The beauty and the builder   

Rely Manacay and Jocelyn Aligarbes attend a dinner event always looking their best. Photos courtesy of Rely Manacay 

By Cristina DC Pastor

During the pandemic, the Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) was led for one year by Rely Manacay, a mild-mannered man with an eager-beaver smile.

The year was 2020.

Rely, 63, from Cagayan de Oro City was elected president of the organization that mounts the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade on Madison Avenue. Not many people thought he could accomplish much considering the circumstances of lockdowns and social distancing at the time, but Rely’s leadership crowned PIDCI with a couple of important milestones. It was during his term that the nonprofit organization was able to reinstate its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The PIDCI Constitution and By-laws also got a thorough reread and one of its important amendments was to impose term limits on the PIDCI president: two years tops.

At that time, he said, “PIDCI didn’t have any money,” but the officers made the effort to restore the controversial organization’s good standing. With all public events on pause because of the contagious coronavirus, Rely’s PIDCI put together a “virtual parade,” a video compilation of all previous Madison Avenue festivities including greetings from community leaders.

“It was the first virtual parade,” he said. “We had less than a month to put it together, but we were able to pull it off. The Philippine Consulate used it in their promo.”

The classic TNT 

Rely was an accomplished builder in the Philippines. In 2004, he came to the United States as a tourist. To be able to stay in the country legally, he did what legions of immigrants before him have done: He married an American woman.  Before he could proceed, he had to divorce his Filipino wife with whom he has five children.

Rely and Joy strengthen their bond through community engagements like this cleanup organized by Alakdan in Queens. Alakdan also provided security during the PIDCI and PAFCOM parades.

“I took her (American woman) to the Philippines and introduced her to my family. It was a real wedding, walang bayad,” he said proudly when interviewed by The FilAm.

After eight months, the marriage soured and the newlyweds divorced. The woman, according to  Rely, disapproved of him sending money to the Philippines suspecting he was hiding money from her. He explained he needed to send money home so he could send his children to school. Rely came out of that relationship slightly bruised but did not let a distasteful episode dampen his dreams. He went to school at Kaplan University to study Project Management Construction despite all of his experience back home.

With his background as a project manager in the Philippines, he had no qualms starting at the bottom in the U.S., working as maintenance staff until he rose to project manager/estimator where he “managed day to day project activities, made requisitions, planning and scheduling, evaluated the progress of work, did cost analysis, and prepared bid documents.”

The hours were long and grueling, but Rely loved his work. He was able to ride out many storms over the years in the often financially turbulent world of the construction industry.   He worked at New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority for almost five years, a key contributor in the engineering & construction unit.

In 2022, Rely decided he was ready. He opened his own construction company called Modern Services Solutions, where he is now the managing director, his company of more than 30 people taking on high-end private and public projects.

“I also had my own construction company in the Philippines,” he said. “In the Philippines, if you are a general contractor you have to know all about the trade. Here, you can just be an MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and be OK,” he explained.

At Malacanang Palace where they are among hundreds of FilAms who joined the VIP Tour of the Philippines.

Despite being busy at work, Rely found PIDCI to be a welcome diversion. His way of giving back to the community. It is also where he met the sweet and lovely nurse Jocelyn Aligarbes who works as nurse manager/supervisor at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.  She is a 34-year long-time executive in charge of all the agencies under the hospital’s system.

Five years

The two worked closely together planning PIDCI’s street fairs and fundraising pageants, until their two hearts locked and they fell in love.

“We’re good friends at first,” recalled Joy. “We used to be co-chair of Mrs. Kalayaan, we worked together in so many events. At the time we just love to hang out with other PIDCI members like Ner (Martinez), Raul (Estrellado). We  joke, go out and eat. After five years, he started inviting me out.”

Joy, 60, from Iloilo did not want to be a nurse at first, but the dutiful daughter heeded her father’s wish. She gave up her scholarship in Business Administration at UP Visayas (“I was an activist”) to transfer to Western Visayas State University to take up nursing because UPV did not offer the course. She graduated at age 20, one of the youngest to graduate in the school’s history. Nursing recruiters were knocking on her door after graduation. She joined the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center which is now Jacobi Medical Center. It would be her first and only employer, a rare record for nurses some of whom are prone to job switching.

“I didn’t know they’re from the City of New York,” she gasped.

A community called Alakdan

Rely and Joy  have grown together and grown with a community they call RGI (Reformed Guardians International) Alakdan.

Alakdan (meaning scorpion in Tagalog) is one of the organizations that branched out of the Guardians Brotherhood, a military fraternity founded in the 1970s in the Philippines,  that later welcomed civilian membership. While the scorpion is known to be a killer species, Rely, who is founder and chairman of the board,  aspired to create an organization that embraces the values  of Strength & Resilience, Honor & Excellence. “We have 32 members,” he said.

In New York, where Alakdan is a 501(C)(3) organization, the group has done street sweeping projects around Queens borough, an initiative started by Joy, who is vice-president. “We do community service,” she said.

In the Philippines, Alakdan has  ongoing projects  to provide solar powered lightings in public places such waiting sheds, streets, and basketball courts.

“So far we have provided solar powered lights in three locations already and there are five more locations coming in,” he added.

How they gravitated into each other’s lives, Joy has this to say of Rely: “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He is not quick to judge people.”

As for Rely, Joy is a role model to most women, an elusive beauty to most men.

“It’s not a secret that all men have eyes on her all the time,” he said.  

© The FilAm 2023

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