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The Manila Times family on its 114th

TODAY, on The Manila Times’ 114th birthday anniversary, we Filipinos are lifted up by hopes of looking forward to better things. In the economy we are assured by no less than our new President Benigno Aquino 3rd that we are on the verge of taking off—to soar into a level of success and prosperity we should have attained decades ago.

In governance, we and 71 percent of our population are optimistic that, despite some troubles and issues of competence that made headlines in the administration’s first 100 days, look forward to Mr. Aquino and his team’s to rule our land with unceasing probity, transparency and determined hostility to graft and corruption.

We are at peace—notwithstanding the continuing presence of a Moro separatist and the New People’s Army’s communist rebellions, both of which the government military claims to have under control.

When The Manila Times was born on October 11, 1898, our people were troubled by the possible outbreak of a new war.

Some three weeks earlier, President Aguinaldo had been forced to vacate his headquarters in Kawit, Cavite, by the American Occupation forces, which had won the sham battle of Manila Bay on August 13.

This time our enemy was to be the forces that our President Emilio Aguinaldo had called the benevolent North American nation. He had thought America would support our independent republic’s existence after we drove out the Spanish colonial government with the USA’s help.

So to Malolos, Bulacan, trooped Aguinaldo and his followers to open the Revolutionary Congress on September 15.

In his book Manila, My Manila National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin writes that during those times, while the Filipinos had their attention focused on what was going on in Malolos, the Americans had their eyes glued to what was going on in Paris. The Constitution of the Philippines was finished and approved on November 29, 1898—“but much good it did us in convincing the peace conference in Paris that we were already a sovereign nation.”

October 11, 1898, was still less than four months away from the first shot in San Juan that would signal the start of open hostilities between the Filipino revolutionaries and the American occupation forces. But the air of mistrust between the “liberated” brown-skinned Orientals and their new colonial masters was very thick, particularly in Manila and its surrounding provinces. Against this backdrop The Manila Times was born.

Luis Serrano, in his History of The Manila Times, writes that on October 11, 1898, shortly after news was received in Manila that the Paris Conference had started and would finally approve the treaty that would transfer the Philippines from Spanish to American sovereignty, Thomas Gowan, an Englishman who had lived in the islands for sometime, published The Manila Times to meet the demand for an American paper in Manila. The demand, of course, came mainly from the men of the United States Army who had occupied Manila.

Gowan hired a small printing press, Chofre y Compania, to put out the paper. The press was located on Calle Alix, now Legarda Street in Sampaloc. The paper, however, had a downtown office on the Escolta.

Maiden issue

The first issue of The Manila Times had a sheet of two leaves, or four pages, measuring about 12 by 8 inches, each page divided into two columns. The first page was taken up by announcements and advertisements. Page 2 was the editorial page. It contained the editorials and the more important news of the day. Page 3 was devoted to cable news from Europe and the United States all bearing on the Spanish-American War.

The first editorial read:

“Since the United States forces have been in the Philippines, there has been a keen demand for an American newspaper here with a daily supply of American news. Several schemes have been talked about, but we have come to nothing. We have not talked about The Manila Times but we have been working, and hoped to complete the arrangements in a few days. Now we have the news of such importance that we feel compelled to publish it promptly, instead of holding it back until completion of our plans. The Manila public will readily see that news in this issue [is] of such a nature as to demand immediate publication, and to excuse defects in the manner of publishing. What The manila times lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality, today at any rate. We have made arrangements for a daily service of telegrams from the United States, and we undertake to continue that as long as the public desires. We cannot guarantee to provide as great a piece of news each day as we give today, for Paris Conferences do not sit often.

Factually speaking, the issue of The Times on October 11, 1898, was not the first. The day before, a bulletin entitled “The Manila Times” and datelined October 10, 1898, appeared in the streets of Manila. The bulletin carried the first press cable in English received in the Philippines. It dealt with the convening of the Paris Conference to end the Spanish-American War.

The Manila Times for a long time had this motto under its flag: “Pioneer American daily in the Far East.” Underneath was the claim: “Published every day since 1898.” The statement was true, and remained so until the paper burned down in 1928. The Manila Times was the first newspaper in the English language ever published in this part of the world, not excepting China and Japan. The paper also came out every day of the week and, at a certain period in its life, had two issues—a noon and an afternoon edition.

The Second World War

The second epoch in the history of The Manila Times began 15 years after its discontinuance in 1930 and when World War II was still in its mopping-up stage. Japan had not yet surrendered, although it was ready to do so.

People had come down from their mountain refuge, and Manila residents who had evacuated to the provinces to avoid the horrors of the Occupation began to return in numbers to their native city. The war had left very few habitable houses in Manila, but the returning evacuees had to make the best of a miserable situation. With the returning population, the need for adequate reading matter was generally felt in the city. A few enterprising people started printing small newspapers from salvaged presses and little capital. Among these post-Liberation papers were the Manila Post, the Philippine Liberty News and the Manila Chronicle.

The heirs of Don Alejandro Roces Sr., who died during the war along with his eldest son Alejandro Jr., met together and decided to revive the business their father had founded. The printing plant of one of them had not been destroyed by the war. A newspaper could be printed there if newsprint were available. Accordingly, arrangements were made for a supply of newsprint.

The postwar Times

At that time Boguslav, who had joined the war correspondents attached to the United States Army after his release from the Santo Tomas Internment Camp early in February, was in Manila covering the liberated city for the Chicago Sun and other American papers. He was asked to revive the English-language newspaper of the T-V-T chain of newspapers. The Tribune was the prewar daily newspaper in English, but its resurrection was thumbed down because of the bad taste it might have left as a result of its continued publication during the Occupation under the management of Japanese overlords. They had paid P2 million in “Mickey Mouse” money for the entire T-V-T plant, an amount the owners had to accept under the circumstances. The purchase price in the form of a check was never used, and the liberators of Manila found it framed and in the same condition as when it was issued.

The T-V-T management decided on using the name of The Manila Times instead of The Tribune, The Times having been a member, although only for a brief period, of the T-V-T chain before the war.

Besides, Boguslav had worked for many years with The Times before it was discontinued in 1930.

In the meantime, the owners of the paper discarded the old T-V-T name and formed a corporation under the title of “The Manila Times Publishing Co., Inc.”

The first issue of the paper on May 27, 1945, carried the name The Sunday Times, and it was only a small folded sheet of the ordinary tabloid size reminiscent of the dimensions of the first issue of The Manila Times on October 11, 1898. Then as The Times approached normalcy The Sunday Times increased its pages. In the meantime the circulation was getting larger, and it became evident that The Sunday Times alone would not adequately supply the demand of the reading public. So on September 5, 1945, the first daily issue of The Manila Times reappeared on the streets of Manila.

The Manila Times was “resurrected” 15 years and six months after its “demise” on March 14, 1930. The paper at first occupied the Ramon Roces Publications Building on Soler and Calero streets, which had not been much damaged by the war, but later it moved to the T-V-T Building on Florentino Torres Street after the building had been repaired.

Martial law

On Saturday, September 23, 1972, Manila woke up with nary a newspaper in sight. The night before, President Ferdinand Marcos had imposed martial law throughout the country, although the declaration was antedated September. 21. The Manila Times was one of the media organizations closed down by the imposition of authoritarian government. It was to remain closed down—as would a number of other media outlets—for the next 14 years.

Roces family reopens The Times

On February 5, 1986, days before Edsa I that ousted Marcos, the Roces family (the Ramon Roces group) revived The Manila Times.

Three years after its rebirth, the Roces family, citing financial dearth, sold the paper to the business tycoon John Gokongwei.

Estrada sues The Times, Gokongweis apologize
The Manila Times under the Estrada presidency was a paper under siege.

When The Times published a story calling the former movie actor an “unwitting godfather” to a supposed fraudulent deal, Estrada sued The Times for P101 million.

Terrorized by Estrada’s wrath, the Gokongweis were forced to apologize to stop him from harassing them on their alleged tax problems.

On July 23, 1999, the nation’s most trusted newspaper closed up.

The Times under Mark Jimenez

Months before The Times’ closure, Mark Jimenez, an Estrada crony, was said to have already shown interest in buying the paper but wanted to remain an undisclosed partner.

Reports said Jimenez even paid a visit to John Gokongwei as early as April 1999.

A member of Estrada’s inner circle confirmed that Jimenez indeed bought The Manila Times.

Dante Ang and his vision for The Times

On August 8, 2001 Dante A. Ang formally sat as publisher and chair of The Manila Times.

Ang promised to give news that is accurate, fair and comprehensive.

He’s also proud of The Times’ Opinion Page, which he said is more ruminative and reflective, delving more deeply into the meaning of the news and into the motive of those who make the news.

In particular, Ang said The Times would publish enterprise-driven investigative stories. The Times would also honor its rich heritage and snoop into the future, Ang said. He said he would be aided by a strong editorial, advertising and production staff who have a high degree of professionalism and experience that honor the ethics of the trade.

The Times, under its new owner Dante Ang, will capitalize on its rich and illustrious—if tumultuous—history since 1898.

Ang’s vision is to make The Times “handsomely profitable” as well as one of the top influential dailies in the country.

He is no stranger to newspapering. He published Money Asia, a business magazine, and founded the Filipino broadsheet Kabayan. He also maintains five publishing houses and is president and chair of a public relations firm that handles corporate accounts.

The Times will also put a premium on enterprise stories, solid political and business reporting, and investigative exposés.

“Watch us as we grow, keep us company as members of the family,” Ang said.

The members of the present Manila Times family are carrying on the torch.