MANILA – When the founding members and officials of the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) decided in the 1950s to construct their clubhouse, which eventually became the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC) building today, they had the foresight to make the planned structure a symbolic home-away-from-home even for dead members.
They included in the blueprint of the building a sort of memorial monument where the names of departed media members such as novelists, poets, essayists, news writers, broadcasters, photographers and others could be written for posterity.
Thus, when the four-story NPC building overlooking the northern end of the famed Pasig River and its marker were inaugurated on Dec. 30, 1955 by then President Ramon F. Magsaysay and First Lady Luz Banzon-Magsaysay, the officiating priest also blessed the memorial tablet or slab installed behind the groundfloor structure enclosing the elevator and the spiral staircase of the building.
The memorial marker for departed media members was in the form of a scroll slightly curved inwards or toward the reader.
Nobody was buried in the NPC grounds. The memorial tablet was installed just to memorialize the names of those media members who had gone ahead "to report to the best editor" in this universe.
Among the first names that appeared on it was that of Pablo Bautista, a Liwayway magazine staff member-photographer who died together with President Magsaysay and several others in the tragic plane crash on March 17, 1957 in Mt. Manunggal in Cebu.
Other names written in the memorial included those of Luciano C. Millan, first president of the NPC in 1952; Ermin Garcia Sr., founder and editor of Dagupan City's Sunday Punch; Antonio Abad Tormis, editor of Cebu's Republic News; Osmundo Abad Santos, general manager of the country's first newswire outfit, Philippine News Service; former Manila Mayor and broadcaster Arsenio H. Lacson; Lope K. Santos, and Mauro Mendez.
There were many other names in the monument but these were not included in this article for becoming partly unreadable after overexposure to the rains and sunlight for at least 50 years.
Several outstanding names in the media industry also deserved to be included in the memorial but were not accommodated due to lack of space. Among the most notable names were those of the late journalists Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, the first Filipino Pulitzer Prize winner; and former Senate President and Labor Secretary Blas F. Ople. They were buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
In 2011, the NPC officials and members unveiled a new memorial for dead media members at the NPC grounds, not far from the old one. This time, it was to honor the 32 journalists who were murdered in the infamous Maguindanao massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province on Nov. 23, 2009.
In his post on the NPC website, then NPC President Jerry Yap said "the marker serves as an eternal reminder of the violence faced by journalists."
He condemned the "culture of impunity that fuels the unabated attacks on journalists and press freedom."
Yap said: "Through this marker, which is a simple gesture of appreciation for the sacrifices of our comrades in the profession who lost their lives on that fateful day, we at NPC hope that future journalists would observe every 23rd of November as the day when the inept and the corrupt attempted to bury the message along with the messenger.”
Meanwhile, in an article in the NPC's 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book published in June 2002, then Manila Bulletin staff member Sanny Galvez wrote that the Club's four-story building was built in 1954 and inaugurated on Dec. 30, 1955. It was designed by Architect Angel Nakpil and constructed by Engr. Alberto Abaya.
Galvez said the "first NPC general election was held in 1952 with the late Luciano Millan of the Philippines Herald elected as president. Millan later became a congressman of Pangasinan, replacing Narciso Ramos, father of former President Fidel V. Ramos, who joined the foreign service."
In 1954, Eugenio Santos won the position for a one-year term, after which he was appointed by President Magsaysay as the general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
The late veteran newspaper columnist and radio-television broadcaster Teodoro "Ka Doroy" Valencia became NPC president in 1955. It was during his term that the construction of the NPC building was finished. (PNA)