Remembering Imelda Cojuangco: ‘I look gift-wrapped!’
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2016 - 10:00am

Philanthropist, fashion icon and the last of the grand dames of elegant society Imelda Ongsiako Cojuangco passed away on May 10, the day after the colorful Philippine elections.

According to a member of her family, “MeldyCo” got what she had always prayed for: a quick, painless death for a cherished reunion with the husband she missed terribly. Ramon Cojuangco Sr. died May 6, 1984, and she rejoined him in heaven four days after his 32nd death anniversary.

Newlyweds Monching and Meldy Cojuangco. Photo from Fr. Tito Caluag’s Facebook page

The last time I saw MeldyCo a few years ago, I saw her cry.

It was at the press con for Beloved Encore, a benefit for the children of the Virlanie Foundation. And the “culprit” was Martin Nievera. Martin, the lead singer for the concert, sang Louie Ocampo’s poignant ode, Kahit Isang Saglit.

When Martin started to sing, “Sana’y ika’y muling makita ko/ Damhin ang tibok ng puso mo/ Sana’y yakapin mo akong muli kahit sandali/ Kahit isang saglit, mayakap ka,” tears started to well in Imelda’s eyes. Then the tears fell. I remember MeldyCo taking a lace hankie from her purse and dabbing it on her moist cheeks after the song faded.

After she wiped away her tears, I asked, “You were thinking of your late husband, weren’t you?” She nodded. Imelda lost her beloved husband, PLDT patriarch Ramon Cojuangco Sr., to cancer.

MeldyCo told me she missed her husband, who was said to be the late former President Cory Aquino’s favorite cousin, very much. “He was my husband, my lover, my friend, my teacher.” They had five children and 15 grandchildren.

* * *

During that press conference, Mrs. Cojuangco (but when she would give me a call, her assistant would say on the line, “Kausapin ka raw ng Tita Meldy mo.”)  looked poised and impeccable, as usual, every inch of her slim frame a fashion statement. She looked youthful and carefree in a dainty white dress by Roy Gonzalez, huge pearls dangling from her ears and a ribbon adorning her hair.

“I look gift-wrapped!” she smiled, admitting, without apologizing, that her fashion style was “exaggerated.” (“I was told by the late Ramon Valera to exaggerate my style, because that is more my style.”)

One of her favorite designers Rajo Laurel called her “La Divina.” For in whatever she did, Imelda Cojuangco was divinely different, attention-getting whether she sought a second look from others or not.

But her style was not the only aspect of her life that MeldyCo exaggerated. Charity was something she also overdid, and she told friends at the launching of Beloved Encore, that, “I have been so blessed in my life, I want to make a difference in the lives of others.”

When I interviewed her in her house in Forbes Park, she had a special guest and she had Chinese food catered for that guest: a former house help who had come to pay her a visit.

The last time I saw MeldyCo.

As Father Tito Caluag said of “MeldyCo” in his homily during her funeral Mass (which was a healing Mass in the sense that it brought together people of all colors of the political rainbow after the divisive May 9 elections): “The ‘exaggeration’ most certainly attracts attention — her lively colors, the accessories, her jewelry; her total presence — all simply makes her stand out…

“This is true not only for her fashion style. Everything she did followed the same pattern, ‘exaggerations’ that did not distort reality, but ‘exaggerations’ that brought out what is best, the good in anything that she did — from the simplest thing of placing flowers at her altar to the well planned Cofradia annual First Communion and Procession and her numerous charities quietly done.

“She brought out the best, what is good in anything and everyone she engaged. And this is what we remember. We notice her exaggerated style, yes, but what leaves a mark is her grace, her thoughtfulness, her generosity, her spirituality — and now that she is gone we realize how much all this has made each and every one of us better persons.”

* * *

MeldyCo, in pristine white with a ribbon in her hair — that is how I will always remember her though she favored red in her jewelry, her evening gowns, and even in the accents of her home.

I remember how she smilingly described herself as looking “gift-wrapped.”

For truly, that is how she was — a gift to others — whether she was adorned with ribbons or rubies, or simply with a radiant smile.

Ateneo bags 2016 HSBC Business Case Competition

(From left) Assistant coach Hector Guballa, head coach Jay Cruz, team members Gianmarco Dayrit (Business Management, 2017), Joanna Sinco (Management Honors, 2017), Patvy Vilaga (Management Engineering, 2016) and team captain Richard Millante (Management Engineering, 2016) with case team coordinator Johnny Filart.

The Ateneo de Manila University bagged first place in the 2016 HSBC Business Case Competition held on May 14 at the Cesar Virata Bldg., UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Besting a field of nine top universities from all over the country, Ateneo earned the right to represent the Philippines in the regional finals in Hong Kong from May 31 to June 3. The members of the Ateneo team will compete against 24 teams from universities across the Asia Pacific region. This annual competition is organized by the Asia Case Research Centre at The University of Hong Kong.

This win highlights Ateneo’s continued contribution to nation building as it produces the country’s business leaders of the future; placing them at par with the region’s best students from top universities of Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com.)

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