Requiem for Olivia Snow’s dream (1975-2023)

‘She received much ire from family back home, and yet she never failed to send financial support.’ Photos courtesy of Stella Piscano

By Stella Piscano

I lost a friend a few days ago.

I met him 15 years ago. Wow, didn’t think it was that long already! This dude was witty, fun-loving, brilliant! He would’ve been 48 years old come February. And why am I spewing out numbers? Because he was a numbers guy, razor sharp analysis of economics from a micro and macro point of view. What can you expect from a Xavier University/Ateneo de Davao graduate! Go Jesuits!

—– Olivia Snow/Rodolfo Manacap was found dead on January 19 at a Best Western Hotel on 30th Street in Manhattan. Consul General Senen Mangalile said the Philippine Consulate General in New York received with “great sadness reports of the death of Rodolfo Mañacap, aka Olivia Snow, a freelance makeup artist and a member of the Filipino community in Woodside, New York.” The NYPD is investigating. —–

Our conversations run the breadth of headlines from the Wall Street Journal to tabloid stuff on the Kardashians. If he had stayed home, I envision him as that congenial BDO vice president I’m sure Tessie Coson would have hired for something. Sparkling Chinito eyes, loud laugh and engaging smile that tried so hard to please the family generation before his. He had what it took to be that kind of VP in banking. But he set his sights toward the US of A. Because he needed the freedom to be who he truly was.

And so he signed up for hospitality gigs in hotels, resorts, cruise ships. He flourished in the industry, because he could be the showman that he was in his skin. No pretensions. And then in New York, he took on a job working as an assistant to a doctor lady with a string of PhDs, who nourished his spirit some more and truly listened and cared about his dreams. A few years later he embarked on his personal transformation.

“She” received much ire and taunting from family back home. And yet, she never failed to send financial support, paying for an apartment here and there, sending a niece through college or high school, tuition this, braces that, etc. those exact details are fuzzy! But the point is, her heart was so big, she was so kind, and so forgiving, the reactions to her transformation were simply brushed aside and she helped as best she could. She was a generous soul.

We had so much fun picking out her name: Rowena (that’s my secret version of me back home! Call me Weng); Veronique (ay panalo sa scrabble yan!); Magdalena (o diba, that’s what they think I am, hindi Barabas!) Brittney (hit me baby one more time!!). We had a blast, laughing out loud in the train or on a park bench! But she was so enamored with this 15-year-old actress in one Romeo and Juliet movie, Olivia Hussey. (Olivia, sounds really elegant, and I am a bit of a hussy!) And so it was Olivia. Her complete name change by end of this year would have been Olivia Rodolfo Manacap. We had set a date this February on her birthday, to head out to the DMV with her glorious fully made-up look to replace her “limbo” photo as she called it. Well, I shall have to immortalize her name some other way.

The author with friend of 15 years Olivia Snow/Rodolfo Manacap.

Olivia had this bit of an obsession: attending beauty pageants. It had to be Miss USA or Miss Universe. She scheduled her leave around pageant dates. She and I would bet on who would win. I would always lose 50 bucks to her but I didn’t mind, this was all in fun and I knew she transported herself to such a place of joy each time, sending me her video selfie jumping up and down with her ridiculously huge earrings bobbing so hard I was scared they would tear her lobes!

But a transformation takes time. A transformation, as I see it, should be a gentle journey that includes constant reassurance and displays of familial love and affection. A simple connection every now and then to ask how things are going. I am a bit old fashioned that way. I’d like a 3- minute hi-hello with family every now and then. And so did Olivia. But she rarely got her kamustahan minute or two. I believe that with all the hormonal changes going on, there is an emotional wave or ripple or tsunami that can happen to transfeminine individuals. And because of this Olivia was more prone to losing out on intimate relationships. She was more inclined to doubt her abilities. I’m pretty sure there was some form of intimate partner violence in some of her relationships because of this self-deprecation, this self-doubt that could have been avoided had she had a better support system from family in the Big Apple. My finger is itching to point at here and there, but this is not a witchhunt.

Goodnight Weng! You moved in this landscape longing to connect, to love and feel loved, just by being you. I am sure (and glad!) that you gloriously found tidbits of happiness in your true skin. Losing you too soon is our tragedy. Rest in peace, dear Olivia.

These are excerpts from “Requiem for Olivia’s Dream,” a post written by the author on Facebook. For the full text,  click on

Stella Umengan-Piscano, is a New York- and D.C.-based systems analyst and activist-artist, involved in steering people and resources via the international non-profit organization, Rotary International. She is currently the lady president of Queensborough West Rotary Club, the first all-Filipino club chartered in the 2014 by and for the New York Rotary District. She comes from a family of journalists and broadcast media personalities. She is the proud single mom of four kids and a westiepoo. 


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