Commentary

Total recall

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Eugenia “Eggie” Duran Apostol, now 87, never tires of saying that she was just lucky “to be at the right place at the right time,” with “the knack for starting small things that end up doing big things.”

The world at large seems to disagree.

In 2006, Eggie Apostol was hailed by Time Magazine as one of its “Asian Heroes” of the past 60 years. In the same year, the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation honored her for her lifetime achievement in journalism, literature and creative communication arts. In July 2004, the University of the Philippines bestowed on her its Gawad Plaridel award in recognition of her excellence in journalism. Ateneo de Manila University honored her similarly, as did her alma mater, the University of Sto. Tomas. On Oct. 9, 2001, the International Center for Journalists in Washington named her the recipient of the Knight International Press Fellowship Lifetime Achievement Award.

Since 1996, her Foundation for Worldwide People Power (now called the Eggie Apostol Foundation) continues to preserve the lessons of Edsa 1 through award-winning video documentaries like “Batas Militar,” “Lakas Sambayanan” and “Beyond Conspiracy.” Since 2002, the Eggie Apostol Foundation has championed various education reform initiatives, notably the Mentoring the Mentors program, the 5775 Movement, and, more recently, Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education.

The renowned writer Gilda Cordero-Fernando describes Eggie Apostol as someone who “has the ability to doze when the tanks are coming; to look after a young son [studying in university] at the cost of her job in a magazine … to be a cool editor, never quarreling with her writers (only rich publishers, ministers, Presidents, and such) … to combine frou-frou with genius, scatterbrain with vision.”

However, in the chapter “Setting The Record Straight” of his memoir, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile presents Eggie Apostol as an opportunistic social climber who curried his family’s favor during the martial law years to protect and advance her own business interests.

Enrile says he has no monopoly of the truth, so it is conceivable that he may have fudged facts in his desire to steer public perception away from what he is more popularly known for: the architect of martial law.

He recounts that “Cristina and I had no previous social or business dealing with Eggie Apostol or her husband, Jose ‘Peping’ Apostol (1922-2004). But after martial law was declared, Eggie Apostol, either alone or with her husband, began to have lunch or dinner every so often in our old home on Sto. Domingo Street in Urdaneta Village.”

Even before Enrile met him, Jose Z. Apostol already enjoyed a reputation as the builder of choice who could meet and even exceed the exacting quality standards of high-value property owners in the San Lorenzo, Forbes, Bel Air, Urdaneta and Dasmariñas villages.

This is why, in 1975, Enrile engaged Jose Z. Apostol’s project engineering firm to build a residence in Dasmariñas Village. In 1977, Enrile’s Jaka Investments Corp. (which was put up in 1974) again contracted Mr. Apostol’s firm to build a house in Valle Verde. As late as 1985, Mr. Apostol worked on Enrile’s huge beach house on Enrile’s prime beach-front property in Natipuhan, Batangas.

Journalists who survived the martial law era regard Eggie Apostol as the mother of the “mosquito press.” Through a women’s magazine, of all things, she was able to publish stories that became increasingly critical of the Marcos regime. She recalls: “I was just doing what should have been done. Journalists have to tell the truth.”

Enrile, meanwhile, writes that “Eggie Apostol was aware of the ire of Malacañang against her. She told me so repeatedly. That was why she frequently stayed in our house in those days. That was also why she went hurriedly into hiding at the outbreak of the 1986 Edsa Revolution. I suspected that this was also probably the reason for her reluctance to contact directly the members of the foreign media as I requested her through Cristina to do in the afternoon of Feb. 22, 1986.”

Eggie Apostol never went into hiding when Edsa 1 broke out. In fact, she never went into hiding at any time during the martial law years. In the Feb. 28, 1986, issue of the Mr&Ms Special Edition, Eggie Apostol recounts that she received a call from a very distraught Cristina Ponce Enrile at the office of the fledgling Philippine Daily Inquirer on Feb. 22, 1986. Cristina told her that Enrile wanted Eggie to alert the foreign press and Jaime Cardinal Sin and tell them of his intentions to break away from Ferdinand Marcos.

Because Cristina sounded really frightened, Eggie Apostol decided to go to Dasmariñas Village to be with her. (They were neighbors.) Before leaving the office, Eggie Apostol asked the late Betty Go Belmonte, Inquirer vice chair at that time, to make the calls that Enrile requested.

Eggie Apostol and Cristina drove around for a while. They finally decided to head to the house of Enrile’s cousin Meding Porcuna in Alabang, where Cristina stayed until the Inquirer ran the headline: “Its all over: Marcos flees.” Meanwhile, Eggie Apostol went home that evening and was back at work at the Inquirer the next day. (More next week)

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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