One cannot miss her in a crowd for she was easily a standout anywhere she went. The first time I saw her, she was daintily dressed, in her one-sided coiffure hairdo accented by flowers. She was greeted by friends and followed by her faithful staff who wiped a pew clean before she sat down and prayed. Her eyes were closed; her face has turned profoundly serious, seemingly intent in the conversation that must have been taking place in her heart.
Meldy was a philanthropist par excellence. She served our parish faithfully and actively. Even when she could no longer physically come herself, her fingerprints were all around. She helped build the Chapel and beautifies it with flowers. She helped in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of many churches and chapels in the Philippines and extended boundless support to seminarians, priests and nuns.
Meldy was devotedly Marian and the rosary was her security blanket and weapon, praying everywhere and always. Once she told me that our Lady stands by her bed and guards her. She knows when our Lady is not pleased with her because she seems to be frowning but most of the time she is smiling at her. She is also behind the longest Marian procession celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Meldy was also a Patroness of the Arts. She passionately supported artists and their cause. She sponsored people to watch the operas, concerts and art exhibits. We enjoyed many grand events with her, balls, concert fundraising activities and the unforgettable meals she hosted at her residence. Many too were the masses, recollections and retreats she shared with us.
God was her anchor. However, after her beloved husband passed away, in spite of being surrounded by loving family and friends, she went through her own dark nights and desolation. During these times, God gave her the grace to turn her heart towards Him and the church that she came to love until she drew her last breath.
More than ten years ago, Meldy was diagnosed with aneurysm, which rendered her a walking time bomb. During one of the lunches we invited a priest to join us and prayed over her asking God for her healing and long life. She kept shaking her head and saying ‘no’ as if telling us that she preferred to go. She said she wanted to see Monching, her husband. She looked forward to their reunion.
As Meldy finally joins her husband, what remains in our heart is the memory of a friend. Beneath her grace, elegance and totality as a woman of fame, wealth and beauty, was a childlike and simple soul, a prayerful woman whose heart and soul sparkled with kindness, humility, compassion and generosity much more brilliantly than the jewelry she wore.
We are saddened by her departure but our faith tells us she is more with us now than before. She is with us when we share with the poor, when we involve ourselves in the activities of our parish, help priests, seminarians and nuns, raise funds for the sick and the needy, when we enjoy the company of friends, when we appreciate and enjoy God’s material gifts, when we get together in recollection, prayer, at Mass or in the Adoration Chapel, or enjoying a concert, an art exhibit, an opera, helping artist in need, or even just complimenting a beautiful dress or jewelry. This was how we started to come to know her better, love her, appreciate her and cherish her always. No words will ever give justice to what Imelda O. Cojuangco was in life but we know in prayer that God is her reward for He cannot be outdone in generosity.