One young woman who came into our national consciousness in the early 1980s was Katrina Ponce Enrile, the daughter of then Minister of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, considered by many as among the most powerful in the time of the dictatorship.
Katrina has since been in and out of our lives for all kinds of reasons, although she herself did not seem to court and crave publicity, good or bad. For the most part since the turn of the new millennium, she has been recognized as the chief executive officer of the family businesses that her father founded. While her brother Jackie was perceived as the political heir of their father, Katrina has been given the mantle of leadership in the family enterprises.
Recently, Daily Tribune interviewed her over Zoom. Combining what one knew of her from what one had heard and read and what she told us for the first time, I painted on my mind a woman who is both enigmatic and decently transparent. Add to the description the adjectives brilliant, sharp and mindful, you have obviously a daughter of her father, although when it comes to beauty, hers is a likable blend of the best features of her parents.
I suspect, though, that her father’s mother, Petra Furagganan, must have been as lovely and alluring, or Don Alfonso would not have taken notice of this village lass. For some reason, Katrina reminds me of a beautiful Cagayana. And yes, if she has that mysterious look, something that men want in their women, I would attribute it mostly to her northern genes which I suppose furthermore would summon notions of bravery, inner strength and conscientiousness.
Katrina is the first to admit she could not be like her father, who is recognized by friends and foes as intelligent. If so much has been rubbed off on his only daughter, it is because, “We talk every day. We have conversations every day and I’ve learned a lot from my father, put it that way,” she says.
Katrina relates that Juan Ponce Enrile had “warned me as early as 2014 of this pandemic when he was incarcerated. He was getting very bored confined in a small space so he was reading a lot of books. And so, he started enumerating a lot of things that we are now experiencing. We were recently talking and I said, ‘Dad, remember what you told me in Crame when you were there? You said that Metro Manila would be locked down, that there would be a scarcity of resources. And you said it’s not going to be in your lifetime, but mine. But it’s happening now.”
As early as last year, though, as she felt overcome by the rush of developments in the social, political, technical and cultural lives of the people, she recalls, “From going out a lot, I slowed that down to a bare minimum.”
Katrina realizes that, from now on, “because of the present landscape, there will be limitations now to what type of business you can go to. On the other hand, there will be specific businesses that one can consider opportunistic, but that’s not the way I want to do business. I want to be able to create something that people can actually use not only during good times or bad times as it is right now, but all the times, like necessities.”
As for her lifestyle, she says, “We all could live with less. There’s already a shift for me in the last couple of years. It was really heavy for me last September, that’s why I needed to do the slowdown movement. There are so many things now in my closet that I think I’m never going to use. It’s really back to basics isn’t it? I mean, people still need to buy shoes but they don’t need to buy expensive shoes anymore if they need it only, slippers or whatever. There are certain things that they would need. Right now the concentration is more to keep themselves healthy, clean.
“Ask me about testing; do I want to get tested? I can get tested today, and I can test negative today. But that’s only for today. If I go out, I have to be tested again because I went out. What’s the point of having yourself tested, unless you get yourself tested every day?”
Katrina, who took up Political Science and Philosophy in college, speaks knowledgeably of current issues, which she needs as a chief executive officer and corporate president, and yet, one wonders if she might be luckier if she runs for a seat in the senate.
It would help too that she has not been shielded from all kinds of talks about her family, including her father’s colorful love life.
“I know everything because I was my mom’s conduit to him,” she confides. “I had to play at one point in my life, well not really one point, a referee to both my parents. My mom would tell me to tell my dad something, and of course I would edit what she says and then my dad will tell me something to tell my mom, and of course, I would edit it. And my dad being a ladies’ man, yes, I know how he is. No, I know how he was. My mom has forgiven him. That’s the only thing that’s important there.”
Finally, on the matter of everybody’s favorite topic, love, especially where she is concerned, Katrina says, “My dad never really advised me on those things. And I thank them for that because that made me who I am today. Because if they tampered with me and they protected me in that way, they wouldn’t have taught me how to fight, they wouldn’t have taught me to fight for myself, fight whatever it is that’s going on and learn.”
As for the right man, she says convincingly, “Oh, you’ll never know that it’s the right man. They’re only right for a season.”
Praying for others
One facet of hers that not many people know is Katrina’s spirituality. She clarifies at the outset, “My mom’s very religious. My dad, he prays a lot. I didn’t get it from school. Definitely not. It’s just something that you experience, and when you get to experience the goodness of people praying for you, you do the same for others.”
She concludes: “I know that a lot of people don’t pray because of their nervousness, their fear of whatever it is that’s happening. Sometimes you just can’t pray. But someone who will pray for you is such a blessing. That has happened to me many times. When I say I’ll pray for you, I will pray for you because people have prayed for me so many times.”