For those who only see her on the glossy pages of magazines or on the society columns of newspapers, it’s easy to dismiss Tingting Cojuangco as just one of the elites belonging to one of the most prominent political clans in the country.
But Margarita “Tingting” Delos Reyes Cojuangco, wife of current Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, has achieved so much in her storied life.
“Tingting Cojuangco, still slim, and trim and beautiful as no woman of a certain age has any right to be, has traded the flatteries of the ‘70s for the more substantial expectations of the ‘80s and ‘90s. She raised five achieving daughters, wrote 9 books, fought for freedomand Mindanao causes and Philippine Public Safety College that Trains the Police, Fire and Jail public safety Personnel, and when her women colleagues and peers were discussing the topnotes of the scents of Dior and Carolina Herrera, she became governor of her province, Tarlac working with AFP as a Reserve Full Colonel.” (100 Women of the Philippines – Celebrating Filipina Womanhood in the New Millennium)
She is proof that elegance knows no age and that living a life of substance is truly what completes a woman.
In her youth, she drew the attention of the world to the Filipina beauty, in marriage became the ideal wife in Tarlac who relished in the joys of motherhood, and as a public servant who focused on health, agriculture and women’s livelihood.
It is understandable to be in awe of this woman who exudes affluence, grace and sophistication when you first meet her, but she’s hardly haughty, contrary to how socialites are perceived to be.
Even during her youth, Tingting, had already gained attention of the entire world after appearing twice Harper’s Bazaar, and the second time being selected by Harper’s Bazaar magazine as one of the 100 Most Beautiful Women In The World in 1968 with Jacqueline Kennedy, Dona Marella Agnelli, Queen Sirikit, Gloria Vanderbilt, also known as Mrs. Wyatt Cooper, Mrs. Winston Guest, Madam Grés, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, China Machado, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg, to mention just a few.
“Harper’s Bazaar first came to the Philippines in 1967, and they asked to see three women, and I was one of them. They returned with photographer James Moore for an 8-page spread in the magazine. I didn’t know I was going to be included until I got a call, again in their 1968 World’s Most Beautiful Women,” Tingting recalls.
She held the international fashion world enthralled with her exotic beauty, and with her rare pedigree and breeding she easily became the toast of glittering parties of Manila society.
Modeling, however, was just a hobby for the young Tingting, like all young and pretty girls of her age. No one was paid for modeling then.
Tingting married Peping, President’s Benigno Aquino’s III uncle, when she was only 18. They have five daughters, Liaa Cojuangco-Bautista, Josephine Cojuangco, Mikaela “Mikee” Cojuangco-Jaworski, Margarita Demetria “Mai-Mai” Cojuangco-Zini, Regina Patricia “China” Cojuangco-Gonzalez.
“I married Peping at an early age so I wasn’t able to finish college. Finishing my education had always been a dream and a promise I made for myself.”
She completed her college degree in three years, took her master’s degree at the University of Santo Tomas and later took up her Masters in National Security Administration at National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), and earned doctorates in criminology and Philippine history.
Aside from being the president of the Philippine Public Safety College, Tingting also became the chairman of the Alumni Foundation of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), a director in the Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Foundation (DARE), a Board of Trustees of the Collegio San Agustin, and a member of the Board at the Baguio Country Club. She is also a full colonel in the Army Reserved Force.
Promoting education she says has always been her advocacy, “I believe everyone should have a proper education. It’s a basic right. Education should be made available to them. They must learn how to read, write and do math and be taught the country’s history and our heroes for them to have good role models.”
Her thirst for knowledge and travels all over the country has resulted in several books about history such as: Kris of Valor (1993); Konstable: The Story of the Philippine Constabulary 1901 to 1991 (1994); History of Tarlac: Pre-History to World War II (1996); A Handful of Pearls: Essays on My Mindanao-Sulu Sea Travels (2002), and several others as well as a book of her published columns Sisters Act, Mom Reacts (2007); The Samals in History and Legend, A Doctorate Degree Dissertation; and Northern Woman, Southern Seas (2007).
OF BEAUTY AND ELEGANCE
Throughout her life and career, there is one thing that remained constant for Tingting– her elegance.
“When she first appeared in those fashion glossies posed astride a carabao and against the backdrop of the rice fields, she gave America and Europe the first positive image of the Filipina, a world-class beauty, modern, intelligent – a far cry from the colonial-period betel nut-chewing women in the Andrews and Geraurdier lithographs literate Europeans were familiar with.”(100 Women of the Philippines – Celebrating Filipina Womanhood in the New Millennium)
Tingting has undoubtedly set standards of style and elegance, good manners and consistently so, that society belles and beauty must attain in vain.
Because elegance, after all, is more than just high cheekbones and “branded” fashion style. It’s practically “in born” taught by mothers.
“There are lots of beautiful women, especially this generation, but elegance is a lifestyle that takes years to develop. Elegance is about being educated, being cultured. It is about being refined in your actions, how you talk, how you walk, how you live your life, not just when you are in public, but every single minute of your life,” she explained.
It is for this reason that Tingting has found a new advocacy, a list so to speak, that recognizes not just beauty, but elegant Filipinas who have strived to make a change and impact in their respective professions.
“Tingting’s List: The Elegant Filipina” has the vision of uplifting the Filipina, whose impeccable taste in social grace and fashion, transforms women to respect one’s self, inspiring others, and to contribute to one’s community, society and the country.
The proceeds of the event will go to the Kabayan Weaving Arts and Crafts, Kabayan, Benguet Province and women scholars from Tanauan, Leyte who are training to become dressmakers under the Special Training for Employment Program (STEP).
The awarding event is scheduled on September 22, 2015 at the Diamond Hotel Ballroom.
“Tingling’s List: The Elegant Filipina” is made possible by Diamond Hotel, DMCI (Vic Consunji), Berjaya Philippines, Globe Telecom, Century Tuna, Baguio Oil, Ralph’s Wine and Spirits, Malaysia Airlines. Special thanks to Sheridan Hotels, Toni & Guy, Seven Fridays, Uratex Philippines, Eskaya, Florsheim, Wacoal, HyC 150, Carlo Rossi.