• A look back at some of the exceptional Manila Times editors

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    The oldest English newspaper in the Philippines, The Manila Times has a reputation of fairness and delivering news according to the best principles of journalism. It took many great people to accomplish such a feat, and as the publication reaches its 116th anniversary, it is only fitting to acknowledge some of those who helped raise the Times to where it is today, and made remarkable careers themselves.

    Robert McCulloch Dick
    A Scottish man with newspaper experience arrived in the country looking for greener pastures. The name “Juan dela Cruz,” pertaining to an ordinary Filipino man, was coined when a certain Robert McCulloch Dick served as a court reporter at The Manila Times in 1902. Dick’s story is that of someone who came from rags to riches. From a poverty-stricken family came a man who helped uphold press freedom in the Philippines. From a court reporter, he moved on to be one of The Times’ chief editors.

    His greatest contribution to Philippine journalism was his revival of the weekly magazine Philippines Free Press, which was famous for reporting political news without fear. With his savings from working at The Manila Times, Dick bought the weekly magazine from its original founder Judge W.A. Kincaid, for P1. The magazine struggled in its first few years, but after a friend, Theo S. Rogers, came onboard, the Philippines Free Press managed to survive and went on to be one of the most influential English-language publications in the Philippines for five decades.

    Dick was known to have very high standards, and notoriously ruthless in editing. He had an eagle eye that saw the smallest mistakes, in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. The Philippines Free Press personified Dick, a man with unwavering demeanor, fighting the Japanese invasion which caused the publication to close down and for Dick and Rogers to be detained at Fort Santiago for two years. Abuse of power by the American administration and Filipino officials were exposed after Dick was freed. Even in his old age, his advocacy for integrity and delivering the truth didn’t weaken.

    Not only Dick’s staff and coworkers recognized his loyalty to Filipinos. In 1958, Dick and Rogers were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor with the rank of Commander. n

    Max V. Soliven
    From 1957 to 1960. The Manila Times had one of the most talented men in the journalism industry for its business editor. A son of a politician under the Philippine Commonwealth presidency of Manuel L. Quezon, Maximo Villaflor Soliven granted his father’s wish to not enter the world of politics. Thus, he rejected offers of running for senator and other public offices. After his short stint at The Manila Times, he spent more than ten years as a foreign correspondent. He covered significant events such as the Vietnam War and interviewed many world and religious leaders including Pope John Paul II, US President George Bush and the presidents of Indonesia, Argentina and Cuba, to name a few.

    When martial law was declared, Soliven was arrested. He was a columnist of The Manila Times then. He received probably the worst punishment for a writer, he was forbidden to write, or at least publish, anything. He was a family man, and the author of one of the widely-read Times column, “By The Way.”

    He established The Philippine Star with Betty Go-Belmonte. He was acknowledged internationally as a competent journalist, and became the recipient of National Order of Merit of the French Republic and Encomendero de la Orden Isabel la Catolica from Spain.

    F. Sionil Jose
    Multi-awarded writer Francisco Sionil Jose graced the halls of The Manila Times newsroom as the managing editor of The Sunday Times Magazine. Besides being a National Artist for Literature, he has merited other coveted distinctions such as the international Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, the USA’s Outstanding Fulbrighters Award for Literature and the Pablo Neruda Centennial Award (from Chile).

    The Manila Times College’s F. Sionil Jose Seminars, a series of discussions on journalism, was named after him. Known for his more than 20 English novels, novellas, collections of short stories, plays and essays, he has been mentioned as possibly the first Filipino who could be given the Nobel Prize for Literature. His novels have been translated into 22 languages.

    His novels depict not only the drama in the lives of Filipinos of various walks of life, but the progress of Filipino society.

    He is considered a living legend for his many contributions to Philippine literature. n

    Malou Mangahas
    A bold journalist through and through, Malou Mangahas once sat as the editor-in-chief of The Manila Times when then-president Joseph Estrada’s notorious bullying of the paper happened. After Estrada filed a complaint against The Times for running a story calling him an “unwitting godfather” to an allegedly anomalous multimillion power contract, the newspaper’s owners, then owned the Gokongweis, gave in and published an apology. Because of this, Mangahas and some of her fellow editors left the paper.

    She was among the journalists held in jail during martial law for having been critical of the Marcos administration when she was the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, the student publication of the University of the Philippines.

    She founded the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 1989, along with eight other journalists. An icon in field investigative journalism in our country, Mangahas also produced the fiery public affairs television program, Debate with Mare at Pare, which aired on GMA Network and ran for eight years. Shortly after the program ended in 2006, she co-hosted the hard-hitting Palaban with Winnie Monsod and Miriam Quiambao. She is now the host of GMA Network’s Investigative Documentaries, continuing what she loves to do: highlighting and analyzing the important matters that affect the nation for the people to digest.

    Mangahas is a fellow of Marshall McLuhan and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Her long list of accomplishments includes her being one of the bravest Filipino journalists.

    Vergel O. Santos
    HE became the editor of The Manila Times when it was revived after the end of martial law.

    Times Publisher/Editor Rene Bas told me this of Vergel Santos:

    “We worked together in Hong Kong on The Asian, the first regionally distributed English-language broadsheet newspaper in Southeast Asia. The Asia Magazine — which I worked for in Singapore and then in Hong Kong — preceded The Asian — but it was a weekly magazine, not a daily. It also had a monthly international edition. Adrian Zecha, the Indonesian renaissance man, was the publisher and brains behind our Pacific Communications Group of publications.

    “Vergel, Vic and Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, and I and Arnold Moss, with Johnny Gatbonton as our boss, were among the Filipino journalists who worked in Southeast Asian cities as English-language writers and editors. There were ever so few native Hong Kongites, Thais, Indonesians, Malaysians and Singaporeans who were professional English-language journalists.

    “We had colleagues from India, Pakistan and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Gerry Delilkhan of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Suman Dubey of India were with us. Tarzie Vittachi. S.M. Ali. M.P. Gopalan, among others.

    “Vergel and I also worked together at Depthnews and he wrote a couple of stories for Media Magazine, which I was co-editing with an Englishman, Jack Glattbach. It was a publication of the Press Foundation of Asia whose guru was Amitabha Chowhury.

    “He is one of the most conscientious journalists I know. As you can see in his books, his articles and speeches, Vergel is a well-rounded person. We would not be a mess as a nation if we had more Filipinos like Vergel Santos.”

    Vergel also came to edit the post-martial law Manila Chronicle.

    Until the Manny V. Pangilinan Group bought BusinessWorld, Vergel served as publisher and editorial board chairman of that newspaper and concurrently as a trustee of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

    He has written and published six books: Newswriting Formula (1989), self-published and now a collgiate journalism textbook; How to edit a community newspaper (1991), commissioned and published by the Press Foundation of Asia; Basic Journalism, an Asean handbook (1995), commissioned and published by the Committee on Culture and Information of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Wrestling Press Ethics (1994), a collection of essays on the media, published by the Philippine Press Institute;

    Worse than free (2005), a second similar collection, published by Anvil; and Chino and his time (2010), a biography of the Manila Times publisher and patriot Joaquin P. Roces, also published by Anvil.

    He has also published papers on media – and other (mostly sociopolitical and historical) – subjects and lectures on them.

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