Philippine Media History
Newspapers Today: A Press in Transition
A Press in Transition There are a total of 14 "national" daily broadsheets and 19 tabloids published in Metro Manila (1998 Philippine Media Factbook). The combined circulation of these newspapers is estimated to be only about 7 million, including pass on readership, in a country of almost 75 million.
Of the 14 broadsheets, only two are in Filipino - Kabayan and Numero Uno. Among the newspapers with biggest claimed daily circulation are Manila Bulletin (280,000 on weekdays and 300,000 on Sundays), Philippine Daily Inquirer,(260,000 and 280,000 respectively) and Philippine Star (271,687). Tabloids, with an average cost of half the broadsheets enjoy a higher circulation and seem to be preferred by readers in the C, D and E income brackets.
Tabloids are written in Taglish, a combination of English and Filipino and have an entertainment gossip slant. The most popular tabloid is Abante with a claimed circulation of 417,600. Another favorite is People's Journal with claimed circulation of 382,000.
There are also five Chinese broadsheets, all published in Binondo, Manila's Chinatown. These include Unversal Daily News, China Times, World News, United Daily News, and Chinese Commercial News.
Enjoying a "revival" are the provincial newspapers. The 1998 Philippine Media Factbook reported that there are now 408 provincial publications nationwide. Of this number, 30 are daily publications, 292 come out weekly, and the rest are either monthly or quarterly publications. In the 1980s, there were less than 10 provincial dailies located in the key cities. The immediate readership of provincial newspapers is estimated at about 2,000 subscribers for each of the publications. Assuming that each subscriber passes on the newspaper to at least one person, there are a million Filipinos reached by the provincial dailies.
An important trend is the emergence of a chain of provincial newspapers nationwide owned by a single corporation. An example is the Sun Star dailies found in major cities nationwide such as Baguio, Angeles, Cebu, Iloilo, Dumaguetem Cagayan de Oro and Davao. Most of these provincial papers were existing but not viable when bought by Sun Star. The acquisition has enabled the new owners to infuse additional capital, acquire new printing equipment and facilities, and hire more editorial staff. The result is significant improvement in the editorial quality of most of these newspapers.. Some provincial dailies can now compete with the so-called national (Metro Manila-based) dailies in terms of editorial quality.
But the most popular reading fare in the country is still the illustrated komiks. The Media factbook reported 46 komik titles published either weekly or twice a week. Most of these feature drama-love stories and horror. Among the popular ones are Aliwan Lovelife, Beloved, True Horror, True Ghost, Shocker, and Halimaw. Another popular reading fare are the magazines. Of the 38 magazines listed in the Media factbook, almost half are movie/fan magazines such as Gossip, Glitter, Kislap, Hot Copy, Rumors and Moviestars.
The Philippine Press: Its Initial Pages
The Philippine Press: Its Initial Pages The first newspaper was established in the Philippines in 1811. Del Superior Govierno was published with the Spanish Governor General himself as editor. Its intended readers were the local Spaniards and therefore the content was primarily news from Spain. The first daily newspaper, La Esperanza (1846), also catered to the Spanish elite. It dealt with non-controversial subjects such as religion, science, and history. The best edited newspaper, Diario de Manila, was suppressed by the Governor General after 38 years of publication, allegedly for inciting the Filipinos to rebel against the Spaniards. Meanwhile, the first local publication was El Ilocano which started in 1893 while the first publication for and by women, El Hogar was published in 1893.
The history of the free press in the Philippines has its roots in nationalistic newspapers published in Europe and in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial rule. The aim was to raise the level of consciousness with respect to oppresive conditions prevailing in the country then. These newspapers were mainly written and published by the so-called ilustrados.
Foremost among the nationalistic newspapers was La Solidaridad, the mouthpiece of the revolution and the fortnightly organ of the Propaganda Movement. Published in Spain, it first appeared in 1889 with the policy "to work peacefully for social and economic reforms, to expose the real plight of the Philippines, and to champion liberalism and democracy."
Other newspapers which advocated for political reforms included Kalayaan (Liberty), the only issue of which was published 1898. Kalayaan served as the official organ of the revolutionaries. La Independencia (1898), was the most widely read newspaper of the revolution. Other newspapers were La Libertad (1898), and El Heraldo de Iloilo (1898).
The use of the power of the pen by the early heroes proved the feasibility of using non-violent strategies for social and political reforms, a lesson well imbibed by Filipino journalists even today.
The American regime saw the introduction of new newspapers published mostly by American journalists: The Manila Times (1898), The Bounding Billow and Official Gazette (1898), Manila Daily Bulletin (1900), and the Philippine Free Press (1908). Some of these publications are still with us today. In 1920, The Philippines Herald, a pro-Filipino newspaper, came out.
Other nationalistic newspapers during the period did not last long due to American supression. Among these were El Nuevo Dia (The New Day) published in Cebu and El Renacimiento. But the most popular among the masa was the Tagalog newspaper Sakdal which attacked regressive taxes, big government, and abusive capitalists and landlords - issues which remain relevant today.
When World War II broke out, all publications except those used by the Japanese were disbanded. Only the Manila Tribune, Taliba, and La Vanguardia were allowed to publish under regular censorship by the Japanese Imperial Army. However, Filipinos during the period were not left without an "alternative" media. Underground "newspapers", mostly typewritten or mimeographed, proliferated to provide the people with counter information.
The Golden Age of Philippine Journalism
The post-war era to the pre-martial law period (1945-1972) is called the golden age of Philippine journalism. The Philippine press began to be known as "the freest in Asia."
The press functioned as a real watchdog of the government, It was sensitive to national issues and critical of government mistakes and abuses. Among its practitioners were a clutch of scholarly, noble-minded writers and editors - Carlos P. Romulo, Mauro Mendez, Arsenio Lacson, Modesto Farolan, Leon Guerrero, Armando Malay, , S.P. Lopez, Jose Bautista, to name a few.
The press during the period was forced into a "marriage of convenience" with large business enterprises and political groups. Most of the newspapers were wholly or partly owned by large business complexes.Some newspapers had control and interest in other media particularly radio and television.
In 1952, the National Press Club was organized "to promote cooperation among journalists and uphold press freedom and the dignity of journalists." In 1964, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) was organized "to foster the development and improvement of journalism in the country."
The Marcos Years: Controlled and Alternative Press
When martial law was declared on September 21, 1972, the first order issued by the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos was the "take over and control of all privately owned newspapers, magazines, radio and television facilities and all other media communications." Editors and journalists were among the first to be arrested and incarcerated in military prison camps. Of the pre-martial law papers, only the Daily Express and Bulletin Today (Manila Bulletin) were allowed to re-open. A new newspaper, Times Journal, was allowed to open one month after the proclamation. These newspapers were later to be known as the "establishment press."
As expected, the press during the martial law period was highly controlled. Almost overnight, the print media changed its traditional adversary relationship with the government to that of "cooperation." Many journalists learned to practice brinkmanship and even self-censorship in order to survive or avoid direct confrontation with the regime.
To counter propaganda churned out by the pro-government private media and the government's own media infrastructure, the so-called alternative press emerged in the 1980s. These were a handful of tabloid newspapers and some radio stations which defied government instructions on how to handle news stories (despite constant harassment and intimidations). Among these publications and the people behind them were: the father and son team of Jose Burgos who were behind the courageous tabloid WE Forum and its broadsheet affiliate, Pahayagang Malaya; Felix Bautista and Melinda Q. de Jesus edited Veritas; Raul and Leticia Locsin published Business Day (now Business World); Eugenia D. Apostol and Leticia J. Magsanoc published and edited Inquirer and Mr. and Ms. Magazine.
In addition to the alternative press, the people also opted for samizdat or xerox journalism. These were news clippings, mostly from foreign publications, censored for mass dissemination by the regime, which provided an accurate reading of developments in the country. Many of these articles were written by Filipinos working for the foreign news services: Fernando del Mundo working for United Press; Teddy Benigno and Roberto Coloma for AFP; Shiela Ocampo and Rigoberto Tiglao for FEER; Alice Villadolid for New York Times; Nelly Sindayen for Time Magazine.
The nationalistic fervor was also strongly manifested among the youth through campus publications which have taken an activist stand on national issues. Notable among them were the Philippine Collegian of UP-Diliman, Ang Malaya of the Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines), Pandayan of Ateneo de Manila University, Ang Hasik of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Balawis of Mapua Institute of Technology.
Women journalists proved to be equally, if not more, daring than men in their writing. The emergence of the so-called alternative press came about essentially through the efforts of women editors and journalists. Several women journalists were subjected to harassment, threats anmd intimidation by the military. Among these courageous women journalists were Eugenia D. Apostol, Betty Go-Belmonte, Letty Magsanoc, Arlene Babst, Ninez Cacho Olivares, Domini Torrevillas, Melinda de Jesus, Tina Monzon Palma, Malou Mangahas, Sheila Coronel, and Ceres Doyo.
Among the outstanding heroes during the struggle against the Marcos regime was Joaquin "Chino" Roces, publisher of the pre-martial law The Manila Times and regarded as the Grand Old Man of Philippine journalism.
Excerpts from THE PRINT MEDIA: A TRADITION OF FREEDOM by Ramon R. Tuazon, http://www.ncca.gov.ph