Trusted since its founding on October 11, 1898, The Manila Times has maintained its position as the most respected English language daily in the Philippines. From its first owner to the present, The Times has documented events that made up Philippine history.
As The Manila Times marks its 118th anniversary today, we give importance to the men and corporations that carried the torch through the years keeping the fire of patriotism burning, supplying the thirst for information by the young and old alike and asserting its mission as the purveyor of true journalism – factual but fair, fearless but truthful, up-to-date, almost real-time in its online edition – and make each Filipino proud of his nationality.
“Recording, storing, perpetuating the national memory was the principal vocation of the old Manila Times. We’ve slowly regained that distinction,” says present owner Dr. Dante Arevalo Ang.
Thomas Gowan (1898-1899)
On October 11, 1898, Thomas Gowan, an American businessman who had resided in the Philippines for sometime, published The Manila Times to meet the demands for an American paper in Manila.
The publication was founded shortly after news came out that the Treaty of Paris would be signed, ending the Spanish-American War and transferring the Philippines from Spanish to American sovereignty. The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898.
The first issue was a sheet of two leaves or four pages measuring 8 by 12 inches. A bulletin entitled “Manila Times” appeared on the streets of Manila on October 10, 1898.
The first editorial follows:
“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, and the United States does not acquire territories every day.”
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 in Escolta, Manila.
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 English language newspaper 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.
George Sellner (1899-1907)
George Sellner, who at that time was The Manila Times’ business manager and a prominent member of the American community in Manila, acquired the newspaper in 1899.
Apparently, Sellner bought the newspaper not for love of journalism but for profitable financial phase there might be in it. He would later sell the Times to a group of American businessmen in 1902 but reacquired it three years later.
Sellner had large landholdings in Ermita. He owned the real estate extending from the intersection of Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue) and Nozaleda south (now General Luna Street) to Calle Herran (now Pedro Gil Street). On January 11, 1908, Sellner donated more than 20,000 square meters of his land in Ermita to the city government.
Although the construction’s purpose was for the city’s development program and to build a new boulevard called Columbia Avenue (Taft Avenue), the prospect was Sellner would likewise stand to profit from his generous deeds.
Thomas Kinney (1907-1917)
Sellner sold the paper to Thomas C. Kinney who incorporated the Times Company, with a board of directors composed of American and British businessmen.
Due to the success and growth of the publication, The Manila Times moved from its original office in Escolta and transferred to Cosmopolitan Building near McArthur Bridge.
With its transfer to a new site, the Times modernized its equipment, getting Linotypes of the latest models, the only ones of their kind then in the Orient. The use of the new machinery necessitated laying off 27 of the 35 printers, mostly hand typesetters, who had been with the paper since its founding some 16 years earlier.
Martin Egan, famous for his articles in the Saturday Evening Post in the United States and as war correspondent in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, became the editor of The Manila Times. He was later joined by his wife Eleanor Franklin Egan who became the subeditor.
In time for the coming of an American congressional delegation to probe the Philippines’ readiness for independence, employees of The Manila Times called an all-out strike against their American supervisors whom they believed misrepresented them. It was said that the leader of the strike was Manuel L. Quezon who hired some of the employees as his temporary staff.
R. McCulloch Dick, a British sailor who came to Manila with the United States Navy and had some newspaper experience, was appointed editor of The Manila Times during this period, as well.
Dick later acquired the Philippine Free Press the same year. He lived most of his life in the Philippines, dying in the country at the age of 80.
Manuel L. Quezon: First President of the Commonwealth/Father of the Filipino Language (1918-1921)
Popular reports say that in 1918, then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon was one of the Filipino politicians who incited Filipino employees of The Manila Times to stage an all-strike against their American supervisors. The staff believed their superiors misrepresented them when an American congressional delegation probed the Philippines’ readiness for independence.
The allegations gained credence because of the presence of former employees at the Senate President’s office and Quezon’s purchase of the Times itself.
A study of Quezon’s ownership of the newspaper points that “Quezon in association with a group of Filipino businessmen bought The Manila Times lock, stock and barrel. The Senate President wanted a militant Filipino organ of public opinion, and he thought that the Times would suit his purpose. Under his ownership the paper was staffed mostly by Filipinos.”
Quezon must have realized that running a newspaper and laying plans to eventually run a nation took up more time than a single person can muster. He was said to have realized that “publishing and politics did not mix so well.” One endeavor had to go, and he chose to become the first President of the Commonwealth.
Journalism history, though, put the nature and time of the strike differently. One of the earliest accounts was Jesus Valenzuela’s History of Journalism in the Philippine Islands, written in 1933.
Valenzuela placed Quezon’s purchase of the Times in 1918 and the strike in 1920, and mentioned that the latter was highly related to the founding of the Philippines Herald. Valenzuela, along with other writers, hailed the Herald as “the first genuinely Filipino daily in English.”
Apparently, many of the former Times employees were assembled by Quezon and were later manning the Herald, which was founded through Quezon’s initiative in urging Filipino businessmen to invest in a pro-Filipino newspaper.
Jose Luna Castro, an editor of the Times, has an account similar to Valenzuela’s in The Manila Times Handbook of Journalism (1966), as well as in his article Philippine Journalism from the Early Years to the 60’s (1986).
But did you know that Quezon refused to learn English after the rebellion against the Americans died down? As one of the early Filipino revolutionaries, Quezon felt betrayed by the Americans whom they considered allies against Spain.
His stance changed when he and an American general named Harry Bandholtz became friends; the latter even offered to even pay him just to learn English.
Quezon relented but stopped his English lessons when the general was assigned elsewhere. He studied and mastered the language eventually when he became Philippine Commissioner in Washington in 1909.
George Fairchild (1921-1926)
In 1921, when Senate President Manuel L. Quezon realized that publishing and politics did not mix well, he sold The Manila Times to George H. Fairchild.
A former Hawaiian senator, Fairchild was then engaged in promoting the Philippine sugar industry. As the new owner of The Manila Times, he supervised the business as well as the editorial policies of the paper, and was naturally partial to news items leaning toward the sugar industry.
Under an American owner, The Times was generally perceived to have turned into an intensely pro-American and anti-Filipino paper, taking on the role of spokesman for American businesses and political figures in the country.
City editor Clayton Young, who had been with the paper for sometime as reporter and sports editor, left the Philippines in 1921 and was not heard of until two years later, when he became publicity manager of the Chicago International Exposition held at that time.
In 1925, The Times published a story that an appointive member of the Senate had been acting as a spy for the governor-general, Leonard Wood. Fairchild was one of those summoned for a Senate investigation of The Times, its first in the paper’s history, which perturbed the staff and publisher.
The story was played up by The Times for several days. Neither Fairchild nor any of the editors told the senators who wrote the story.
Among the members of the Senate investigating committee were Jose P. Laurel, Juan B. Alegre, Jose O. Vera, Claro M. Recto and Elpidio Quirino. Two of the probers – Laurel and Quirino – became presidents of the Philippines, while Recto was considered the greatest constitutional lawyer and foreign affairs expert of his time.
The efforts of the investigators to track down the culprit proved fruitless. They never uncovered who wrote the story, although the chair, Senator Quirino, tried to pin down the regular Senate reporter of The Times. The probe made good newspaper copy, and the publication made the most of it.
As the truth unravelled, it turned out that the spy story had been written by a guest reporter – a certain James Montague-Parker – who immediately took the first boat for Hong Kong upon learning about the investigation.
According to accounts, the author had jumped to the conclusion that since Gen. Jose Alejandrino, of Philippine revolutionary fame, had accepted an appointment from General Wood as a senator-at-large he then was acting as a spy for the latter.
Another senator, Alegre, had referred to Alejandrino as “the representative of General Wood,” to which Alejandrino’s rejoinder was that the Bicolano senator was “a Filipino only because of the accident of birth.” Alegre looked more like Spanish than Filipino.
With all the innuendos and accusations of being anti-Filipino, Fairchild was an ardent believer of an autonomous Philippine Commonwealth, and backed his Filipino employees during the Senate trial and investigation. Under his ownership, The Manila Times developed a pool of first class reporters and editorial staffers.
Jacob Rosenthal (1926-1928)
George Fairchild eventually sold The Manila Times to Jacob Rosenthal in 1926. Rosenthal was a businessman engaged in the importation and manufacture of shoes.
Rosenthal retained North W. Jenkins from Fairchild as business manager of the publication. Jenkins had worked at The Manila Trading Supply Company, a firm that imported machinery.
The Manila Times prospered financially under Jenkins for a time, but later could not withstand the drain on its revenues by publishing two daily editions and several weekly provincial sections and supplements.
The provincial supplements were abolished and The Times went back to a single edition. Jenkins also wrote a daily column besides being business manager. Entitled Señores, the column became popular among American residents, particularly businessmen. Jenkins resigned in 1927 due to ill health. He died in Baguio City a year later.
Rosenthal then transferred his manager in the shoe business to take the place of Jenkins, but the publication continued to be in the red, even with new editors.
On December 10, 1928, the Cosmopolitan Building, in which The Times had been housed for nearly two decades, burned down.
Rosenthal collected the insurance and sold the paper’s name and goodwill – all that were left to sell – to the TVT (Taliba-La Vanguardia-Tribune) papers through D.H. Thibault, who had returned to the Philippines after an absence of 10 years, to become general manager of the publishing company of Don Alejandro Roces Sr.
The Manila Times printed its first issue after the fire at The Bulletin plant on Evangelista and Raon Streets in Quiapo District. The Times and The Bulletin had been next-door neighbors for a long time in the Cosmopolitan Building before The Bulletin moved to Evangelista.
D.H. Thibault (1929-1930)
Immediately after the fire in which The Times was reported (by other papers) to have sustained a loss of P200,000, the paper, accepting the hospitality proffered by its contemporaries, printed its first issue after the conflagration at the Bulletin plant on Evangelista and Raon streets.
In passing, it may be mentioned that the Philippine Free Press and El Ideal, a newspaper of general circulation especially among politicians and government officials, were also under the same roof as The Times.
D.H. Thibault bought Times for the T-V-T. However, on February 15, 1930, Thibault announced that The Manila Times would discontinue publication on March 15, 1930.
On March 14, The Manila Times’ “Swan Song” editorial appeared. On that date the newspaper closed after an uninterrupted existence of nearly 32 years, which covered a period of great political changes not only in the Philippines but throughout the Far East.
Roces Clan: The Golden years during post-War and post Marcos eras (1928-1930; 1945-1972; 1986-1988; 1999)
Two other foreigners owned The Manila Times before Alejandro Roces, Sr. acquired the country’s oldest newspaper in 1928.
Roces had already been running the TVT (Taliba-La Vanguardia-Tribune) chain when he took over The Times, and realized it was redundant to own another English paper. As such, closed TVT down in 1930. Also sometime in 1927 the son of Alejandro Roces Sr., Ramon Roces founded a magazine known as Graphic.
Officially it was in 1945 that TVT was discarded to establish the Manila Times Publishing Company Incorporated. On May 27, 1945, the first reincarnated issue of The Manila Times came out as a weekly tabloid carrying the name, The Sunday Times. Its launch was along with the rebirth of Graphic Magazine and Sunday Tribune, which featured Filipino stories in English.
On September 5, 1945, the first daily issue of The Manila Times hit the newsstands. Ramon resigned upon acquisition of The Times to concentrate on his comics publication. His brother Joaquin “Chino” Roces became the publisher. Also two other family members were involved in the publication, couple Benito Prieto, who was chairman of the board and Antonia Roces Prieto, who was director of the publication.
Upon the declaration of Martial Law on September 21, 1972, the paper once again closed. Not long after, Chino was jailed for being an activist of press freedom.
In January 1986, Ramon revived The Manila Times registered under his grandson, Alfredo R.Guerrero.
On February 5, 1986, two days before the snap presidential elections, The Manila Times opened with Joaquin “Titong” Roces as editor-in-chief. The paper aimed to “bring about a ray of sobriety to a land divided” and to cover the twilight of the Marcos years with the same standards of fairness as the old Times.
Reportedly, at the first staff meeting of the newly revived Times, Joaquin Roces was elated to see reporters show up in jalopies and said, “I don’t like reporters who live beyond their means. It usually means they are on the take. These were the most honest reporters I could find.”
The return of The Manila Times was a welcome sight to many Filipinos and long-staying expatriates who remember the old newspaper fondly. From World War II until 1972, when President Ferdinand Marcos shut it down under Martial Law and jailed its publisher, the Times was the largest English-language newspaper in the Orient with a circulation of 250,000, and considered by many to be the best.
One of its most notable alumni was Benigno Aquino Jr., who at age 17, was the youngest correspondent to cover the Korean War. Because of his journalistic feats, he received the Philippine Legion of Honor award from President Elpidio Quirino at age 18. Eventually elected senator, the former opposition leader was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon his return to Manila from the US.
At the resumption of publication, Roces said, “People are angry today, they want angry newspapers. So being completely impartial is not easy. For instance, we have avoided taking a stand on the American military bases… It’s been very hard to ignore the temper of the people. If you are for free elections, you are for Corazon Aquino – but then you appear partisan.”
Objective journalism “fills a space here,” he added. The paper avoided personal attacks.
They were trying to find out if there was a market for good journalism in the Philippines as the old Times was the country’s only real journalism “school” – helping to train writers who now hold prominent positions in government, public relations, and advertising.
The Manila Times initially had eight reporters and a handful of editors who worked in a small section of a publishing factory loft in downtown Manila.
It was Joaquin’s cousin who put the paper back in business – then octogenarian Ramon Roces, owner of a publishing conglomerate, who invested about $100,000.
“Publishing newspapers is in our blood. It’s our only business, and that’s why people trust us,” said the editor.
Most other Manila papers, then and now, had been run by companies with diverse interests that tend to color their editorial stance. The Times employees meanwhile attributed the paper’s success to its sole focus on publishing.
“By concentrating in the business, we were always ahead in modernizing,” Roces said. With a first press run of 20,000, the new paper planned to reach a100,000-strong circulation compared to the estimated 200,000 circulation of the leading daily, Bulletin Today, a pro-Marcos paper.
At the time, reporters and editors had to make sacrifices to join the Times, along with the risk that the paper could close – due either to bankruptcy or to government pressure. Salaries, however, were competitive at P6,000 ($300) a month.
“It’s difficult to get reporters who will not buckle under to advertisers or political pressure. We live in a corrupt society,” said Roces.
Those working for pro-Marcos papers got “smiling money” from government agencies to slant coverage, as so-called “blood money” bought a story completely.
After some time when Joaquin became ambassador to Taiwan, his brother Alejandro took over his position.
On April 30, 1988, Chino Roces left the Manila Chronicle to rejoin The Manila Times. However, five months later Chino passed away and the paper was sold to the Gokongweis.
The Roceses reacquired the publication on October 25, 1999 with lawyer Katrina Legarda as publisher and editor-in-chief of the “New Manila Times” but was short-lived due to acquisition by businessman Mark Jimenez.
The Roceses sold the revived The Manila Times to business tycoon John Gokongwei in 1988 due to financial constraints.
The owner of food company Universal Robina Corporation (URC) and Robinson’s Department Store bought the pioneering newspaper as gift to daughter Robina (married to lawyer Perry Pe), who convinced her dad to buy the publication so she can put her passion in journalism to use.
In college, Robina was an Economics major and a sportswriter for the Philippine Collegian in the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She pursued her zeal for writing by obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the New York University.
She envisioned publishing a newspaper as “an effort to be an instrument of meaningful change in society.”
Gokongwei retained most of the staff of the previous Roces-owned publication.
In February 1999, then President Joseph Estrada filed a 101-million-peso libel suit against The Manila Times after it bannered that he was an “unwitting godfather” for allegedly approving a disputed power contract.
The libel case was subsequently withdrawn after Ms. Gokongwei-Pe wrote a front-page apology. Four senior editors and reporters at the newspaper resigned in protest.
What happened to The Manila Times then was good news copy as media entities around the world carried stories of the libel, withdrawal and sale – as it came soon after some of Estrada’s supporters in the movie industry pulled their advertisement from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Erap (as he was fondly called in the movies and in politics) had accused the Inquirer of twisting his words and publishing inaccurate reports about him and his family, describing them as “personal attacks.” The move by showbiz denizens was followed by advertising boycott from the Land Bank of the Philippines, Social Security System and Philippine National Bank, which Erap denied pressure or involvement. “They did it on their own,” he claimed.
A Bangkok-based group of journalists, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, wrote to Estrada raising their fears of an erosion of free speech in the Philippines. “We consider economic retaliation taken by powerful officials against the media to be inappropriate and out of step with the spirit of press freedom,” said the alliance.
Ms. Gokongwei-Pe, however, said it was a possibility that her family would have opted to sell out anyway.
“Whether or not there was a lawsuit [from Mr. Estrada], I guess belonging to a family with diverse business interests made it difficult for me to run a newspaper,” the lady publisher remarked.
Robina was also reported to have said, “Ay naku, magtitindera na lang ako (Oh my, I’d better be just a saleslady)” and opt for a less turbulent life. She has become the very hardworking and conscientious president of the Robinsons Group, which includes not only Robinsons Department Store but also foreign-franchised shops.
On July 22, 1999, the family sold The Manila Times thereby transferring the trademark and assets to a buyers’ group led by Antonio Roces, a member of the Roces clan that sold the paper to Gokongwei 11 years ago, and lawyers Katrina Legarda and Reghis Romero 2nd for P20 million (US$520,000 at that time).
The following day, July 23, 1999, the final banner story of the Gokongwei-owned The Manila Times screamed “Closed!”
Roces-Romero for a short time then Jimenez (1999-2000)
The Manila Times went back to a Roces after the Gokongweis in 1999. On the day the deal was closed, Robina Gokongwei-Pe said the paper was to be relaunched by its new owners that September.
But lawyer Katrina Legarda, a Roces progeny and main negotiator of the buyers, said they were not even sure to reopen the newspaper because they did not have enough funds to operate it.
Reports said that publisher Ermin Garcia was disturbed by Legarda’s statements as he found out that Reghis Romero 2nd was lawyering for Mark Jimenez, then President Joseph Estrada’s adviser for Latin American affairs.
After all the excitement surrounding the buying of the paper it appeared the new owners may just sit on it, “And that to me is a very sinister way of killing a paper,” Garcia said. Legarda replaced Garcia as publisher.
Malou Mangahas, the last editor-in-chief of The Manila Times under Gokongwei ownership said a group close to President Joseph Estrada was behind the deal.
“The asset sale of The Manila Times is part of an insidious effort by this group, acting … on behalf of the administration, to tame a critical press through the back door,” she said.
But Estrada’s then-chief of staff, Ronaldo Zamora, denied any government role in the sale of the newspaper, saying, “We know absolutely nothing about it.”
Mark Jimenez or Mario Crespo in real life also denied making an offer. The controversy over the sale of the publication continued as the person pointed to have funded the acquisition was asked by the U.S. Justice Department that the Philippines extradite him to face charges of illegal political contributions, wire fraud and tax evasion. Jimenez’ lawyers fought the extradition.
Romero, a lawyer and the investor backing the new owners, attended a news briefing where the sale was announced and denied knowing Jimenez.
Soon it was well-known that indeed, Mark Jimenez was the new owner of The Manila Times.
Mark Jimenez (1999-2000)
Early in his administration, then President Joseph Estrada sued the newspaper for P101 million for publishing a story that called him an “unwitting godfather” to a suspected fraud.
This prompted the management to print an apology “but not a retraction,” according to then publisher Ermin Garcia Jr.
Eventually, The Manila Times under Gokongwei printed its last issue on July 23, 1999. The most trusted newspaper closed, for the third time.
On October 25, the paper was reacquired by the Roces family, with lawyer Katrina Legarda as publisher and editor-in-chief of the “New Manila Times.” Businessman Mark Jimenez then buys the paper.
Jimenez wanted his ownership to remain undisclosed. From October 11 until November, The Times was operating under its supposed owner, Reghis Romero, who reportedly fronted on Jimenez’s behalf. However, in the months to follow, disclosures from within Estrada’s inner circle revealed that Jimenez had indeed bought The Manila Times.
No issue was missed, however, because a new set of editors and writers led by publisher Adrian Cristobal and editor-in-chief Cipriano “Cip” Roxas immediately took over the responsibility of putting out the paper.
The Times continued to come out daily until the Mark Jimenez Group sold it to businessman Dr. Dante Arevalo Ang.
WITH GLADYS ALTAMARINO