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Manuel Villagarcia Villafranca, M.D. passed away on September 3, 2023 at the age of 77. He is survived by his beloved wife of 45 years, Alicia Adapon Villafranca; his daughter, Maria Isabel A Villafranca, her husband, Miles Morton, and their young children, Marcelino and Nico; his son, Raul Manuel V Villafranca, and Raul’s daughter, Elisa.
Manny was warm, resilient, creative, observant, and seemingly never bored. He loved telling stories and asking people to tell their own. He wrote poetry. He did yoga every morning. He also spent hours binge watching game shows with his wife. He loved to dance and sing karaoke to Tony Orlando and Frankie Valli songs. He was loving, playful, and hilarious. His handwriting was impossible to read. He added hot sauce to everything. He was a night owl and was more than happy to stay up late in deep conversation and laughter.
He was born on March 13, 1946 in Labo, Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region of the Philippines, to elementary school teachers Geronimo N Villafranca and Maria V Villafranca, and had a younger brother, Carlos (Carling), who was a lawyer until he passed away in 2022. His mother had a reputation for being a strong mediator, and community members would often come to their house, at all hours, to settle complex disagreements and land disputes. There were many instances when his mother would defend neighbors in court, and won, despite not having any formal legal training. Manny cited this early experience of witnessing people coming to their house for help and finding resolutions as one of the fundamental reasons he became a psychiatrist.
He studied at Ateneo de Manila University and then the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, graduating in 1971. He trained in Psychiatry at UP-PGH and then St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. While he was in New York, he met the love of his life, Alicia, and proposed to her after just six months of dating. They were married in Manhattan in 1978 in a small ceremony surrounded by a handful of family and friends. They lived in Roosevelt Island and Manhattan, where they welcomed their son; Lima, Ohio, where their daughter was born; and settled in Westfield, NJ in 1984.
Manny loved his job, and often told his children that the purpose of life is to do meaningful work for others. His career and charitable work and giving certainly reflected that belief. His patients and colleagues affectionately called him “Dr. V.,” and he was known to mentor residents and to always have a smile on his face. He had a private practice for 37 years in addition to working in an inpatient setting at various hospitals in New Jersey. He was the Medical Director at Summit Oaks Hospital from 2007-2015, and at the time of his death, he was the Attending Psychiatrist at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy. He held various leadership positions connected to his passions for Psychiatry and his Filipino-American communities, including President, UPMASA, NY/NJ/CT (2003-2005); Grand Marshal, Philippine American Friendship Committee, Inc. (2003); President, Tri-County Psychiatric Association (1997-1998); and President, Filipino American Community Action Association (1986-1987). His awards and certifications included American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc.; Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association; 1999-2013 Top Doctors, New York Metro Area: (Castle and Connolly Guide); and 2010-2013 Top Doctors, New Jersey (Inside Jersey Magazine).
He survived several life-threatening conditions in the final years of his life, and his optimism and passion for the beauty in everyday interactions with loved ones never wavered. It’s one of his many qualities that he will be remembered for as his family and friends seek to fill the immense gap that his absence brings.
Visitation will be held on Friday, September 8, 4-8 pm at Higgins and Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, 582 Springfield Ave., Westfield. A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, September 9, 9:30 am at Holy Trinity RC Church in Westfield, NJ. Details to follow on the burial. Entombment will follow at St. Gertrude Cemetery in Colonia.
In lieu of flowers, his family has established the Manuel Villafranca Memorial Fund at UPMASA to provide healthcare assistance and medical education in the Philippines. Please consider donating online or by sending a check to UPMASA, 2304 Kossuth Street, Lafayette, IN 47904.
For those who wish to live stream the funeral mass, please use the following link: