Transcendence and The Times’ buildings

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WHILE The Manila Times’ editorial and administrative departments have only occupied the red-bricked Sitio Grande building in Intramuros, Manila these last seven years, the journey to this present location still holds a special place in the newspaper’s rich history.

As the nation’s oldest English-language daily broadsheet, The Manila Times has naturally had many homes in its 119 years of existence. Former Times journalist Luis Serrano, in his book “History of The Manila Times,” writes that Thomas Gowan—an Englishman who had lived in the Philippines for some time before finally publishing the newspaper in 1989 to meet the demands of Americans in Manila for information—first hired Chofre y Compania, a small printing press, to put out the paper. The press was located on Calle Alix, now Legarda Street in Sampaloc, Manila, while the paper opened its downtown office in Escolta, effectively considered The Manila Times’ first home.

Location, location
Sixteen years later, in 1914, The Times moved from Escolta Street to the Cosmopolitan building (formerly the Metropolitan Hotel) on the northeast approach of the Santa Cruz Bridge, now known as MacArthur Bridge. Unfortunately, only 14 years later, the Cosmopolitan building burned down in 1928, amounting to a staggering P200,000-loss in property at the time. But with newspaper editors able to work even from a garage, The Manila Times was able to carry on without interruption, sharing offices with the second-oldest title in the business, the American-owned The Bulletin, on Evangelista Street. There for only a few days, the staff quickly found a more permanent home using the facilities of another younger player in news publishing, The Philippines Herald. In the same year as the Cosmopolitan fire, The Times owner Jacob Rosenthal—the sixth since the paper was founded in 1898—sold the title to D.H. Thibault, then general manager of the T-V-T (Taliba-La Vanguardia-Tribune) papers, which was owned by Don Alejandro Roces Sr. The Manila Times ceased to publish from 1930 onward until the Roces’ family resurrected the paper in 1945 after World War 2.With its post-war rebirth, the paper initially held offices at the Ramon Roces Publications Building on Soler and Calero streets, and more permanently to the T-V-T Building on Florentino Torres Street. Arguably, T-V-T is where The Manila Times flourished as a leading newspaper in the country, during a period hailed as “The Golden Age of Philippine Journalism” beginning 1945.When the Roces family sold the paper to the entrepreneurial Gokongwei family in the late 1980s, The Manila Times’ editorial offices were located on Roces Avenue, Quezon City. It was only in 1999 that The Times returned to the nation’s capital Manila when it briefly came under the ownership of businessman Mark Jimenez, until its eventual sale to the Ang family in 2000, whose patriarch Dr. Dante Arevalo Ang and his eldest son and namesake Dante Francis Ang 2nd have since shepherded the paper from strength to strength.

In retrospect
It is this storied existence of The Times that makes it interesting to generations of Filipinos from different walks of life. Young artist Christian Regis is one millennial who was drawn to the paper’s rich and sometimes turbulent history, choosing the former Times buildings as subjects of his work. Regis, an abstract painter, first ventured into rendering The Manila Times building in Santa Cruz, Manila, on his canvas, and thereafter started a series of historical buildings and landmarks within the famed Walled City of Intramuros. The paper’s current home, Sitio Grande along the former Aduana road, now known as Soriano Avenue, was again one of his subjects. “Intramuros had a progressive era from the 1890s to 1930s, that’s why we can see a mix of old styles from the classic baroque to the American aesthetics of buildings. Along with this progression of Intramuros is the growth of Santa Cruz, Manila, where The Manila Times used to be,” Regis—who traces the history behind his subjects—explained in an interview. SantaCruz, the artist added, was considered the Ayala Avenue during the era. For his series, Regis painted the historical buildings with an artistic take, elaborating, “I thought, why should I paint them exactly how they look in real life when I can immortalize them on canvas using a different style? Bakit hindi ko pwedeng gawan ng arte yung simbahan o di kaya yung lumang building? I wanted to create hues, tones and colors to paint the significance of these historical landmarks in a contemporary mood.” Nevertheless, Regis still did his homework and researched old photographs of The Manila Times buildings; poured over his grandmother’s photographs of the old newspaper; and read every other history book that traces the paper’s hundred-plus years, albeit his abstract take on the edifices. As such, his research led him to the information that The Manila Times used to be neighbors with the International News Service and Associated Press, Daily Mirror and The Bulletin on Florentino Torres Street.


Test of Times
For the artist, the true test that his rendition of The Manila Times buildings, including the current one in Sitio Grande, was if the paper’s owners appreciated his work well enough to acquire the painting. Happily, he passed it with flying colors what with the piece hanging prominently in the office of The Times’ President and CEO Dante Francis Ang 2nd today. One of his favorites among his Intramuros series, Regis believes that the collection—which also had renditions of San Agustin Church, Puerto Real and Puerta Isabel 2, Metropolitan Theater in Plaza Lawton (now Plaza Bonifacio), Manila Grand Opera House of Santa Cruz, and the old Capitol Theater in Escolta—speaks of the resiliency of Manila’s most memorable landmarks. “I wanted to paint structures that stood the test of time. I wanted to promote their history and how they were able to survive amid war and modern progress,” Regis noted. He was particularly fascinated with the TVT Building, The Manila Times’ former home, and how it was able to exist in the busy neighborhood of Santa Cruz, Manila. In 2014, the restored TVT Building had been reopened to the public as a residential apartment with units available for those who would like to live in a slice of history. “The old Manila Times building was like yin and yang—that in the middle of the busy street of Santa Cruz with its schools, entertainment and what not, there’s a piece of history that stood there and recorded history, too,” Regis said. In the end, the young artist hopes that his humble contribution to The Manila Times’ history, as well as other landmarks in Manila, will encourage his equally young audience to appreciate the past, and more important, compel the government to protect and preserve these towering markers of Philippine culture. As for The Manila Times itself, he hopes that his painting will also see the paper through another hundred more years or so, and somewhat find a place in the paper’s own history—“no matter how small”—much like The Times’ iconic sculpture, the “Newsboy.”

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