It has been a long journey. His passion to serve has brought him from a dark cell during the Martial Law days back home to the esteemed chambers of the city hall in Campbelltown.
“My passion for being involved in the community – meeting people, contributing my time, effort or extending any help I can to the community led me to interact and meet many people and understand different dynamics,” says the Councillor.
“An involvement in one group led me to lead another group through the years until I became involved in politics – without my intention – just my desire to help out in the community.”
Cr Manoto migrated to Australia under the family sponsorship program in March 1987. After a month, wife Marissa and daughter Lourdes Grace, then a year old, followed. They settled in Parramatta and after two years obtained their Australian citizenship.
But it was a tough year with Australia heading to a recession. Rey was already working at director level in Manila but took on work as an administrative officer as his first job in Australia while Marissa, an IT specialist, was able to establish a career in the same industry.
Rey realised there were better job opportunities within the IT industry so after obtaining his diploma, he started his career in IT until he became a manager. He worked in the IT industry in management position for more than 25 years.
“From my experience the greatest challenge in living overseas is the ability to adapt to your new environment, establish new circle of friends and find a job suited to one’s qualifications. I overcame these by never losing my interest to meet and get to know people – not only fellow Filipino Australians but Australians and others from the different migrant communities.
“I also studied again and reskilled myself to enable me to be relevant in the job market.”
With hard work and discipline, Rey and his wife bought their own house and land in Eagle Vale in Campbelltown. The family moved there in 1989. In 1995 his first son, Ryan Gabriel was born. A year and a half later, in December 1996, his second son Michael Raphael was born.
The Manotos have been active parishioners in their local parish and helped in the Catholic school’s activities. Rey also became involved in the local Filipino-Australian community group.
Within the Filipino-Australian community, Rey was convenor of the Filipino and Friends Parish Community Association (FFPCA) when it was formed in 1991 and became its President in 1997. FFPCA was the first community organisation that conducted a fund raising activity for the construction of the new church in Eagle Vale in 1997.
Rey’s family lived in Eagle Vale for 14 years and moved to their second home in Macquarie Links in 2003 where they reside up to now.
Rey led many community groups like the University of the Philippines Alumni Association of Australia, New South Wales (UPAAA-NSW) and became its President in 2004-2006.
He was the President of Philippine Community Council of NSW (PCC-NSW) in 2008. During his term, he advocated for the establishment of the Philippine Australian Disaster Emergency Response (PADER), which coordinates fund raising activities in NSW whenever the Philippines is hit by super typhoons.
He also served as secretary of the Filipino Communities Council of Australia (FILCCA), the national umbrella organisation of Filipino community councils in Australia.
In 2010, Rey became the president of Rizal Park Movement of Campbelltown (RPMC), a position he holds until now. RPMC advocates for the continuing development of Rizal Park in Rosemeadow. RPMC coordinates with the Campbelltown City Council and works closely with the Philippine Consulate General, Sydney in the planning and development of Rizal Park.
The group actively supported the initiative of then Ambassador Belen Anota to install a 5-meter statue of Dr Jose Rizal at this park. RPMC worked and collaborated with Campbelltown City Council and the Consulate to install this statue. It also raised funds for this project. The statue was unveiled in 2012 by former Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
“I felt truly proud to be a Filipino when the 5-meter statue of Dr Jose Rizal was erected in Rizal Park. Being a Filipino is not just someone living in the Philippines. It is acknowledging your roots and if you are passionate to belong to the Filipino culture.”
Rey being a Rizalista and a reformist may not come as a surprise. He was after all born in the national hero’s hometown, Calamba in Laguna. He completed his primary education at Rizal Memorial School from 1958-64.
After graduating from St John Academy in 1968, he enrolled at UP Los Banos. His passion for reform disrupted his university studies and he was detained for three months at Camp Vicente Lim, Laguna, as a political prisoner at the outset of Martial Law in September 1972.
Upon his release, he went on to finish his degree in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Agricultural Economics in 1976.
JOINING THE LABOR PARTY
Rey joined the Australian Labor Party in 2007, with Hon. Chris Hayes Federal MP, as seconder. Rey was first invited to join the party’s team for the Campbelltown council election in 2012 but he was not elected at that time. He was selected again to be in the party’s team in the local election in September 2016. This time, Rey was elected as one of the 15 Councillors for a four-year term. Rey is the first Filipino-Australian Councillor in the Campbelltown City Council.
Rey will always be passionate about his community work, with deep involvement in the local, state, and national Filipino Australian community organisations.
Now as Councillor in the City of Campbelltown, he interacts with other ethnic communities, sectoral and civic groups and the mainstream Australian community.
His noble intention is for the Filipino Australian community being able to integrate well into the mainstream Australian community and contribute its fair share in nation building.
“The realisation of this dream will bring corresponding success marks to the community and as a consequence will have a flow on effect to the motherland. Generally, it is ingrained in the Filipino mind to be generous to our families, extended families and to our kababayans back home.”
He lives by a creed: “Being better than yesterday, having a happy family, knowing that you are able to contribute to the good of the community or a person is already a success; to be able to be given this opportunity again, and make it happen again, and to be better than before is happiness.”