Last week, in Cape Town living a Travelife, I received an email from Ton Boon von Ochsee, former Ambassador of the Netherlands, regarding the very sudden passing of his wife, Martine.
Madame Martine Boon von Ochsee left Manila just a few days ago, and she passed away on January 18 in the Netherlands.
For those who wish to celebrate her life, there will be a mass at 12:15 PM on January 28 at the Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Forbes Park.
All who knew her are invited to attend.
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AN EXTRAORDINARY LADY
Martine was one of the most vibrant and extraordinary ladies I have ever met. When you met her, you instantly knew she was full of life and emotions.
She always had a twinkle in her eye.
And she never did anything ordinary -- and quite happily so.
ALWAYS OUT OF THE BOX
She hosted breakfasts at her home together with her dog Max, and she organized a flash mob in the middle of an official cocktail party to celebrate the ascension to the throne of the King and Queen of the Netherlands. To name just a few unusual things she did.
I still remember the first time I met her.
It was at a party at the Salon de Ning of the Peninsula Manila. I immediately I knew we would be friends.
FULL OF FUN
During her time in Manila, we saw each other often.
She and her husband Ton always attended the parties and events I hosted, as long as they were in Manila. I always went to their parties as well, because they were such a fun couple.
SPUR OF THE MOMENT DINNER
Just over two months ago, I realized that I was free on a Saturday night, so I'd invited them to my home for dinner on the spur of the moment.
It was such a nice evening of real conversation, and we literally talked all night.
NO FUSS OR FANFARE
That same Saturday, it turned out that they had very quietly visited a little-know orphanage in the suburbs of Manila to donate some toys and just to hold and hug the children.
Martine had said: "I asked the nuns what the children needed, and they said the children needed to be hugged so they would feel cared for. The nuns were trying their best, but there were just too many children. So that was what we did."
There were no photographers, accompanying parties or press releases for this, but I know that Martine did this kind of thing a whole lot.
A VERY TOUCHING NOTE
Around the same time, I'd invited her and several ambassadors and their wives to the gala opening of Ang Bagong Harana, which was being presented by the Philippine Opera Company.
I still remember how I'd seen her at the home of the Ambassador of Spain just the previous night, and I'd twisted her and her husband's arms to attend this gala performance.
I just knew they would enjoy this performance.
Afterwards, she sent me an email to say thank you -- and what she wrote still brings tears to my eyes, when I read it.
Unfortunately, I can't share this with you.
But again, this was how she was -- always reaching out, amidst the glamour and glitter of her diplomatic life, and trying to be real.
The last time I saw Martine was during the Christmas season, at the black-tie ball of the Consular Corps of the Philippines.
She was seated across the room from me, next to Fausto Preysler, while I was seated between the Ambassadors of Singapore and the European Union.
She looked happy and radiant, and I meant to walk over to her table after the speeches and the raffles, to say hello.
But the next time I looked her way, her seat was empty as she'd gone home early. I'd missed my chance to talk to her, and just like that, she was gone.
Moral of the story? Don't ever let opportunities pass you up...