A woman of substance
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2013 - 12:00am

On this day every year, there’s a special lady who by tradition, celebrates her birthday in a quiet, family way. She frowns on throwing big parties for herself – she’d rather spend time on her social advocacy of fighting abuse of women and children. Today, however, is an extraordinary birthday. She turns 60 and despite her age, you can be sure waiters will wonder if someone made a mistake in issuing her senior citizen card because she doesn’t look a day over 40.

She would’ve enjoyed celebrating with her husband of 36 years, their 29-year-old daughter and her husband and her 97-year-old mother-in-law at an intimate dinner tonight but a nephew is getting married in Antipolo so she deferred to him because that’s how she is. She gladly gave precedence to her nephew’s wedding. Instead, she’s inviting about 40 relatives and close friends to a dinner in Makati tomorrow to share the blessings of 60 years of life.

This special lady gives so much of herself to others. As the oldest of four, she still looks out for her brothers and sister even as they are all married with children. She doted on her parents whom she misses badly as they are now both deceased. The crypt where her parents are interred was paid for with her retirement check. When her mother passed away, she vowed to alternate with her sister in taking dinner with their father everyday and that ritual went on for three years before his own passage. She gives clothing and educational assistance to less fortunate relatives. She sends poor kids to school. She supports Catholic crusades. She never hesitates to welcome guests to the warmth of her home, especially those from abroad. She enjoys her time with her husband, joining him in walks around the village or playing squash or watching movies or malling or taking out-of-town trips. And she especially likes doing things with her daughter.

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What is high priority in her agenda is serving as president of SAGIP (Saklolo at Gabay Ng Ina at Pamilya), an NGO that is a 24-hour crisis center for abused women and children in Muntinlupa. She has taken SAGIP to a proactive level where she leads in educating women in barangays and children in public schools of their rights to be protected from abuse. She was president of the Zonta Club of Muntinlupa and Environs Foundation from 2004 to 2006 and brought the organization to international recognition for its projects. She continues to serve Zonta as a member of the Council of Advisers and president of SAGIP which is a Zonta undertaking.  Her involvement is a consuming passion which has caught the attention and secured support from three different Muntinlupa city administrations because of its purity of purpose.

What prepared this special lady for the work she does was a solid school background. She went to St. Scholastica’s College and St. Paul’s College for elementary then graduated from Maryknoll high school but spent her junior year as a Youth For Understanding exchange student in Grayling, Michigan. As a Maryknoll College junior in 1973, she was named one of Manila’s five most outstanding coeds with Marilou Diaz-Abaya. She earned a communication arts degree from Maryknoll a year later.

She began working at San Miguel Corp. the year she graduated from college and rose up the ranks. In 1982, she attended the Management Development Program of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and was an Outstanding Performance Awardee. In 1987, she was sent by San Miguel to the Frank Jenkins International School of PR Management in London. In 1989, she completed a program for Regional Development Managers at AIM.

In 1992, she was appointed Vice President for sales and marketing of Monterey Farms, a San Miguel subsidiary, and later pioneered in the franchising of the Monterey Meat Shops all over the country. She retired from San Miguel at the end of 1996. Aside from her social advocacy, she is busy working as a real estate agent and non-life insurance special agent.

As an athlete, she has excelled in several sports like swimming, football, pelota (where she played on the national doubles championship team with her cousin) and squash. In 2007, she received the Centennial Award for Women’s Football from the Philippine Football Federation in the presence of FIFA president Joseph Blatter. She remains competitive in squash.

She is also a celebrity in her own right. She played the role of Bebs in the popular 1970s sitcom “Baltic and Company” on TV and was in the cast with Bert Marcelo, Angelo Castro, Mely Tagasa, Nanding Flores and Prospero Luna. She did a slew of print and TV commercials before entering into a long-term exclusive contract with Nestle as Tita Maggie. 

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With all her accomplishments, she is nothing more than a down-to-earth lady who is well-known for her selflessness and big heart. She is deeply religious and devoted to the Lord and her spirituality is a cornerstone of her personality. Her husband swears he couldn’t live without her.

You must know by now that I am that lucky husband. The woman I love so dearly is celebrating her birthday today and it’s difficult to imagine a love that is stronger, uncompromising and deeper. I’ve known Menchu now for over 40 years – we met in 1972---and there isn’t a day that I don’t thank God for bringing her into my life.

She has been by my side through the good and bad times, the happy and sad moments, supporting, encouraging, inspiring me. Through it all, God has been and will always be at the center of our life together. A woman of substance turns a year older today, still as beautiful, charming and dedicated as she was when my life changed forever the day we met in 1972. Happy Birthday, dearest Menchu, the love of my life.

ANGELO CASTRO BALTIC AND COMPANY BERT MARCELO CENTENNIAL AWARD COLLEGE AND ST. PAUL COUNCIL OF ADVISERS FRANK JENKINS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL GABAY NG INA HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAN MIGUEL
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