By Severino C. Samonte

The 33 golden jubilarians of Filipino press: 1952-2002

What was the typical impression or observation by newspaper readers and the general public about the conduct or behavior of the immediate post-World War II Filipino journalists?

I found the answer to that question while I was going over the varied articles in the Commemorative Book published by the National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines in 2002 to highlight the celebration of its "50 Golden Years" on Oct. 29, 2002.

An article titled "Remember when journalists worked in barong or suit?" called my attention because the writer, veteran lady journalist and former national government spokesperson Alice Colet Villadolid, had this proud description of the founders and original members of the NPC, the country's first association of journalists which was established in 1952:

"If the 19th century 'ilustrados' (Filipino scholars or enlightened ones) who led the Propaganda Movement against colonial rule practiced political satire and strong editorial writing, the post-World War II journalists who founded the NPC practiced factual, objective journalism. It was a worldwide trend at the time, but its popularity in the Philippines could also have been due to the influence of American and European editors who had returned to the publishing business after the big war."

Villadolid noted the NPC had just been organized as an institution by senior reporters of the robust Philippine press that sprang up in 1945 after the liberation of the Philippines by United States forces under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

She noted that journalists Luciano Millan, Domingo Abadilla, Celso Cabrera, Eugenio Santos and Teodoro Valencia, Malacañang reporters of the Manila Bulletin, Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, Evening News and Philippines Herald, respectively, had informed then President Elpidio Quirino that the national press was being organized. The President had been sympathetic and offered to help by assigning to the Press Club on a lease-basis a piece of riverside land near Jones Bridge.

"Jose Aspiras, Francisco Dipasupil, Juan Perez Jr., Liberato Mariñas and Ernesto Granada, who were covering the Legislature, Defense and Labor for the same major newspapers, assisted in organizing and mobilizing the press. They became the first officers of the NPC," Villadolid wrote.

According to her, "the post-World War II journalists who founded the National Press Club were very professional -- in language, in dress and in their commitment to accurate and objective journalism. No cuss words or porn pictures appeared in the paper; stories which could not be verified as accurate were not used."

She recalled that a talented Ateneo graduate was fired by the Philippines Herald after he reported the arrival of a foreign visitor, quoting airport sources. His editors read a wire service dispatch that said the important visitor had canceled his flight to Manila.

"To go to their beats, these professional journalists wore long pants with 'barong tagalog' or polo shirt. Women reporters and editors went to their interviews wearing conservative day dresses or pantsuits. They observed delicadeza and did not argue with their interviewees. Only after the 1980s, partly because of the advent of the tape recorder and the competition with broadcast crews, did some reporters shove microphones into the faces of their interviewees and chase around those who did not want to be interviewed."

"Corruption of the press was practically unheard of. The publishers-owners of these post-war newspapers fired any editor or reporter who was tainted with rumors of a bribe. While it is true that some of the publishers advocate policies beneficial to their business interests, such policies were reflected only in their editorial pages. The news sections were clean, accurate and fair."

"The professionalism of the immediate post-war press earned the respect of news sources as well as readers. High government officials and foreign diplomats did not hesitate to grant interviews as they were confident of fair rules of the game -- no misquotations or malicious interpretations out of context. The post-war press did not allow itself to be used by unnamed sources of malicious tips."

In 2002, to commemorate the NPC's first five decades of existence, the NPC officials then headed by Louie Logarta decided to honor the "golden jubilarians of the Philippine press" or those who began their journalistic careers in 1952 or earlier by coming out with the NPC's "50 Golden Years Commemorative Book."

An editorial board composed of NPC members Fort Yerro and Sanny Galvez of the Manila Bulletin and Dado Beltran and Butch Galicia of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) chose to focus "on a most noteworthy era when the Filipino press was honest, accurate and well-respected."

Logarta said the honorees were chosen by a search committee headed by Jose L. Pavia, founding general manager of the PNA, in coordination with the NPC 50th Anniversary Executive Committee chaired by Alice Reyes and whose members included Gil Santos, Rollie Estabillo, Cris Maralit, Art Padua, Diego Cagahastian, Jorge Reyes, and Nixon Kua.

The 33 jubilarians were (in alphabetical order): Domingo Abadilla, Manuel Almario, Eugenia Apostol, Ariel Bocobo, Dave Borje, Jose Buhain, Adrian Cristobal, Neal Cruz, Johnny Dayang, Benjamin Defensor, Eric Giron, Olaf Giron, Virtudes Guinto, Emil Jurado, Llita Logarta, Romy Mapile, Nestor Mata, Juan Mercado, Rosalinda Orosa, Virgilio Pantaleon, Ligaya Perez, Domingo Quimlat, Napoleon Rama, Rodolfo Reyes, Ben Rodriguez, Jose Romero, Bernie Ronquillo, Gil Santos, Manuel Silva, Ernie Singson, Jesus Sison, Max Soliven and Alice Colet Villadolid.

The awardees received their scrolls of honor from then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during ceremonies held at the Holiday Inn Manila Coral Ballroom on Dec. 17, 2002.

A special award was given posthumously to Teodoro F. Valencia, generally considered the dean of Filipino columnists.

By the way, one of the jubilarians, Alice Colet Villadolid, was the author of the article "Remember When" which became the basis of this column. She began as a reporter for the Manila Chronicle in 1952, then went on to write for the New York Times, Newsweek International, Asiaweek and Philippine Graphic, among many other publications. She served as a Philippine government spokesperson in 1986-1987. She is married to retired Ambassador Oscar S. Villadolid, who is also a noted columnist.


About the Columnist

Image of Severino C. Samonte

He began his journalistic career by contributing to the Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines in the 1960’s. He was the night editor of the Philippine News Service when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. When the Philippine News Agency was organized in March 1973, he was named national news editor because of his news wire service experience.

He retired as executive news editor in 2003. He also served as executive editor of the Malacanang-based Presidential News Desk from 1993 to 1996 and from 2005 to 2008.