We talked too long, and he said he was late for a class. We’d have to continue some other time, so we said goodbye, as he gave me a copy of LITTLE BROWN BROTHER. LITTLE BROWN BROTHER … I knew nothing about the book. I thank him and felt as if I sat through a lecture. Was it what he intended? Imperialism: imperial, royal, regal, monarchical. I’d have to return to the dictionary. Imperialism or manifest destiny … imperialism, manifest destiny or white supremacy. I didn’t like the implications. Nick bared his soul. I wondered why, and why we were suspicious of each other.
Not long afterwards I ran into Sonja Hernandez. She, Roberto Concepcion, and Alfred Bruno made up the core of a fledgling television industry; and they were somehow connected with Nick. Ms. Hernandez was by reputation a dynamo and had few enemies. She was one of those people who could do two or three things at the same time, which gave the impression that she also could be in two places at once, and this impression came from her ability to live and work in two worlds … television and politics…both of which she tackled running. She never stopped running. She easily outran most everyone else because she didn’t stop running and didn’t run on Filipino time. She set her watch ahead to be on time, and for that reason she stayed ahead.
Everyone knew or suspected that she was getting ready to challenge Marcos. That was when people could challenge him (if it were ever possible). She was an independent person, independent and not affiliated with any party. She wouldn’t have gotten where she was if she hadn’t been independent. I’d read about her before I met her; and I was surprised how easily I got into her studio (which was in Makati), and how quickly she accepted me. She let me in and captivated me. It wasn’t long before I became a regular. She was clearly in charge, very much in charge and in control of everything…a position she earned in spite of her gender, which was quite an accomplishment.
I wrangled an interview through Nick and asked her about her work. She said, ”I grew up in the television business, since my father was a pioneer here. He would’ve been proud of me … how far I’ve come … what I’ve been able to achieve. But I’m here because of my edginess … and because I have balls.” With this she started laughing. “I know … I know … you’d never expect a woman to say what I just said, would you? A Filipina, no less! That’s why I’m here. Why I’m respected. Feared. And I haven’t been shot at recently. They wouldn’t dare. Yes, I find time for politics. No, I won’t run for president, though I think it’s time we had a woman president. The one thing I’m not is I’m not for sale. Realize that there can’t be a direct link between a television producer and a specific candidate. Still I’m involved. I’m told I’m too involved. Perhaps I’ll find a way to bring the two together … my work as a producer and politics.”
She ran into Nick at the university like I did. Give one to the university for attracting the best minds. She met Nick at the University of the Philippines and liked him, but unlike him, she wasn’t left-leaning. Her business sense steered her in the opposite direction, but still they were friends … just like Nick and Elaine were lovers.
She showed me around the studio. She still had time before the start of a run-through. As she made time for me, she took care of small details, as we walked around a set. She didn’t seem rushed as the two of us entered the control room, where there were people who seemed very, very rushed. They were faced with the realities of live television. She told me that she never got tired of the pressure. ”It’s in my blood. See, as a little girl, my father used to bring me here.” To her, though, she had a ways to go.
And what about her politics? She explained, “I’ve always believed in capitalism. I still believe in capitalism … and democracy … capitalism and democracy go together in spite of … in spite of flaws in the system. Maybe we need to reinvent the system. Your capitalistic and democratic system is different from our system … though you gave it to us. They being different proves that they can be reinvented.”
In response, I said, “You do have balls lady.”
She laughed and said, “Here we’re passionate about our politics.”
“Perhaps too much. Besides friendship, Nick and I have something else we share. We oppose Marcos.”
I then asked if she knew Marcos personally.
“Yes. He’s handsome,” she replied with a smile. ”Rather wiry and very, very intelligent, though you’d think it was his wife who had the brains…shrewd, ruthless, intense and with an unpredictable mean streak. You need to understand that I never said any of this. As long as you’re in the Philippines I can make or break you. That much I have common with Marcos.”
Her directness impressed me. Yes, she had balls … while it unnerved me. Had balls and broke the stereotypical image I had of Philippine women. I only hoped she didn’t have horns. I could see her standing up to Marcos. But there wasn’t any harshness about her though, so I wondered if she was ruthless enough to stand up to Marcos. Tough, tough-minded, but was she tough enough? I would get to know her well, but I wasn’t sure why she allowed it. In a country where smooth interpersonal relationships were so important, I quickly learned she broke the mold.