Inspired by her late mother Bella, who helped everyone she could as a butcher shop owner in Manila, Gloria Galura Apolinario has done the same professionally and in a wide range of charitable work since her 2003 arrival in Odessa.
Having begun her career assisting a U.S. State Department attaché in building an embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, Apolinario owned an insurance agency in Sacramento, Calif., worked in radio in Dallas and Amarillo and was vice president of Clear Channel Radio here before running Media Concepts advertising agency from 2006-13.
Having been State Rep. Tryon Lewis’ district director from 2007-14 and Congressman Mike Conaway’s regional director since 2014, Apolinario said, “I’m an instrument God used to help people through Judge Lewis and is now using through Congressman Conaway.
“People don’t call to chitchat. They come to me like a last resort and I give them hope and help. Sheriff Griffis calls me Bulldog because I can pick up the phone and get what I want and other friends call me Amazing Grace because I can solve problems. I’m very resourceful.”
Apolinario grew up in a family of 10 that expanded to 13 when her parents adopted three street children and she had few privileges till marrying Felix Apolinario Jr., son of the head of the Philippine Navy.
At 3-years-old she was going to her mother’s shop in the early morning and she and her siblings worked there through high school, after which she earned a bachelor’s in business administration at Far Eastern University.
She started to school at 4 and graduated from college at 18. Her late father Alejandro was an attorney in the office of the Filipino Solicitor General’s Office. Apolinario and her husband divorced in 1993. She has a daughter and a son.
“I do everything with a passion whether it’s working for Rep. Conaway, serving as advisory board chairman at the Salvation Army or listening to music by Andrea Bocelli, REO Speedwagon, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger and Broadway musicals. I have 300 CDs of blues music alone. Music enriches my soul.
“I tell my children that when I grow old they can put me in a small room with all my music, all my books, my wine and some fresh bread and I’ll be happy. If I have a problem, I pray about it. Not everybody will like you. If people don’t accept me as I am, I just go on. I turn the other cheek.”
Apolinario has been on the boards of the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, March of Dimes, Odessa and Midland Hispanic chambers of commerce, Centers for Children and Families, Ector County Republican Women, Permian Basin Regional Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse and the Crisis Center of West Texas. She’s a Realtor with RE/MAX Southwest in Andrews and a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.
Noting differences between the American and Filipino cultures, Apolinario said she began trying to assimilate during her tenure in Bangkok by drinking apple juice and eating grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. “I saw Americans putting their elderly in another house and I couldn’t understand that,” she said.
“In the Philippines you take care of your family until they die. My mom lived with me in Sacramento while I was raising my children. That’s how our culture is.”
Apolinario said she thinks many Americans are dismissive of their parents because they don’t feel they have the time.
However, not all Filipinos care for the less fortunate, she said, explaining that her father-in-law wasn’t compassionate. “I came from a simple background and it used to break my heart when we drove by beggars in his Mercedes and he’d say, ‘These are the people who didn’t prepare themselves.’”
Away from her relationships with Conaway’s constituents and officials at the Social Security Administration and other agencies, Apolinario gets physically involved at the Salvation Army, working on the serving line at Thanksgiving and ringing bells for street-side Red Kettle Christmas collections. The board is raising money to renovate the Mabee Red Shield Lodge shelter.
“If you want to be humble, go to the Salvation Army at five o’clock and see all the people we feed each day, then go to the shelter and see those we give shelter to,” she said. “I love helping and I love people.”
Apolinario is among many Filipino-Americans who support Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte because he instituted universal health care and raised the salaries of teachers and government officials, she said.
“Duterte is not corrupt and he is fighting the Mexican drug cartels and Abu Sayyaf, who have been there forever,” she said, referring to the militant Jihadists based in the southwestern Philippines.
“I wrote him a letter supporting him because we haven’t seen anything like this in our government since I was born.”
Somewhat comically, she said, former President Ferdinand Marcos (1917-89) who was corrupt, had lupus and was unable to make himself understood “when American soldiers went to his palace, where everything was gold, and asked, ‘Sir, where do you want to go?’
“Marcos kept saying ‘Poway’ (a city in Southern California) and they thought he was saying ‘Hawaii,’” she said. “So they took him to Hawaii and he was there for a long time.
“The Philippines have 48 dialects and 7,000 islands with the best beer, the best tobacco and the best women. I’ll buy a house in Hawaii so I can go to the Philippines, only seven hours away, and have family to take care of me. It’s like a paradise when you go back with fresh vegetables and wet markets (of fresh meat, fish, produce and other perishables) on the street.”
Salvation Army Regional Resource Development Director Carla Ingram described Apolinario as “a firecracker, a mover and shaker.
“Gloria sees a vision for us as a last resort for the marginalized and hungry,” Ingram said. “She says she is a servant for all because Jesus came not to be served but to serve and she has surrounded herself with wonderful board members who follow her.
“With anything volunteer-wise, she encourages them to get on the schedule and makes sure that happens.”
Ingram said the SA is “motivated by the love of God
“Our mission is to preach the Gospel and then meet human needs without discrimination,” she said. “Gloria believes that with all her heart. She is in quite a circle, but her heart is for the poor. She sends money to her family in the Philippines and makes sure they can eat properly.”
Tryon Lewis said Apolinario “is one of those people who are absolutely community builders and the community is better off for having them.
“Being able to work with Gloria certainly made a positive difference in my life,” said the former judge. “I’m just one of many whose lives she has made better. She takes care of her family in the Philippines and she feels that we are all in her family.”
Asked if an influence other than her mother sparked her altruism, Lewis said, “I think it was her religion.
“The Catholic Church has a central place in Gloria’s life. She takes its teachings to heart and carries them out. She is about helping people, no holds barred and no holding back. I never saw an indication of her wanting credit for anything. She just wants to get the job done.
“Federal service is complex. Having someone like her is a blessing all the way around.”
Conaway said Apolinario “is a tremendous asset to our team, in large part because of her deep ties to Odessa.
“I’m blessed with a terrific group of individuals who go to work each day on behalf of the 11th District and Gloria is no exception,” the congressman said. “She is a kind-hearted person who puts her community first and we’re all fortunate to be part of that community.”
Apolinario’s reading trends toward the biographies of figures like Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister, Mahatma Gandhi, who led India’s independence movement, and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, “people who rose from nothing,” she said.
“Nothing bothers me because I have a relationship with God. When you have that, you have peace. If something is not equitable, I do something behind the scenes to make it right.”