Transforming The Manila Times from a newspaper on the brink of bankruptcy to what it is now–the fastest- growing daily–has not been easy. In fact, it took almost 13 years before profit started trickling in, the paper’s Chairman Emeritus, Dante A. Ang, said on Tuesday.
Ang recounted his experiences and bared his failures and successes in a lecture entitled “Journey from dreamer to publisher” for journalism students at The Manila Times College in Intramuros, Manila.
The TMT chairman, who acquired the newspaper in 2001, said success is not defined by money or power.
“Success is a sense of fulfillment, a feeling of happiness and satisfaction, that you have achieved something and that you have contributed something,” he said.
Ang recalled his humble beginnings. He walked to school barefoot, served a parish priest and stayed in a convent so he could afford to go to school.
“TMT is a triumph of the human spirit. I dreamed. Dreaming is the start of success,” he told his audience, mostly students who are also dreaming of becoming successful journalists.
“At 10 years old, I started to dream despite poverty. I went to school without shoes, but I did not feel bad, never jealous of other children,” Ang said. “I lived with our parish priest in the convent. I was awake as early as 5:30 a.m. for the morning Mass, at 8 p.m., my only study time, I was studying how to type.”
He added that he left the convent and became a salesman. “I needed to earn money to support my mother and my sister. I was a helper at Chronicle and ABS-CBN where I took various jobs from coffee server, clerk, drama talent, disc jockey, newscaster and advertising salesman.”
When martial law was declared, Ang found himself jobless.
“I went back [to work]as an account executive, earning P600 a month.”
When asked who are the persons who had a great impact on him, Ang named Tony Mercado, an advertising icon who told him that he had to focus and adopt a never-say-die attitude.
“From a young age, I’ve learned from older people that success is not defined by money, power or position,” he said.
The road to success, he realized, is not easy because it entails hard work, perseverance, creativity and sometimes failure.
“Do not be afraid to fail. Failures are a prelude to success. What is important is how many times you picked yourself up and learned a lesson for every mistake,” he said.
Running the paper, Ang added, had been challenging, especially because the paper he bought had previously accumulated huge debts, including unpaid workers’ salaries.
“My lawyer advised me to declare bankruptcy and close down the paper and revive it after two months just so to avoid the payables.”
“But I talked to each employee and promised to pay each of them in installment. Imagine one employee had a collectible of P0.5 million which I paid up after a few months,” he said.
Over the years he was able to settle all debts and never did the company miss any payroll deadline under his management.
Ang added that the supplier of ink and paper had a collectible of P60 million.
“I was able to pay all the obligations and to this time we are still in business with that supplier.”
When he bought TMT, he closed down Kabayan, a Filipino newspaper. “I knew I can not sustain two newspapers. I wanted to continue with the Times because I am aware of its brand. It came to a point that I borrowed P100 million. I had the courage because I knew what I wanted to accomplish,” Ang said.
He reckoned that sometimes, talent and creativity are not enough. Thus, Ang advised young people to be “likeable,” noting that the road to success is shorter for a well-liked person.
“At a young age, I vowed to myself that I will never be poor again. That I will finish school and be better off,” he said.
“We still have a long way to go. Remember, it took us 13 years before we got even. Now, we are earning profit.”
Today, Ang has a greater dream: To make The Manila Times the No.1 newspaper in the country.