Chona Mejia Lopez: tireless club woman

I recently interviewed Angelina “Chona” Lopez, a dear friend whose daughter, Bettina Osmeña, is as much a dear friend of mine, and the grandmother of, yes, another chum, Eduardo Lopez, a champion polo player.

I have had the opportunity to see Chona on many social occasions, a number having to do with her involvement in the Zonta International. A long time ago, I worked for a club woman who was hosting the awarding ceremonies of the Best Asian Leaders. At one point of the program, I realized that the person assigned to give the flowers to the honoree had not arrived, so I was in a quandary as to who I should ask to do the honors. Then, I saw Chona, who sat quietly in one corner, happy being part of the audience, and asked her if she would go up the stage later to hand over the bouquet. She smiled and said that she couldn’t do it because “I may be performing a role that is intended for someone else.” I had no time to think of her answer but, later, I realized this was one lady who knew her manners and protocol.

In what I would learn as her typically gracious way, she told me she could not do it, while reminding me that someone should be up there on the stage, and not she. Talk about propriety and grace and Chona Mejia Lopez comes to my mind to this day. Of course, here is one lady who does not care about any opportunity to shine. Almost self-effacing but simply relaxed and unmindful of attention, Chona remains in my book to be one of the sweetest ladies of Manila’s 400. I wish there were more women like her!



Recently, I had a brief tete-a-tete with the ageless Chona. As our conversation geared toward her involvement in civic work, I asked her why she joined Zonta, originally a club for professional women. Or, for that matter, why did she join clubs at all?

Her response: “I join clubs for various reasons. As a minority Asian woman working in the United States as a financial advisor at Prudential Bache, I joined the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco as a way of networking.  Prudential Bache was then the third largest investment house in the world. After a few years as a member of the chamber, I was elected as the first woman president in the 20-year history of the chamber. Its membership was made up of top executives of US companies with presence in the Philippines, such as Bechtel, Bank of American, Citibank, Dole Foods, etc., and Filipinos working in top level positions in San Francisco.

“But business networking is just one aspect of joining clubs. I also join as a way of giving back to society or serving the less fortunate. While living in San Francisco, California, I joined The Little Jim Club, a non-profit fund-raising auxiliary for Child Development Services of the California Pacific Medical Center. The main objective of the club is to support orthopedic and other medical services for children of indigent families who do not have medical insurance coverage. Eventually, I became a director of the club, whose members are women movers and shakers of San Francisco society.”


‘I do club work to have a meaningful life, a purpose for my existence. We are here not just to indulge ourselves but to help others.’


“When I returned to the Philippines after 11 years living in California, I joined the Zonta Club of Makati and Environs Foundation. It is part of Zonta International, a leading global organization of professionals whose main objective is to advocate for women’s rights and to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy. After two years of joining the club, I was elected as a director, and the following biennium, I became president of the club. I was later on elected as Area 5 director, with 19 clubs under my supervision. I have been a member for 19 years now.”



She next talked about the Zonta projects that she is so passionate about. She said, “The three projects of Zonta Club of Makati and Environs that are closest to my heart are the DUYAN project in Marillac Hills, which provides psychological care and assistance to minors who are victims of sexual abuse. Another project is our 30 unit Zonta-GK Village in Taguig, It provided funds for building homes for 30 indigent families. This was a project during my term as president of our club. The pride of having a decent home has had great impact on the lives of these 30 families. We also have an educational project that funds the scholarship of young women taking up male-dominated courses like engineering. This has greatly improved the lives of the scholars and their families when after graduation, they got employed in large corporations. Some are now gainfully employed in Europe.”

While club work occupies much of her time, Chona knows her priorities. In their order, she said: “These are family, business and club work.”

That she has kept to the last instead of enjoying life as a lady of leisure, she explained, “I do club work to have a meaningful life, a purpose for my existence. We are here not just to indulge ourselves but to help others. By joining a club, your job or position has clear-cut responsibilities, time set aside for meetings and project work, etc. It is a structured way of giving back to society which relieves me of the effort of thinking and planning how to do so.”

“Because I am now in my rather late senior years, I am no longer as active and as busy as I have been the past 30 years. For the past five biennia, I was always appointed as chair of a district committee. I now devote my time more for the club, not in the district level anymore. Even in the club level, we have so many younger, active, dynamic and very efficient members so the older ones can relax a bit and guide the highly motivated younger ones to take over the reins of the club. The club is truly in good hands to continue Zonta’s work and mission in the next 10 years and beyond.”