IV. Philippine Newspapers During the American Occupation

The Americans, who poured in by the shipload as the war progressed, brought with them among others (such as canned food and new music), their newspapers. Soldiers had their own publications to look forward to and read during spare time such as the Bounding Billow and the American Soldier, the latter known as the first English-language paper in the country. There was also the Cablenews and the American, which later on, in 1908, merged to become Cablenews American, a well-known and respected English daily.

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These papers contained mostly news from abroad and the war, and updates on international and as well as Philippine economic growth. On their more subjective side however, they also held a common and strongly predisposed view of the Philippines. These publications viewed the average Filipino as a non-thinking, perhaps non-human, savage.

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Major Newspapers of the Era

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These soldier-centric papers however are minute compared to the circulation of the dailies to come. In 1898 Thomas Gowan, an Englishman living in the Philippines, founded the Manila Times, the Philippines’ first English-language daily. This was done as a response to an observed “keen demand for an American newspaper with a daily supply of American news.” The paper had the motto “Pioneer American daily in the Far East” and underneath it, “Published every day since 1898.” The Times changed hands, in terms of ownership, many times. In 1917 it was sold to Quezon. In 1927, it was bought by Alejandro Roces, Sr. and was included in his growing newspaper chain (to strengthen his own Tribune). It was however disbanded in 1930, as Roces saw no need for more than one English paper.

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In 1900 Americans H.G. Harris and Carson Taylor founded the oldest existing newspaper in the Philippines, the Manila Daily Bulletin (now known simply as the Manila Bulletin). The Bulletin started as a shipping journal and was published and distributed for free. In 1912, it decided to widen its scope to include general interests and became a paid paper. Because of its origins, the paper had a reputation of being the mouthpiece of the American community even after the Philippines was granted independence—as long as Taylor was still its owner. Hans Menzi, known tycoon, would buy the Bulletin in 1957 and reorganized it as a modern Filipino paper.

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The Manila Daily Bulletin, in its long career, has changed names many times. It was renamed as Bulletin Today during the Marcos Era, but has since changed back to Manila Bulletin

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In 1920, a most significant step in Philippine newspaper history was made. Up until then, all English newspapers were American or foreign owned. But this was about to change. Instigated by then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, the Philippines Herald was made its way to the public. It was set up “by a group of wealthy Quezon followers…to help the Senate President to counteract the anti-Filipino slant in the foreign-owned press. (Feliciano, 1967)” These very wealthy followers, to name a few, included Vicente Madrigal, Manuel and Thomas Earnshaw, Ramon Fernandez, Carmen Ayala Roxas, Juan Alegre, and Teodoro Yangco. There was a need to gather all these millionaires because American businessmen and investors did not embrace the Herald’s pro-Filipino goals, and it was arguably they who were the ones who traditionally had the money, the capital, to start something as big as this. Obviously, Quezon did not allow this to bog him down, and thus called on his wealthy companions for help. The Herald bought the Cablenews-American to acquire its equipment, and immediately began.

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Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935 – 1944)

Quezon was driven by a specific and passionate cause. Apart from wanting to have his own political platform, he also was in deep want (as were many nationals) of a platform for Filipino and nationalist sentiment. He also feared the biased reporting of American-inclined papers. Feliciano (1967), further explains Quezon’s motives:

A U.S. congressional committee has been appointed to look into conditions in the Philippines, and Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, for all practical purposes the head of a nation in being, thought that the public ventilation of problems might get a one-sided treatment in the pages of the American-owned newspapers

The Herald then became known as a pro-Filipino paper that presented nationalistic views. In an American dominated press, this paper allowed for Filipino sentiments to shine; it was the Filipino voice in a media heavily influenced by American owned newspapers. And the paper, optimistically, heralded the coming independence.

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It should be noted that while the Americans did not fully welcome the Herald, it allowed its continuation. One may be because of its theoretical implementation of the free market in the Philippines, and two is perhaps because by this time, the mood was friendly between the Philippines and U.S., since both had the same end, which is to liberate the Philippines. Furthermore, it was a quality paper that was hard not to appreciate. Conrado Benitez became its first editor, and Carlos P. Romulo one of the early editors.

However, in 1923 the Herald had gone into receivership. Alejandro Roces, Sr. was appointed as receiver and had plans of acquiring the paper. But Vicente Madrigal, the main benefactor (sometimes even referred to as the owner) of the Herald, recapitalized the paper. It prospered enough to even start the Monday Mail, a news magazine. Roces was disappointed with this loss, but definitely not deterred. He would, after all, find the first and one of the most successful newspaper chains in the country.

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