Women Journalists of the Martial Law

4 Apr

This is my paper for History of Women. -Samantha Isabel V. Coronado

 

THE WOMEN’S PAGE:

JOURNALISTS OF MARTIAL LAW


 

Recently I watched a television documentary about the opinions of the youth on the Marcos Regime. It’s been 26 years since the EDSA Revolution, and the statements of the students would be infuriating for the much older. What is depressing about it was that majority of them said they did not think EDSA was relevant in today’s time. I know I had no firsthand experience to brag about of the Martial Law, yet I know somehow that the freedom we enjoy now was fought for with blood, sweat and tears of “ordinary” Filipinos.

And so I thought back, who were the heroes behind the People Power Revolution? Why are the older generations filled with euphoria and optimism whenever they think back of the time when they were struggling alone and then were fighting together? Who united them, and where were the women during these times of battle?

The Philippine press is known to be of the revolutionary leaning throughout the country’s history. From the Spanish period and until the modern times, the Philippine press have served not only to provide a means of disseminating information but also plays a formative role in terms of public opinion. Through the years, the Philippine press has inspired revolutionaries, strengthened the oppressed and echoed the cry for justice.

                The abolishing of the free press during the Martial Law did not stop such strong tradition. Journalists, even with the threat of arrest and death, continued publishing and defying the coercive power of the dictator. Indeed, they have been heroes in those turbulent times. They helped bring the Filipino people together in one peaceful fight. Without them, people would be misinformed, in fear, and would have no access to the truth behind excesses of the Marcos Regime.

                Yet in such an authoritative rule of an iron-fisted dictator, the voice of women did not go unheard. In fact, I am delighted to find out, their pen stood mighty in the face of threats. Side-by-side their colleagues, friends and families, they fought using the power of the print media. These fearless wives, daughters, mothers and students became an unstoppable force that contributed to the huge success of the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

This paper aims to bring out the battles fought of female journalists during the Marcos Regime. It narrates their personal stories of bravery during the Martial law in the name of freedom.


 

EUGENIA “EGGIE” D. APOSTOL

 

                At the time when most newspaper publications were silenced, one woman stood up to the challenge of publishing the most important event that triggered the world-famous People Power Revolution in EDSA.

                Eugenia Durante-Apostol, fondly called “Eggie”, started out as a writer and editor for women’s pages. She began as the editor for a Catholic publication, Sentinel in 1949, the Sunday Times Magazine which is a weekly supplement of The Manila Times in 1954, and Woman and Home, the Sunday news magazine of the Manila Chronicles in 1964. Although these were feminine news writing that typically discussed fashion, beauty and lifestyle, Apostol made it her goal to provide women information on relevant issues of national importance for them to read.

                When Ferdinand E. Marcos dictated Martial Law in 1972, at a time when journalists were arrested and news publications were shut down, Apostol was able to establish Woman’s Home Companion, which is the first, and a seemingly harmless, women’s magazine in thePhilippines. This was made possible by her connection with the then National Defense Secretary JuanPonce Enrile’s wife, Cristina.

                In 1978, she and her husband, Jose “Peping” Z. Apostol, established Mr. & Ms. which was also a lifestyle-oriented magazine. It was during Marcos’ mock lifting of the Martial Law that the Philippine press decided to test its limits. Mr. & Ms. itself published news articles that are overtly critical of the dictatorship. It wasn’t long before Apostol, together with other female journalists, were interrogated by the military from the National Intelligence Board for a period. Yet she never flinched and even managed to kid about the experience.

                Apostol became an unstoppable force in her outrage upon the news blackout about the assassination of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983. The funeral of the martyred politician drew a huge crowd amounting to millions, and yet there was not a single coverage of the event from the media. Driven by passion and the conviction for the role that the media plays, Apostol channelled her rage to action by coming up with a fearless sixteen pages of photos and texts about the funeral of Ninoy. This sold 750,000 copies and became pivotal in igniting the masses’ fury. Similar Filipino revolutionary newspapers have covered the same event, but it was Mr. & Ms. that created the strongest impact nationally.

                Apostol did not stop at this daring move. She continued publishing a weekly Mr. & Ms. Special Edition that featured investigations of the Aquino assassination and other abuses of the Marcos Regime. According to her interview, she believed that Marcos left them alone because he belittled the “mosquito” press’ influence over the people. It was an underestimation.

                Apostol established the Philippine Inquirer in 1985, a weekly print with the goal of providing an alternative view to the trial of the suspect behind the killing of Aquino. When Marcos called for a national election, she also responded by creating a newspaper for the opposition even though her colleagues, who were some of the biggest names in newspaper publication at the time, declined in participating. It eventually gave way to the Philippine Daily Inquirer later that year to match the government’s propaganda newspaper. This move catapulted the PDI to become the leading newspaper in the country, even today.

                Despite the threats that the opposition would be dealt with after Marcos re-election, Apostol continued the publication unfazed, until her courage was shared by the thousands who flocked to EDSA in order to defend not just political enemies, but the nation’s freedom. More than her seemingly unafraid characteristics, Apostol responded to the needs continuously of the Filipino masses to be informed through an independent media.

                In 2006, at 80 years old, Apostol was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in recognition of “her courageous example in placing the truth-telling press at the center of the struggle for democratic rights and better government in thePhilippines.”

Souces:

“Citation for for Eugnia Duran Apostol” (2006). Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation website. http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Citation/CitationApostolEug.htm

“20 Filipinos 20 Years after People Power: Eugenia Apostol”. (2006). Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism website: http://pcij.org/stories/eugenia-apostol/

“The Magsaysay Awardees: Eugenia Duran Apostol”. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation website. http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/pdfbio/ apostoleug.pdf

MALOU C. MANGAHAS

 

                Malou Mangahas is an investigative journalist from GMA Network who is one of the nine co-founders of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in 1989. Her career in journalism started way back in college. She has been tried early on of her convictions. Mangahas was just a young woman when Martial Law was declared, but this did not hinder her to become an influential player in the struggle for freedom especially in inspiring the youth to participate in the national fight.

                Political turbulence in the Marcos Regime, threatening as it may be for the freedom fighters, failed to intimidate the youth. The vibrant student movement during the Martial Law became evident in the insurgency of college students and campus publications through activism and street protests. Their duties did not stop in the academe, but overflowed to the streets. True to her surname, Mangahas was one of those who lead them.

                Mangahas was a student leader in the University of the Philippines-Diliman during the Martial Law. Aside from being a Journalism major, she was editor-in-chief of the official student publication, The Philippine Collegian while at the same time being the chairperson of the College Editors Guild of thePhilippines. Later, she was elected the chairperson of the university student council, of which she was the first female.

                The censorship and strict supervision of the Philippine press did not deter the spirit of Mangahas and her colleagues. The Philippine Collegian, under her headship, kept publishing news stories and political satires on the ills and abuses of the Marcos Regime. A common occurrence during the Martial Law, Mangahas even had an arrest warrant above her name for subversion and served time in jail in 1980 with other student leaders and campus newspaper editors.

                Being full-time student, Mangahas had to make her thesis while hopping from one place to another and avoiding danger. In an interview with the Manila Bulletin in 2011, Mangahas described the challenge: “Bitbit mo lahat ng thesis material mo. Writing it meant writing it on the floor with a typewriter in somebody else’s house.” Yet despite these and the various collegiate responsibilities, she amazingly graduated on time and with honors, a feat for someone who is busy pursuing advocacies that come with her discipline.

                Mangahas is a good example of a student-journalist who practiced what she learned, and with matching courageousness that students shared during the Martial Law.

 

Sources:

Barawid, Rachel S. , Ronald S. Lim, Jaser A. Marasigan. (March 26, 2011). “In the name of news: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism executive director Malou Mangahas” Retrived from the Manila Bulletin website: http://mb.com.ph/node/311479/in-name-new

(2011). “Speakers: Malou Mangahas”. Retrieved from the Oslo Governance Forum website. http://www.oslogovernanceforum.org/index.php?option=com_content&

view=article&id=198&Itemid=214

“Inside the Philippine Media History”. Retrieved from the Asian Institute of Journalism Communication website: http://www.aijc.com.ph/pccf/mediamuseum/ timeline/timeline-philippinemedia-print.htm

SHEILA S. CORONEL

 

                Only fourteen-years-old when Martial Law was declared, Sheila had middle-class plans to follow the footsteps of his father. She is a daughter of Antonio Coronel, a high-profile, pro-Marcos lawyer who defended military officers accused of violence. But instead, her own sense of justice lead Coronel to become a journalist affiliated with other women writers who would be known to openly defy the dictator.

                Coronel was a Political Science major from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She became a features editor of the official student publication, The Philippine Collegian with Malou Mangahas. During her time, they dared publish all kinds of articles critical of the illnesses of the Marcos Regime. These were unheard of in the strictly state-controlled press.

                But instead of pursuing law like her father, Coronel became a writer for underground leftist publications such as Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas and Liberation. It was difficult enough to reproduce their work. She and her colleagues, some of whom are targeted by the military, had to risk their lives. Coronel herself had to go on hiding for months after being linked to arrested priest-activist Edicio de la Torre.

                In 1982, she became a staff for Philippine Panorama which is a Sunday magazine of Bulletin Today (later Manila Bulletin) that is, much to their frustration, under strict government censorship. But the death of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in 1983 triggered a wave of ire from the masses that the restricted journalists caught. No longer did they bother complying with the guidelines set by the dictator in terms of publishing articles.

                She joined the newspaper Manila Times soon after, which had run only less than three weeks before the EDSA Revolution but was nonetheless selling. Her EDSA story was a series of hard work of covering events during the four-day peaceful protest as a journalist who now fearlessly reported “the story of the decade”. In a matter of days, the Filipino people and the Philippine press were set free.

                Coronel later became one of the co-founders of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in 1989 and is the first Filipina recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts in 2003.

Sources:

Hond, Paul. “The Cynical Optimist”. Retrieved from the Columbia Magazine website: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/alumni/Magazine/Fall2007/CynicalOptimist.html

(December 13, 2007). “First Filipina: Sheila Coronel” Retrieved from the First Filipina website: http://firstfilipina.blogspot.com/2007/12/sheila-coronel.html

“Who’s Who in Print Journalism: Sheila S. Coronel”. Retrieved from the Asian Institute of Journalism Communication website: http://www.aijc.com.ph/PCCF/ mediamuseum/who%27who/whos%27who-comm-print-coronel.htm

“The 2003 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts: Biography of Sheila S. Coronel”. Retrieved from the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation website: http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/

pdfbio/SheilaSCoronel.pdf

MA. CERES P. DOYO and LETICIA “LETTY” JIMENEZ-MAGSANOC

 

                Everybody hated the crony press. During the time of Marcos, it meant writing under military surveillance, which is not conducive to the work of journalists as writers of truth-tellers covering relevant information the Filipino people needed to know. What they needed to know were in front of their eyes: oppression, abuse and infringements. Instead, these journalists were compelled to write according to wants of the dictator.

                Philippine Panorama, the Sunday lifestyle magazine of Bulletin Today (now Manila Bulletin) was a crony press. It was not of critical nature. Like Eggie Apostol’s Woman’s Home Companion, it was a women’s page. But again, “women’s page” was redefined by the journalist Ceres P. Doyo and the paper’s editor Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc. It took a published story in 1980 to get the writer a ticket to military interrogation and cost the editor her job. And it was worth it.

                The story was about Macli-ing Dulag, the leader of the opposition from the Cordillerasresisting the construction of Chico Dam that poses a threat to the ethnic groups’ territory and culture. He was killed by the military. A fight that is outside the city, Dulag could have easily been forgotten. “Nobody was writing about it” said Doyo, “so I wrote it, took my own pictures and sent it to the editor of Panorama, whom I did not know.”

                Magsanoc, the Panorama editor at the time, decided to publish the story despite the unwritten rule not to. She also started writing and publishing more critical articles, now completely ignoring the restrictions set upon the Philippine press. She was fired from the publication. Later on, she would edit for Mr. & Ms. Special Edition during the investigation of the Ninoy Aquino assassination.

                Today, the story was called a “landmark eyewitness account” of the Marcos Regime that tested the limits set in the press. Both women are now known as one of the veteran journalists in the country: Doyo being a columnist and Magsanoc as the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Braveness is tested at the most trying times. And brave did they prove to be. As Doyo is quoted later on, “Terror curled up the blood, but it drew out the ink.”

Sources:

Conde, Carlos H. (May 17, 2011). “The Female Factor: In Philippine Newsrooms, Women Rule” published in The New York Times. Retrieved from Carlos Conde website: http://carlosconde.com/2011/05/17/the-female-factor-in-philippine-newsrooms-the-women-rule/

Ambrosio, Dante L. “Batas Militar 1972-1986 2”. Retrieved from Philippine History website: http://philippinehistory.ph/tag/martial-law/

Quezon, Manuel III. (February 25, 1996). “On the Road to EDSA” published in Today as an EDSA Anniversary Supplement. Retrieved from Tribo website: http://www.tribo.org/history/edsa.html

MELINDA QUINTOS DE JESUS

 

                Before writing for the newspaper during the 1970s, Melinda Quintos de Jesus focused on a weekly television magazine called TV Times, which are mostly about television, public life and children. She herself was a mother at the time. One would have thought she should have stayed at home and watch her children grow, sheltering them from the harsh realities of the Martial Law. But even without prior experience in political writing, de Jesus stepped out of the realm of home into the dangerous battlefield called the alternative press.

                Following the footsteps of women who wrote weekly critical columns at the heat of the rule of Marcos, de Jesus found herself enjoying the task of pursuing the truth that people needed to know. This she did for Bulletin Today (now Manila Bulletin) together with Arlene Babst, Sylvia Mayuga and Ninez Cacho-Olivarez. These women, who could not have been linked in any way to subversion or activism, were at the forefront of defying the Marcos media — an act most people would not even dare to do.

During the course of her writing about critical pieces about the Martial Law, de Jesus discovered the power of the alternative media to touch lives. She related how her topics would elicit feedback from Filipinos all over the country, inspiring her to continue pursuing stories that went untold, especially those of the oppressed and marginalized. “There was so much going on in the country that was not reported by the press,” wrote de Jesus in an article. “In that brief period, I discovered how so many Filipinos had become invisible because of the absence of a genuinely free press.” She later moved on to writing for Veritas Newsweekly up until the popular uprising that threw out the Marcos government.

                In 1989, de Jesus organized the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) in order to provide guidance and preserve the liberation of the free press. She awarded the Year 2000 Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Fellowship for Professional Development for her efforts in raising the standards of the Philippine media.

Sources:

de Jesus, Melinda Quintos. (March 7, 2012) “Women in Media”. Retrieved from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsbility-Philippines blog: http://www.cmfr-phil.org/inmediasres/women-in-media/

“Melinda Quintos de Jesus” Author’s profile retrieved from Retrieved from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsbility-Philippines blog: http://www.cmfr-phil.org/inmediasres/authors/melinda-quintos-de-jesus/

 


                It is amazing how women journalists fought bravely during the time of the Martial Law. They were certainly underestimated by the dictator, expecting the journalist to write mostly about women’s beauty and homemaking and to be afraid of interrogations by no less than the military lest they be interrogated and arrested. What the tyrants did not foresee, however, was that these women valued their freedom and would risk their life and livelihood to tell other Filipinos to reclaim theirs.

Indeed, in a critical period such as the EDSA Revolution, women have ever since been at the frontline of the struggle for freedom through the power of print. Empowered, they are also able to empower a whole nation that has been oppressed for decades.

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