(An updated article from The Manila Times’ 104th anniversary published on October 11, 2001, written by Lifestyle and Entertainment Editor Tessa Mauricio-Arriola)
WE decided to embark on a journey to the past, in search of reasons why this paper has stood the test of time. We found some of the answers through the memories of men who remain today the strongest pillars of Philippine Journalism—men who, through their words of wisdom and example, have challenged us to keep the fire of the country’s oldest newspaper burning bright.
What do you remember of The Manila Times of old?
Cris ‘Jun’ J. Icban Jr.
That was where I began when I was 18 years old—long ago in 1954. I was a fresh graduate and they gave me my first job. I started as an utusan (editorial assistant); tiga-kuha ng (took down) dictation, tiga-proofread, nagbabantay sa gabi – lahat ng trabaho (I served as a nightwatch – all kinds of job they assigned to me). Doon ako nakapag-aral (That’s where I learned everything I know today in professional journalism from The Manila Times).”
Icban graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines’ College of Arts and Letters at 18. Majoring in English Literature, he cites the late NVM Gonzales as his mentor. Today, he is the editor-in-chief of The Manila Bulletin.
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Enrique ‘Pocholo’ P. Romualdez
It was a good place to work for. I had the good fortune of coming under three very good editors: Davi Boguslav, Joe Bautista, and Joe Luna Castro. They taught me not so much about writing skills, but the sense of balance and fairness, which should characterize every newspaper. I have tried to instil that (wherever I work).”
Romualdez first joined The Manila Times as a sports writer. Soon after, he was given a Fulbright grant to Northwestern University in the United States. Upon his return, he was encouraged by Don Chino Roces to employ what he had learned abroad to further improve the face of the newspaper.
The changes Romualdez introduced included the choice of font for headline squared-off stories and sidebars or side features, among many others that have been adopted by virtually all broadsheets in the country to this day.
Romualdez has been the executive editor of Malaya Business Insight since its founding.
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Amado ‘Jake’ P. Macasaet
What I remember of the old Manila Times were the days of glory—not only of The Manila Times but of journalism in this country. Newsmen, practitioners of the trade, were more responsible, more dedicated to their craft and more eager to learn than today’s crop of so-called “newsmen.”
That is what I can clearly remember of the old Manila Times.”
Macasaet started out as a business reporter in the old Manila Times. Today, he is the publisher of Malaya Business Insight.
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I remember that it was a good training ground for a journalist. I started when I was in third year college. I was a student of professor Enrique Pocholo Romualdez who was news editor at the time. He took me in as his assistant in the Visayas/Mindanao section and later in the daily magazine section. I was eventually absorbed and made a member of the news desk so I didn’t start my career in journalism in the traditional way. The traditional way is to carve your career in journalism as a cub reporter, covering the police beat then progressing through the other beats.”
“(But eventually) I was sent to cover Malacanang, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. It was a very educational experience. I especially remember my coverage of the Senate, which was an education in itself. The senators then were very intelligent and knowledgeable people. Back then, the debates were of a very high level.”
“When it comes to delivering the news, I learned from The Manila Times the importance of accuracy. It was drilled into the heads of reporters. As in the admonition of American editor and publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, when you’re a journalist, you have to remember three words: accuracy, accuracy, accuracy.”
Yambot served as a copyreader for the old Manila Times—the position that made him decide to finally become an editor. He believes that the copyreaders are the unsung heroes of journalism—those who are tasked and challenged to ensure that every story is factual. Yambot was the publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer before he died of “cardio-respiratory arrest secondary to coronary artery disease” on March 2, 2012.
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My stint with The Times was interesting. I was already a senior staffer when the “First Quarter Storm (FQS)” broke out with militant students holding demonstrations almost daily.
The Manila Times, being the leading daily that had successfully identified itself with the public, was in a quandary on whether to side with Malacanang or with the popular struggle.
‘To decide on the matter, a meeting of the editors was called. Joe Luna Castro, then managing editor, was on leave in the US. Cris Jun Icban, then news editor, presided over the meeting with the section editors and deskmen.
We discussed what stand the paper should take on the delicate matter at hand. We eventually adopted a policy of opening The Manila Times to mass action, and serve as a “mirror” to reflect the popular outage.
We opened the doors of The Manila Times to mass organizations involved in the popular struggle which of course did not sit well with the man in Malacanang, to perform its function as a medium for articulation of ideas.
So when Martial Law was declared in 1972, The Manila Times was closed down; its publisher, Chino Roces, and some of its editors – Amado Doronilla, Max Soliven, etc. – were placed behind bars.
That was the time I decided to cross over and join the underground movement.
I was, and still am proud to have been a part of The Manila Times, which was then the country’s leading newspaper, not only in terms of circulation, but also in credibility.”
A product of the Lyceum of the Philippines, Ocampo joined The Manila Times as a business reporter. He eventually became the business editor while still in his late 20s. While working as a full-time newspaperman, Ocampo never abandoned his true calling – that of being a political activist.
Ocampo, former spokesman for the National Democratic Front, is considered one of the country’s leading human right advocates and astute political analysts.
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Cipriano S. Roxas
I’ve noticed you in this newsroom every afternoon. What are you doing here?
“I work here, sir.”
“Oh, and what is it you do?”
“I’m a mechanic in the composing room.”
“You’re a laborer then?”
“Yes sir, and proud of it.”
“Do you know how to copyread?”
“I’ll call for you one of these days. We’re planning an entertainment supplement to the Sunday Times Magazine.”
This exchange transpired in the early 1960s in the newsroom of The Manila Times on Florentino Torres St. in Manila’s Sta. Cruz district between Primitivo Mauricio, editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, and Cipriano Roxas, his former student who was working his way toward an AB degree.
“In a way, I’ve come full circle, having cut my journalist teeth covering the entertainment beat and putting the Sunday Times Magazine (whose editor was the late Joe Quirino) to bed every Wednesday night.
There were only four daily morning broadsheets in English then. The Manila Times (which justifiably, albeit inordinately. touted itself as having a circulation greater than all the other dailies combined.); Philippine Herald, Manila Chronicle and Manila Bulletin.
Those were heady days when a reporter had to really earn his byline. None of the “why-didn’t-I-get-a-byline” attitude so characteristic of today’s crop of reporters.
(I remember my first byline for The Times. It was a story on the French actor Alain Delon, who visited Manila to promote his film, Rocco and his Brothers. I don’t know whether the central desk – Pocholo Romualdez (now executive editor of Malaya Business Insight); Gani Yambot (former publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer); Bernie de Leon (since departed), et. al. –was just being kind to me, but get a byline I did. Perhaps it was the admission by Delon that it was all over between him and his erstwhile paramour, Romy Schneider, “a first” at the time. But I digress.)
The Times’ hexagonal central desk was under the overall guidance of Joe Bautista (Joe Luna Castro was managing editor and was not to take over as editor-in-chief until much later). On the rim were Romualdez, De Leon, Yambot, Jun Icban (now editor-in-chief of the Bulletin); and Osmudo (O.O.) Sta. Romana, the city editor. A powerhouse desk, if you ask me.
Good ole Joe B was the friendly neighborhood loan association personified. Anybody, but anybody, from the editors to the janitors in the bindery section, could touch him for a bridge loan, payable the next payday. He recorded every transaction on one of those desk calendars. That is until one day, somebody (who must have had cash flow problems), swiped the calendar. End of the Bautista Domestic Assistance Program.