a Filipino American but warned that “Filipino values are at jeopardy” when Filipinos assimilate in the U.S.

“Filipino Americans are the fastest growing group but we simply become the communities that we live in. Don’t leave the joy of being a Filipino behind when you assimilate in the U.S. Filipinos become the conscience of civility in this country,” he said.

Coleman was in the Philippines as a young child living in Project 6 during the People Power Revolution in 1986. He followed the events by listening to Radio Veritas.

This year marks the 28th year of the Philippine Independence Day Parade in New York, the biggest celebration outside of the Philippines.

PIDCI President Ner Martinez said the gala “exceeded my expectations.”

“I know it’s a long way from New York but it’s well worth it and I’m just amazed at the support of the South Jersey people, and I’m looking forward to their participation on June 3rd,” he said.

© The FilAm 2018

Grand Marshal Estacio (right) with Honorary Grand Marshal Mario de Leon Jr. and Congressman Jeff Coleman of Pennsylvania.

Grand Marshal Estacio (right) with Honorary Grand Marshal Mario de Leon Jr. and Congressman Jeff Coleman of Pennsylvania.

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