HE is a friend to almost all the famous journalists this country has ever seen. The likes of Babe Romualdez, Betty Go Belmonte, Amado Doronilla, Max Soliven, Satur Ocampo, Rod Reyes, Eggie Apostol, and Art Borjal among many others. More importantly, he has also mentored and initiated the careers of numerous other media professionals, including such big shots as the late Louie Beltran who actually worked as his messenger when the famous investigative journalist was a teenager.
Indeed, veteran columnist and opinion-maker Atty. Emil Jurado is not only a highly respected man in Philippine media, but also a well-loved confidant and father-figure to most. In fact, even The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante Arevalo Ang counts the man as one of his most trusted friends, having worked with him at Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS) in the past.
“I have gone full circle in print, radio and television. Those long years [in the industry]—more than half a century in fact—were broken only briefly when I taught at the Ateneo de Manila University [AdMU] for four years, when I completed my law studies, and when I took the Bar,” Jurado told The Sunday Times Magazine in an exclusive interview at his family home in Parañaque City.
He admitted that though his ultimate dream was to become a lawyer, he truly finds fulfillment in being a journalist. For he believes that it is in writing—through the power of words—can one “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” This is what Jurado has been doing more than six decades since his first article was ever published.
“I have been a journalist for over 65 years, and I’ll keep writing until I ‘write 30’,” he added poetically.
Now 87 years old, the multi-awarded journalist has walked the corridors of powers of nine presidents since Elpidio Quirino’s tenure in Malacañang. He has also met, interrogated and written about every other important influencer in government in between, and to this day writes a column titled “To the Point” in The Standard (formerly The Manila Standard Today) using his trusty Olympia typewriter.
“I use a typewriter because I think with my fingers,” he laughed, adding that he has gone through a total of eight manual typewriters in his decades’ long career.
But as the public and his fellow journalists look to him as a hard-hitting penman, his children would much rather describe him as a “devoted husband and father.”
To this day, as The Sunday Times Magazine witnessed, Jurado is sweet as ever to his loving wife Trinidad Capunan Kapistrano, who hails from Leyte and Cotabato. Their children—only daughter Nina Teodoro, a businesswoman; and sons Vic, a hotel manager in the US; Eric, an investment banker in the US; and Nicky, a famous DJ—worship him all the more for this, and with their gratitude for being blessed with wonderful parents have opted to return to the Philippines to take care of them in their twilight years.
Asked what has kept him close to his family despite the chaotic world of journalism, Jurado said in all honesty that he did his best to avoid them through the years, even to the point of being branded as “KJ” (kill joy) by his colleagues.
“I’ve been to a lot of countries for being a journalist and I’m always faced with temptations to be unfaithful to my family, but I chose to be faithful every time because I love my wife and my children,” he declared.
With excitement, intrigue and inspiration easily read between those lines, let Atty. Emil Jurado—with his undeniable gift for both the spoken and written word—talk about the life he has dedicated to truth, justice and fatherhood.
STM: How did you start as a journalist?
Emil Jurado (EJ): I got my feet wet in journalism in 1950. After graduating Bachelor of Arts at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), I volunteered to help the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in their provincial weekly, The Mindanao Cross, which is still being published up to this day. Together with my former classmate and best friend, the late Rudy Tupas [who later became a magazine editor of The Manila Times and New York Times, and finally, Philippine ambassador to Libya], I stayed in Cotabato for two years. Though a provincial newspaper, our circulation was sometimes more than the circulation of some national newspapers because it was being read by students from all oblate schools in Mindanao.
By the way, I met the woman of my dreams, who later became my wife, in Cotabato.
STM: When did you decide to become a lawyer?
EJ: After two years in Cotabato, I came back to Manila to fulfill my original dream to become a lawyer, but I never forgot my experience as a provincial editor of a weekly newspaper.
I also taught at the Ateneo High School where one of my famous students was [former president Joseph]Erap Estrada who became one of my best friends up to now. I also took the Bar and became a lawyer in 1955, then I taught at the Philippine Law School with subjects like Introduction to Law, Insurance and Agency and Corporation Law.
STM: What is it about journalism that made you choose writing as a full time profession despite your law degree?
EJ: It was my dream to be a lawyer but along the way, the printer’s ink, as they say, was already in my blood and I couldn’t get away from it. I was not happy as a lawyer because when I was a junior partner of Salonga-Ordonez law office, I felt unfulfilled because there are many things about being a lawyer that sometimes you have to fix (in order) to win your case—and I can’t take that. It bothered me because I can’t take those things.
STM: How did you return to publishing after that?
EJ: I applied at the now-defunct Philippines Herald that was owned at that time by Don Vicente Madrigal. I was lucky because when I first presented myself to the editor-in-chief Felix Gonzales, the business editor was taking his leave of absence to study for the Bar exams. Thus, I became a business editor of Philippines Herald. Besides being a business editor, I covered Malacañang, the Foreign Affairs Office, and the justice department whenever the reporters on the beat were off.
I began to enjoy my job. As business editor, I met the many taipans and tycoons of today when they were still struggling businessmen. I got to know Henry Sy Sr., now the richest Filipino, and John Gokongwei. The latter was a trader from Cebu and soon made good in Manila. Now, he is the second richest Filipino.
I also knew Lucio Tan, the Ayalas headed by Don Jaime and his sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando, Andrew Gotianun of Filinvest, the Del Rosarios, the Elizaldes, the Aguinaldos of old, and the father of billionaire Ricky Razon, Pocholo Razon, and many others.
Al Yuchengco of RCBC and Malayan Insurance was my good friend. I know the Sycips, Don Albino and Alfonso, the Puyats and the Jacintos of Security Bank. In fact, I knew all the bank presidents and chairmen.
I was twice the president of the Business Writers Association of the Philippines.
STM: What challenges did you come across as a journalist?
EJ: As business editor of Philippines Herald, I received my first salary at P250 a month. Those were trying years because I also got married at that time and my wife and I could only afford to rent an apartment and we had a newborn baby.
Then after so many years, I was made an editorial director, writing editorials for the newspaper, and got a P1,500 pay check a month. At that time, that was already a fortune so we were able to buy a house at Philamlife Homes, Quezon City. I acquired the house at P1,800 when the former house owner could not pay the monthly installment of P350.
Another challenge is that in my 65 years as a journalist, I have been charged with 17 libel cases and had to apologize four times upon the request of my publisher. My first libel case happened in Mindanao, and with the help of Don Paco Blanco, I was bailed out.
STM: Of course, besides the challenges, there must have been many memorable experiences and achievements you’ve had in your career. Which of them have been most memorable?
EJ: Since I started as a business editor of Philippines Herald who also covers Malacañang, Department of Foreign Affairs, and other assignments when our reporters were not available, there were many memorable experiences I can remember but this one is the most unforgettable.
My main beat at that time as business editor was the Central Bank. I exposed three members of the Monetary Board who were then committing anomalies by playing the stock market, and getting import quota allocations for their favored companies or their own companies.
The exposé I wrote started a congressional investigation, but got me in trouble. I was kidnapped!
I never told my wife that I had been getting death threats until one evening as I was about to go home, two men poked gun on my side in front of the Philippines Herald office. Almost immediately, I saw a black car waiting outside. I was told to get inside the car, and the car sped off.
I recall that we alighted at the old Hotel Filipina along Padre Faura at the corner of Roxas Boulevard, and I was taken to a suite where a fat, tobacco-smoking man sat. He told me to sit down in front of him.
The man told me that he was a friend of one of the Monetary Board members I had implicated in my exposé; and that he only wanted me to present his side in the newspaper.
“Yes sir, of course, I will,” I said.
The fat man, whom I later recognized as somebody from Cavite who had killed someone else along Dasmarinas Street, told me just to wait for their press release, and that I had to stay at the hotel suite meantime.
It was already midnight and I couldn’t even call my wife¬—she must have been so worried that night. At around 6 o’clock the next day, some other men came and gave me the press release where a Monetary Board member explained his side.
I was so scared, I did not sleep a wink. As soon as I was released that morning, I went home explaining everything to my worried-sick wife. I called up my elder brother Wilie, who said that they would take me to then-President Ramon Magsaysay. When I explained everything to the President, who read all about it, he asked me if I could name three (individuals) who could take the place of the three Monetary Board members I exposed.
I recall naming the late Jimmy Velasquez, UP Professor Vicente Sinco and Agriculture Secretary Amado Dalisay, all known for their independence of mind, probity and integrity.
I was told that security men from the Armed Forces of the Philippines would be assigned to guard me, my wife and children. As you all know, having security guards at all times, even to accompany you to the toilet, is no picnic. I had to pay for their meals and give them accommodations. Those were trying moments for my children who had to have security in school and especially my wife, who had a lady security to accompany her even to the restroom.
But, it was all worth it, I suppose. Because of my exposé, I was given a special award for my journalism work by the Stanvac oil company. I still have that plaque hanging in my memorabilia room.
STM : After spending 17 years in Philippines Herald as business editor, how did you get involved in broadcasting next?
EJ: When my good friend, the late Bobby Benedicto, asked me if I would accept a job at Channel 9 along Roxas Boulevard, set up by his Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS), I readily accepted his offer. I became director for public affairs.
I joined the Benedictos’ radio-television network, not knowing that on the midnight of September 21, Martial Law would be proclaimed by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
With the proclamation of Martial Law, press freedom was not only curtailed; it was suppressed. I knew and realized this because I was president of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) at that time.
I was appointed by Marcos as a member of the Media Advisory Council (MAC) in charge of foreign media; Rey Pedroche was in charge of radio and television.
MAC was a powerful agency at that time, giving permits to the reopening of radio and television not only in Metro Manila but nationwide. The council’s chairman, Primitivo Mijares, was the big cheese getting orders directly from Marcos. Pedroche and I just said “yes” to everything Mijares, who was also columnist of the Daily Express, said.
When the Benedicto KBS radio and television network took over the ABS-CBN building in Quezon City, I had several talk shows on air, and had a daily radio commentary.
With the censorship of the press ongoing, I thought of an idea to escape censorship in broadcast. With the permission of Benedicto and then KBS general manager, Buddy Tan, I formed the Kapisanan ng mga Brodcasters as Pilipinas (KBP) to undergo self-censorship. It worked and I became the first KBP president.
But, KBS, the foremost radio-television at that time, had a problem. Initially, voting at KBP was one vote per station. Naturally, since KBS had some 46 stations at that time, we controlled the voting. I had pushed for each station to have one vote, not by network. Benedicto opposed my plan, so I had no recourse but to resign. Teodoro Valencia, then the foremost newspaper columnist and a Marcos supporter, succeeded me. That’s what made me think that KBS was actually owned by the Marcoses. I knew this since Benedicto and Buddy Tan had to report to Malacañang every now and then.
I became general manager of the government station GTV-4 since KBS was running not only the government station, but Channels 2, 9 and 13 as well.
I became disillusioned and I soon submitted my resignation to Benedicto who tried to persuade me to stay on at a higher pay. I told him that money was not the issue; it was my belief in press freedom.
STM: During these dark times for journalism, did you ever decided to practice law again?
EJ: About three years after the assassination of the late Ninoy Aquino, I tried to practice my profession as a lawyer when I joined the partnership of Dizon, Paculdo, Jurado, Jurado (that was me) and Vitug Law offices. But the partnership broke up when my late brother Desiderio Jurado was appointed to the Court of Appeals and Joe Vitug became associate justice of the Supreme Court.
I eventually returned to the newspaper again. It was after the 1986 People Power revolution when my good friend Rod Reyes, a former The Manila Times newspaperman, who succeeded in infiltrating a drug cartel and exposing it, planned to put up a newspaper. He approached me to become part of that newspaper to be publicized by Manuel “Manda” Elizalde, who was then on self-exile in Costa Rica. When he returned, we made the Elizalde & Co. and Tanduay Rum building along Ayala Avenue The Standard’s first office. That was in Feburary 1987. Until now, I still write for The Manila Standard as a columnist.
STM: Besides being a journalist, what are you other interests?
EJ: When Martial Law was lifted and freedom of the press was restored, being the only living member of the 365 Club at Hotel InterContinental, I became active at its chairman. I envisioned the 365 Club to be a freewheeling venue for those who would like to say their piece on the economic and political issues of the day.
And I succeeded when the 365 Club was featured by no less than The Wall Street Journal as the only one of its kind in Asia where people of all political persuasions could take coffee and express their opinions freely without fear.
I have passed on the torch to businessman Boy Reyno and I became its chairman emeritus. Chairman emeritus is also my position at the Manila Overseas Press Club having been its president and the oldest MOPC member.
I also formed the Philippines’ Inc. (former Team Philippines).
STM : After 65 years as a journalist—having recorded history yourself—what do you think matters in life?
EJ: My faith in God matters a lot to me because He made it all possible for me and He provided for my family. My family is also the most important blessing I received from God, and I thank God that I was given the privilege to do what I love doing until now.
I will be 88 this September 15 and I thank God that aside from the aches and pains an old man like me suffers, I can still pound my Olympia typewriter and write columns.
On Sundays, my wife and I listen for hours to our old favorites, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra singing “Autum Leaves,” “Mona Lisa,” Love Letters,” “Strangers in Paradise” and many more. In fact, I proposed to my wife of 60 years ago to Serafin Payawal’s 21-man orchestra with these songs playing.
I always tell my grandchildren that they are missing the best years of their lives with the modern technology of iPhones and iPads and text.
My gulay! Young men no longer visit girls as my generation did. Then, the boys were always under the watchful eyes of the parents of the girl.
For me, despite all these advancement and fast-changing modern technologies, what really matters is the universal goodness of men because the values our forefathers have taught us before are still the same values we uphold today.