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Eggie’s Mr&Ms

/ 10:33 PM October 26, 2012

(Continued from Oct. 13)

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile writes in his memoir: “[A]fter 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.

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When Eggie Apostol lost her job in the Ramon Roces Publications [in the mid-’70s] she and some of her friends set up a monthly magazine, the Mr&Ms. Not long after, she convinced Cristina to invest in Mr&Ms. The magazine fared badly and lost money. Its original equity capital was almost gone. Peping Apostol, Eggie’s husband, when asked to put more money in Mr&Ms, refused.”

Eggie Apostol started working the lifestyle beat in 1954, as the women’s section editor and associate editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, the weekend supplement of the Manila Times. (Founded in 1898, the Manila Times is the country’s oldest English-language broadsheet. It ceased operations in 1930. The Roces family reopened its printing press and started publishing the Manila Times again near the end of World War II.)

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Eggie moved to the Lopez-owned Manila Chronicle, again as a lifestyle editor, in 1964 and worked there until Sept. 22, 1972, when Ferdinand Marcos signed General Order (GO) No. 2 and Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 1. Through GO 2 (later amended by GO 2A), Marcos gave then Defense Secretary Enrile the power to “forthwith arrest or cause the arrest and take into your custody the individuals named in the attached lists for being participants or for having given aid and comfort in the conspiracy to seize political and state power in the country and to take over the government by force…”

LOI 1 directed Enrile “to take over and control or cause the taking over and control of the mass media for the duration of the national emergency, or until otherwise ordered by the President or by his duly designated representative.”

So on that day, Enrile shut down all radio and TV stations and padlocked all newspapers, magazines, and even komiks.

He was provided a list of names (actually several lists) that included journalists like Max Soliven, Luis Beltran, and Teodoro Locsin Sr., media executives like Chino Roces and Geny Lopez, and opposition senators Jose Diokno and Ninoy Aquino, all of whom he hauled off to jail.

In 1972, Enrile and his wife Cristina lived in Makati. Peping and Eggie Apostol’s residence, on the other hand, was on Maligaya Street in the heart of Manila. Then Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella lived across from them, and Lito Banayo lived in an apartment (one of four units) immediately on their right. (The Apostols and the Enriles became neighbors in Dasmariñas Village around 1982.)

Eggie and Peping Apostol usually hosted dinner parties at their Maligaya residence, and the Enriles were often guests. (Eggie remembers that the other party guests, all from cosmopolitan Manila’s creme de la creme, would often tease Enrile to give them the much coveted curfew pass from the Department of National Defense). The Enriles reciprocated by inviting the Apostols for lunch or dinner over at their house on Sto. Domingo Street.

When Enrile wanted a house built on his Dasmariñas Village property, the builder of choice was Peping Apostol’s engineering firm, together with architect Ben Soriano. Peping Apostol lived up to his reputation, which led to a few more building contracts from Enrile. In the rarefied social circles that they both moved in, Peping Apostol became known as Enrile’s favorite engineer.

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Knowing this, Eggie Apostol’s colleagues at the Manila Chronicle persuaded her to intercede on their behalf for permission from the DND to put up a light-hearted, non-political women’s magazine. Not long after, the glossy Woman’s Home Companion became the first women’s magazine to be published during the martial law era. Eggie was its editor until she quit in 1975. She felt she had an idea whose time had come, so she decided to strike out on her own.

Eggie Apostol envisioned a magazine that would be very pleasing to the eye. Its playful layout and colorful artwork would hit all the right buttons for advertisers, subscribers and casual readers. The hottest male and female celebrities at the time would be featured on its full-color cover, while the latest and trendiest fashion statements as well as haute cuisine would populate the inside pages. Most notably, it would wholeheartedly promote gender equality. Appropriately, it would be called Mr&Ms.

She pitched the idea to her husband first. Later, the two of them broached the concept to the Enriles, who saw that the idea would not undermine “New Society” values and was therefore worth buying into. So in 1976, Ex Libris Publishing was organized to publish Mr&Ms. Jose and Eugenia Apostol, Cristina Ponce Enrile (for Jaka Investment Corp.) and Juan Ponce Enrile were the principal stockholders.

Enrile is mistaken in recalling that Mr&Ms was a monthly magazine. Mr&Ms came out every Tuesday of the week. Its first issue hit the streets on April 6, 1976, with Ariel Ureta and Rosary Sun on the cover.

Mr&Ms should have been a resounding market success. It had the best writers. The names on the staff box in that maiden issue were all respected writers and journalists: Rosario A. Garcellano, Thelma Sioson, Cherie Querol, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Doris Nuyda, Aida Sevilla Mendoza, Nestor U. Torre, Emma R. Tan, Lina Flor Trinidad, Bien Lumbera, Pete Daroy, Salvador P. Lopez and Nic Tiongson. A young and very talented graphic designer named Lynett Villariba, assisted by Weni Gamboa, handled design and layout, and it had excellent photographers like Arthur dela Rosa, Johnny Villena and Rey Vivo on deck.

Instead, it received a very tepid reception and hardly made a ripple. At P2, it was also the highest priced lifestyle magazine. (The other magazines that managed to get permission to print were selling for P1.50.)

Eggie Apostol sensed that the reading public wanted something else, but it would take a few more years before she and her editorial team got it right. Meanwhile, Ex Libris Publishing burned through its capital very quickly.

Enrile is partly correct in recalling that Mr&Ms lost money. However, he is mistaken when he says that Peping Apostol refused to add more capital when Eggie asked him. Anybody who knew Peping will tell you that in their entire 50-plus years of marriage, he was always supportive of Eggie in every way possible. Eggie does not recall ever having asked Peping or any of the stockholders of Mr&Ms (i.e., the Enriles) for additional capital. Instead, they did what any other business would have done: They invited more investors. One of them was Eggie’s fellow Bicolano named Luis Villafuerte Sr., a Batasang Pambansa assemblyman at that time.  The other was textile magnate Ramon Siy Lay, a close friend of the Enriles.
Concluded tomorrow

Butch Hernandez is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Butch Hernandez, Commentary, eggie apostol, Mr&Ms, opinion
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