A nurse from New Jersey is PIDCI’s Mrs. Kalayaan 2019

by Ricky Rillera
NEW JERSEY –“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything,” Shakespeare wrote. After a three-month search for a Philippine Independence Day Council Inc. (PIDCI) Mrs. Kalayaan 2019, it finally came to an end recently with a Coronation and Gala event held at the Grand Ballroom of the Ramada Hotel in Newark, New Jersey where five candidates were first introduced to the general public.

Jay Layug, a nurse specializing in trauma and neurosurgical intensive care unit (ICU), romped away with the coveted Mrs. Kalayaan title. She was joined by her court, namely: Betty Corrales, Mrs. Kalayaan Filipino-American; Cecille Laneve, Mrs. Kalayaan Luzon; Anne Copo, Mrs. Kalayaan Mindanao, and Christina Pingol, Mrs. Kalayaan Visayas. Layug is from East Windsor, New Jersey and succeeds Mrs. Demi Kondracki of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

All five candidates made their regal presence to their audience as they took center-stage. They gracefully walked into the dance floor from the entrance and back as if they were seasoned fashion models of their gowns’ designers. Some minutes later, they were performing a Filipino Folk Dance called Binasuan to the delight of everyone.

In reality, however, this was a “whole new experience” for them except for Anne Copo who had previously participated in a similar event and earned her the titles Mrs. Philippine-American Tourism 2013 and Ginang Karilagan 2018.

Consul Ricarte Abuejella III delivered a message from the Philippine Consulate General of New York congratulating the organization in highlighting the culture and heritage of the Philippines. He said that “while we are diplomats” in this country, you are likewise diplomats yourselves, representing our community, and our country.” He thanked PIDCI and encouraged everyone to continue on the work which has been around for many years.

Jay Layug, Mrs. Kalayaan 2019 | Photo Yetbo Loverita

Mrs. Kalayaan 2019

Layug, a mother of three sons wore an Issa Dungca-inspired “mestiza gown”. Constructed in scarlet red silk Mikado fabric with re-embroidered fleur-de-lys lace in serpentina silhouette with a running train, also with re-embroidered fleur-de-lys, and terno sleeves cut in a modern way and re-embroidered to match the gown.

Layug said the experience was a mixture of sorts — from being nervous to anxious and excited.  Although she has been involved in numerous community outreach activities and still does, these have not been with the “same magnitude such as Mrs. Kalayaan.”  What surprised her that night was the involvement of her two sons in the programs who served as escorts for all five candidates.

“I must say that I was overjoyed when it was my turn to walk around the dance floor with my two sons walking side by side with me,” said Layug. She credited Myrna Young, a PIDCI Board member, who encouraged her to join.  “Myrna has been my mentor and a friend for many years. She is an inspiration and motivator whose goal is to uplift and empower other women,” she said.

Layug’s motivation was her strong desire and passion to give back to the community in any way she can. In the past, she has supported medical missions, food and clothing drives and fundraising for victims of natural calamities. She reportedly raised a substantial amount of money for PIDCI. “I am proud that we are one of only five countries in the world holding a parade in New York City,” said Layug.

Layug is also a marathon runner and a member of the Mercer Medical Reserve Corps in Camden County in New Jersey. She was a finalist in the March of Dimes’ Nurse of the Year and a recipient of Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurse of the Year.

Mrs. Kalayaan Filipino-American

Betty Corrales, Mrs. Kalayaan-American | Photo Yetbo Loverita

Betty Corrales of Cherry Hill, New Jersey bagged the Mrs. Kalayaan Filipino-American. She also wore an Izza Dungca-inspired gown made in coral silk shantung and embroidered with coral French lace flowers with terno sleeves donned with 3d flowers and lattice ribbon in coral attached to an overcoat long bias shirt.

A native of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, she migrated to the U.S. in 1970 through a nursing exchange program. She earned her degree from St. Rita College of Nursing in Manila and considers herself a retiree, doing “apos-tolic” work to her four grandchildren. Sometimes, she gets called for work at the hospital to handle medical/surgical rehabilitation of patients.

Corrales has four grown-up children who now have families of their own. Two of her children and grandchildren were with her at the coronation. She joined the Mrs. Kalayaan search at the invitation of Demi Kondracki, Mrs. Kalayaan 2018, and Linda Limcaco, a PIDCI board member, who she said, are her “barkada” in their hometown.

“I’m glad I joined — I like to be part of our vibrant community. Although I live in Cherry Hill, which is quite far from New York City where the Independence Day parade is held, I am proud to represent our Motherland with her flag prominently displayed to thousands of spectators on Madison Avenue.”

Mrs. Kalayaan Luzon, Mrs. Congeniality and Mrs. Photogenic

Cecilia Laneve, Mrs. Kalayaan Luzon | Photo Yetbo Loverita

Cecilia Laneve of Woodland Park, New Jersey received two special awards besides being named Mrs. Kalayaan Luzon. She was voted Mrs. Congeniality by her fellow candidates; she was also adjudged Mrs. Photogenic by a panel of judges.

Her gown was also made by Izza Dungca whose creation made her stand out in a white silk crepe serpentina style, a deep V back and terno sleeves embroidered in black French lace. The train was done in black ruffled tulle. She was invited by Matt Reyes, a PIDCI board member.

“Mrs. Kalayaan was a great way of remembering the culture of our beloved country,” she said. “After 21 years of living in New Jersey, I am proud to be reminded of the beauty of our culture like dancing the Pandango, wearing Kimona and Mestiza dress and most especially being with the PIDCI Filipino community. I’m so proud because I almost got all the special awards.”

She was motivated to join because of her desire to promote Filipino culture and heritage. “I’m also proud to have raised funds to support the Independence Day parade,” Laneve said. She was married to the late Dr. Anthony Laneve for “17 wonderful years.”

Mrs. Kalayaan Mindanao, Best Gown

Annie Copo, Mrs. Kalayaan Mindanao | Photo Boyet Loverita

The special award for Best Gown went to Annie Copo, Mrs. Kalayaan Mindanao, a single mom of two children – Juliean and Rachelle. Her gown — a yellow/gold organza fabric accentuated with rhinestones and silver dust — was made by Joel Adrianov, a Fil-Am New York-based designer/stylist.

“I like how my gown flows which fit me comfortably as well as the color,” Copo said. “The yellow color represents energy, agility, and happiness. That’s who I am in life”. She added: ” Just like the sun, I have emitted energy and happiness in my walk which won me the Best Gown.

Margie Wisotsky, PIDCI board member, invited her to join. She was motivated to see “all these beautiful and strong women doing something good for the community.” To Copo, joining Mrs. Kalayaan is her own “little way” of helping to continue the mission of PIDCI” for years to come.  “It is one of the biggest parades held every June where Filipinos come together and are proud of our culture and heritage,” she said.

Mrs. Kalayaan Visayas

Christina Pingol, Mrs. Kalayaan Visayas | Photo Yetbo Loverita

Christina Pingol of Greenwich, Connecticut, was named Mrs. Kalayaan Visayas. A full-time housewife with two children – Chris Auden and Jake Auden – she is married to Dennis Fabian Pingol of Minalin, Pampanga. At age 35, she is the youngest of all candidates who wanted to help the community through PIDCI. She was invited by Elsa Mole and Dora Koltsides, a PIDCI board member, to join.

She said that because of her participation, she overcame her “stage fright” and was able to confidently present herself even under pressure.

Leonard Co, a Manila-based Filipino designer, made her fuschia-pink colored gown – a simple yet elegant modern style terno decorated with cut-out organza fabric embroidered with beads and rhinestones and black tulle.

Mrs. Kalayaan, a PIDCI fundraising activity, was launched in 2012 with Margie Wisotsky as its first title holder. According to PIDCI, it is a popularity contest for married or formerly married Filipino/Filipino Amerian women who vie for the honor of becoming PIDCI’s Ambassador of Goodwill for one year. They also get the opportunity to ride on a festive parade float during the Independence Parade on Madison Avenue on June 3, 2019. This year’s search for Mrs. Kalayaan was chaired by Myrna P. Young and co-chaired by Ben Vierneza, both PIDCI Board members.

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