Manuel Cabutihan’s life reads like an adventure novel. A spry 70-year-old, Cabutihan now lives a more predictable routine at New Community Hudson Senior but a conversation can quickly take him back to his former days fighting crime or living on the high seas.
Nowadays, he’s content with the small pleasures in life.
Cabutihan, also known as “Manny,” has lived at the NCC senior housing complex in Jersey City with his wife, Rose, since 2014. He takes it upon himself to keep common areas of the building neat and tidy, according to Sande Le, property manager.
“He’s very helpful,” she said. “If we need him, he’s there,” she added.
For example, Cabutihan, who serves as the second floor captain, can often be found running a vacuum up and down the hallway. During the warmer months, he tends a garden next to the building, where he grows eggplants and peppers. He and his wife also take it upon themselves to clean the garbage room on their floor each day.
“It is my pleasure to make the environment clean here,” he said.
It makes sense that Cabutihan prefers to keep things clean and orderly. He managed properties in Jersey City for seven years. He also has a law-and-order personality, with his first career as a police officer with the Philippine National Police.
Born in the city of Lucena in the province of Quezon in the Philippines, Cabutihan had an unshakable sense of adventure from an early age. He married his wife at the age of 17 after first setting eyes on her at their high school prom. After a decade of harrowing experiences as a police officer, Cabutihan decided to work on a merchant ship where his cousin was a captain. He then proceeded to travel around the globe as a seaman for the next 20 years, visiting countries such as Belgium, Italy, Japan, London and Singapore, among many other far-flung places. He said that his father opposed the idea of Cabutihan becoming a police officer or sailor, but Cabutihan said his “adventurer” spirit prevailed. He is the youngest of five boys and also has a sister, who is younger.
“To be a seaman is very educational,” Cabutihan said, explaining how he encountered people of many different backgrounds and life experiences. As an officer who, at times, got assigned to foot patrols, he said he experienced risky situations “plenty of times.” He also worked on a farm, for a printing company and did private security.
Cabutihan is still thankful that he found housing at Hudson Senior at just the right moment. He had just received a notice from his landlord at the time that he needed to move out within two months. At that same time, Le contacted Cabutihan to let him know that his housing application had been accepted and that he had a new home at NCC.
Cabutihan and his wife, Rose, have been married for 53 years and have four grown children.