BY TONY FIGUEROA
Studying the genesis of Davao newspapers is an interesting field that has yet to be explored and researched extensively.
Especially for students taking Mass Communication and Journalism courses, the study must go beyond Tomas Pinpin, the father of Philippine printing who published in 1637 the country’s first newsletter titled Sucesos Felices (Fortunate Events).
Historically, Davao City has produced many engaging publishers and journalists, including broadcasters, who would become political stars in their own right. Names like Davao lawmakers Artemio Loyola, and Jesus Dureza, Davao del Norte governor Verulo C. Boiser, Davao City mayor Zafiro L. Respicio, broadcaster-brothers Alfredo and Antonio Vergara, Davao City councilors Zacarias Solon, Danilo Dayanghirang, and Jesus Zozobrado, and Davao del Sur vice-governor Bienvenida Saceda, to name a few.
Founded in 1917, El Eco de Davao (The Voice of Davao)—most likely inspired by El Eco de Vigan, the country’s first provincial newspaper, and other Manila publications bearing the iconic ‘El Eco’ masthead before the American regime–was funded by Spanish lawyer Joaquin Rodriguez, who was appointed de facto Davao governor by Gen. John ‘Blackjack’ Pershing in 1913. It may well be considered as Davao region’s first newspaper in the absence of any contender.
(Atty. Rodriguez’s grandson and namesake would later marry Sonja Habana, daughter of Antonio Habana Jr., the son of Capiz congressman Antonio Sr. who was married to the first cousin of post-war president Manuel Acuña Roxas.)
A year later, another newspaper, El Sur (The South) followed suit; this was published by the Davao Publishing Co., Inc. in 1918. Year later, another local paper, Maguindanao, was born. Edited by pre-war critic and later Davao governor Celestino Chavez (1922-25), it was the voice of dissent and public outrage. Cesar M. Sotto, who became Commonwealth-era assemblyman (1939-41), took over as second editor.
Contrary to claims, Mindanao Times, formerly known as the Davao Times under its Japanese owners, is not the oldest newspaper in Southern Philippines. It adopted its present name only in 1946, five years before Mindanao Mirror, then a weekly, was established by Dean Demetrio Flaviano and wife Anita. The contemporary of these iconic papers was the defunct Mindanao Mail founded by Emilio Abarico, father of the late Davao City press secretary Angelo Abarico.
Founded by Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionary Gerard Mongeau, the first bishop of Cotabato, the Mindanao Cross came out with its maiden issue on Feb. 6, 1948, making it as the oldest Catholic publication in Mindanao. This is far older than The Sentinel, which released its first issue in January 1952 in Manila. On August 23, 1952, The Sentinel came out with its local edition renamed as Davao Sentinel. In 1973, it was independently published as Ang Taboan (The Marketplace) by the archdiocese of Davao and ten years later adopted the new name The Catholic Herald, to highlight its denominational afilliation.
Commercially, only early post-war papers Mindanao Times and Mindanao Mirror have survived after their founders had died or ventured into other business. In December 1978, San Pedro Express surfaced as a newsmagazine edited by who’s who in Davao literature but later joined mainstream community papers as a daily (It was edited by Roger Balanza from 1985 to 1998); The express also came out with a short-lived weekly magazine including provincial editions, Kutawato News in Cotabato City and Prensa Zamboanga in Zamboanga City.
People’s Daily Forum, meanwhile, started in 1979 as Davao Forumand later evolved as Mindanao Forum before it became a daily publication in 1983. Sun-Star Daily, one of four daily papers in Davao City, started as Ang Peryodiko, then Davao Peryodiko, but was later renamed after a Cebu company took over it. And who would forget the iconic Davao Star and its controversial publisher Jose Santes, a feisty World War II veteran?
Briefly, The Fiscalizer created a stir when it came out in February 1990, carrying its much-ballyhooed ‘Sexcapade’ column (which this author created). Fiscal constraints forced itspublisher, Jesus Pauliño, to shift from daily tabloid to weekly, then later to monthly. In August 1993, the Mindanao Gazette, published by Ben Diansay, was launched as daily but, again, funding issues hounded it along the years, forcing it to publish weekly with hugely decreased circulation.
Other community papers and magazines that entered the competitive world of newspaper publishing are The Durian Post (2009-2016), published and edited by former Davao City Press Secretary Roger Balanza (1998-2001), Edge Davao (published by Antonio Ajero), Southern Post (Pablito Salinas), Mindanao Post (Elena Baron), Prime (Salvador del Rosario), Southern Philippines Chronicle (Pat Tubat), Mindanao Journal (Serafin Ledesma), Mindanao Business Reporter (Angelo Abarico), Barangay Balita (City Government of Davao) Mindanao Free Press (Isidro Sandoval), Fourth Estate News ( Jose Pascual), and Mindanao Punch (Bong Saberon).
Moreover, the list of newspapers also includes Star Superbalita (sister publication of Sun-Star Davao), Mindanao Standard (Dorita Flaviano), Mindanao Today (Senforiano Alterado), Davao Tribune (Cesar Villamor), Mindanao Pulse (Elmer Yaun), Trends and Time(Dennis Denora), Pacific Tribune (Tagum City), and Mati Tribune (Mati City).
And who can forget the now-online publications such as Durian Post and Top News Now! (Roger Balanza), Mindanao Insider (Virgilio Bermudez), and internet newcomer Davao Today (Webworks Multimedia ventures, Inc.)? The local magazine landscape has also seen the rise of hometown publications like Pag-asa (Carol Arguillas), Dimensions (Willie Rola), M Life and Living in Mindanao (Cr8ve Minds, Inc.), Madayaw (sister publication of San Pedro Express), and Mindanao (MindaNews).