‘Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered’ | Inquirer Lifestyle
IMELDA Cojuangco blows her birthday cake surrounded by family and close friends. Right:With son Choy Cojuangco

‘Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered’

(Homily by Fr. Tito Caluag during the birthday mass of Imelda O. Cojuangco, Sept. 20, 2014. Tata is the term of endearment for Mrs. Cojuangco.)

 

AS I was preparing for today’s Mass, I realized this is the 10th year we celebrate together Tata’s birthday. Last year, she was 58, so this year she is turning 57. The 10th year of giving thanks; today is a bit more special.

 

IMELDA Cojuangco blows her birthday cake surrounded by family and close friends. Right:With son Choy Cojuangco
IMELDA Cojuangco blows her birthday cake surrounded by
family and close friends. Right:With son Choy Cojuangco

Year in, year out, we offer this perfect sacrifice and act of thanksgiving, the Mass. The past 10 years, this wonderful grace has increasingly become the center of Tata’s life and, with her, our life. Since March 2005, we have celebrated over 3,000 masses; 120-plus First Friday masses, nine Christmas and New Year’s Eve masses, nine Holy Week liturgies, and 10 birthday and death anniversary masses for Uncle Monching (Ramon Cojuangco, Imelda’s husband).

 

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of a selfless and detached gratitude: Be happy and thankful for what we have and are blessed with.

 

So today we join Tata to thank the Lord, in the words of Psalm 107, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.” We also thank Tata for her graceful presence in our life, all of us: her family, friends, office and house staff, her co-workers in various works and charities, the people she serves.

 

Majesty

 

On Sept. 8, Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, Belay shared a quote from JRR Tolkien, an apt description of the grace Tata has shared with us: “All my own perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded upon Our Lady.”

 

Our perception of beauty, the good, the true and the beautiful. The classic Greek ideal, popularized by the other Imelda, but this is from the ancient Greek civilization. Now let us reflect on it from the prism of our Imelda.

 

“Beauty both in majesty and simplicity,” yes, this is Our Lady, Our Blessed Mother; and yes, it is also our Tata, our beloved mother, mom to so many of us.

 

Her majesty is legendary. This I need not talk about at length. Just leaf through magazines through the years, especially the past 10 years or so when she has not been as active in and visible to the public.

 

Through the years, you will see and read how they sang praises for her elegance and grace; and, in the past decade, especially the elegance and grace of a woman at peace with her family and loved ones; with the mass, Our Blessed Mother, Her Son and God the Father as her center and all.

 

Her simplicity is our best-kept secret, we who have been given the great privilege to see this up close in the day to day, when there are no cameras and no adoring public. For this, let me share three simple anecdotes.

 

WITH daughter Marvie
WITH daughter Marvie

One of my early insights into her simplicity was in the first year I started celebrating mass for her. Every day seemed a major production, since after Mass dinner was served.

 

And each time she would painstakingly plan the menu weekly, thinking about what we liked, where to get the best of these items and making sure repeats were spaced. This was done week in and week out, with attention to detail and thoughtfulness.

 

During one of those dinners, the table discussion turned to an incident years early when someone had a misunderstanding with Tata. They were discussing how mean this person was to her. As everyone was all so riled up recalling this incident, she turned to me and said: “Hijo, hindi naman ako nagalit dahil sa ginawa niya. Nagalit ako kasi tinawag niya akong matanda.” (Son, I did not get mad because of what he did. I got mad because he called me an old lady.)

 

Her simplicity is in her sense of humor, and it’s a forgiving sense of humor.

 

Scrupulous

 

Every First Friday, Tata goes to confession—no danger here of my breaking the seal of confession—but quite often she would laugh at the start and say how Ate Marvie tells her she is so scrupulous, going to confession so often.

 

The past two years, Tata would always start her confession laughing and saying this: “Father, you have memorized my sins.” Then she would start her confession, and the grace is, we always discover something “new”—God’s grace working in her life, transforming her into a more loving person at peace with herself, others and God.

 

The third anecdote is about her staff, here in the house, all of them, including the nurses who have joined her in recent years, and many others who have been with her for decades. Their genuine affection, dedication and devotion to her, I think, like all of us, go beyond her material generosity.

 

It is her thoughtfulness in small things that keeps us in awe. This simple thoughtfulness makes us grateful and devoted to her and to God.

 

Truly, she has taught us beauty in its majesty and simplicity and, through all these she leads us to the most beautiful, the most majestic and the simplest of all: Our Blessed Mother and Her Son. In Mary, we learn best how to see Christ more clearly, to love Christ more dearly, to follow Christ more nearly.

 

This, in the end, is the only real good, truth and beauty in life—in a majesty and simplicity beyond compare, in Christ and our following him more nearly.

 

WITH youngest sonMikey
WITH youngest son Mikey

Being remembered

 

I end with this story. Weeks ago I posted in Instagram this quote from Giorgio Armani: “Elegance is not about being noticed, it’s about being remembered.”

 

Several commented that it reminded them of Tata. How true. But she is more. She embodies both being noticed and remembered.

 

She walks into a room noticed for her class and style, but she leaves the room remembered for the kindness, thoughtfulness, the peace and the love she exudes.

 

As Lino Cayetano said after he first met her here, “Grace flows from her fingertips.” After Piolo Pascual visited her a second time, he also said: “I should visit her more often. She is such a peaceful presence.”

 

Thank you Tata, thank you Blessed Mother, thank you Lord. In the words of the song (and I paraphrase), “’Til the end of our days, oh Lord, we bless your name, give you thanks, give you praise all our days.”

 

And may there be many more days with you, Tata, not so much for you, but maybe more for us who need to learn from you to follow Christ more nearly like you. Ad multos annos.