A History of Journalism in the Philippines – Early Years

The Philippine press, which is committed to the great heritage of libertarianism, is one of the freest, liveliest, and strongest in Asia and in the world. Throughout the ages, it has perpetuated a formidable tradition of service, which is the fortification of our sovereign life.

Its sustainable growth and development provides gratifying and fascinating footnotes of our historical revolutions. It started in 1637 when Tomas Pinpin, the father of Filipino printing, published the Successos Felices, the first Philippine newspaper that antedated Publick Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick for 53 years.

Pinpin, who learned the art of printing from Father Francisco Blancas de San Jose, the parish priest of Abucay, Bataan and founder of the Dominican-owned printing press in Binondo, Manila and in Pila, Laguna, devoted his 14 – page newspaper to the raids of Muslim pirates in the country.

Hojas Volantes, with the title Aviso Al Publico, was distributed for mass readership in the Philippines and acted as town criers of Spain in the country on February 27, 1799. Although it appeared intermittently in the next 50 years, it was only on August 8, 1811 when the Spaniards put out the Del Superior Govierno, the first regularly issued newspaper edited by Governor General Manuel (Mariano?) Fernandez Del Folgueras. It gave news about the Napoleonic invasion in Spain and was a potent weapon in the fight for emancipation. It ceased publication after 15 issues over a six-month period.

Published on March 25, 1821, El Ramillete Patriotico was a liberal and audacious newspaper. It was sarcastic and sometimes unbridled in its speech of degenerating personalities. Another newspaper, El Noticioso Filipino, was published on July 29, 1821.

La Filantropía, a weekly newspaper dealing with current issues from Europe and the arrivals and departures of vessels in Manila, was dedicated to the “welfare of the people in the language that is not offensive to the sane moral of the public.” Printed in papel de arroz (rice paper), it first appeared on September 1, 1821 and ceased publication in 1822. It was followed by El Filantropo, a relatively small newspaper that lasted a year, and the Noticias Compiladas de los Papeles Publicos de la Peninsula both in 1824.

Founded by the Real Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais and edited by Luis Barreto, Jose Azcarraga, Manuel Azcarraga, Marcelo Azcarraga, and Jose Nicolas Irastorza in 1824, the Registro Mercantil de Manila was a monthly newspaper that worked for economic prosperity and political independence, but ceased publication in May 1833 because of lack of financial support and regular subscribers. El Noticiero followed it in 1838.

In 1843, Gregorio Tarrius, the Administrator of Posts, founded the Semanario Filipino that published business news from Asia, Europe, and the Archipelago. It was renamed El Amigo del Pais in 1845, but ceased publication in April 1847. La Estrella, a weekly newspaper founded by Agustin de la Cavada y Mendez de Vigo on October 4, 1846, became a daily newspaper on February 1, 1847, but was suspended in January 1849.

La Esperanza, the first daily newspaper filled with long discussions about religious, scientific, historical, and philosophical subjects, was also founded by Agustin de la Cavada y Mendez de Vigo, was edited by Felipe de la Corte y Ruano Calderon, and was published by Miguel Sanchez on December 1, 1846. It also published official and commercial news and advertisements.

When El Diario de Manila was founded on January 1, 1848, La Estrella and La Esperanza ceased publication and relinquished the monopoly to the Boletin Oficial de Filipinas, the daily government organ from 1852 to 1860. However, when the latter was renamed the Gaceta de Manila by a Royal Order on May 18, 1860, El Diario de Manila reappeared in September 1860.

Edited by José Felipe Del Pan, El Diario de Manila became not only the best-edited newspaper, but also one that had long, prosperous, and continuous circulation until 1899. Its editorial staff included José de la Rosa, Manuel Garrido, Manuel Marzano, Lorenzo Moreno Conde, Francisco Ramos Borguella, Francisco de Paula Martinez, and Antonio Vazquez de Aldana.

El Instructor, 1849; El Despertador, 1849; Diario de Avisos y Noticias, 1850; El Observador Filipino, 1851; Boletin Oficial de Filipinas, 1852, and El Commercio, 1858, followed the Diario. The latter, not an example of correctness, tidiness of language, and civility in reasoning, was an afternoon newspaper edited by Soler Ovejero, an army officer.

A fortnightly that opened a new era in the history of Philippine journalism because it had sustained its reviews, sketches, biographies, news about the country, and literary and scientific sections, the Ilustracion Filipina was published on March 1, 1859 and ceased publication on December 15, 1860.

Published on February 26, 1861, the Gaceta de Manila, a weekly government newspaper that published official documents and announcements, ceased publication on August 8, 1898. It was followed by the Revista de Noticias y Anuncios, 1861, La España Catolica, 1862, and La España Oceánica, 1862.

With the slogan “Religious Unity,” El Catolico Filipino was founded by Father Pedro Pelaez and was published by Father Mariano Sevilla on February 1, 1862. Though it was the first religious newspaper in the country, Fray Agapito Aparicio charged it as a political newspaper masquerading beneath the cloak of religion. El Correo de Filipinas was published in 1863.

Next: A History of Journalism in the Philippines – Revolutionary Period