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Monday, July 22, 2024

37 years with Manila Standard

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“I had many opportunities to write a column for other newspapers, but here I am, still at the Manila Standard after 37 years”

A few days ago, the Manila Standard marked its 37th anniversary in the industry, still strong and healthy.

Having been one of its co-founders, I can recount the newspaper’s history.

It all began when Manuel “Manda” Elizalde called on the phone Rodolfo “Rod” Reyes. Manda was then on self-exile in Costa Rica from the Philippines during Martial Law (Sept. 22, 1972-Jan. 17, 1981).

Manda chose Costa Rica because Costa Rica’s president was his former classmate at Harvard. Manda was the Presidential Assistant for Minorities (PANAMIN) of President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. during Martial Law.

But, somehow, Manda was accused by some people of kidnapping some minority women, and there was a warrant of arrest for him. After the term of his former classmate ended, Manda chose to go to Florida.

According to Rod Reyes, Manda wanted to put up a newspaper with Reyes as its editor-in-chief.

Reyes called me up and wanted to meet with me to put up that newspaper.

I was at that time a law partner of the DIzon Paculdo Jurado Vitug Law Offices, in my attempt to go back to the practice of law.

During my meeting with Reyes, he told me he wanted me to help him put up a newspaper. Rod Reyes, formerly with the defunct Manila Times, was an outstanding journalist, having been awarded for his infiltration and expose of an illegal drug syndicate when illegal drugs in the 70s and 80s began to proliferate in the Philippines.

After Martial Law, he became the Press Secretary of President Fidel Ramos and during the incumbency of President Erap Estrada. But, I am going ahead of the story.

I remember I helped Reyes form the first Manila Standard staff, with me as chairman of the editorial board and columnist.

The first edition of the Standard was actually in tabloid form to make it different from the newspapers then.

Our first edition came out, if I am not mistaken, on Feb. 7, 1987. Manda came back to the Philippines months after that. Our main offices were on the second floor of the Elizalde Building on Ayala Avenue. which was also the headquarters of Tanduay Rhum.

(Editor’s Note: The Manila Standard was founded on Feb. 11, 1987. The offices were located at the bustling Ayala Avenue in the Makati Central Business District. In 1989, the group of Andres Soriano III bought out the Elizalde group and renamed the company Kagitingan Publications and relocated the offices in the Port Area, Manila).

After two to three years, Manda started to complain he was losing money. He decided to sell out to Soriamont, then headed by Andres Soriano Jr., in partnership with Al Yuchengco and Ricky Razon.

Another businessman, if my memory serves me right, Roberto Coyuito, bought the defunct Manila Chronicle and started attacking Yuchengco over a business company rivalry.

If I recall correctly, Yuchengco wanted to use the Manila Standard to retaliate against Coyiuto, but his partners at Soriano objected. Thus, Soriano and Razon were left with Soriamont, as far as I can recall.

Being a good friend, Yuchengco asked me if I knew a newspaper he could buy.

I told him that Malaya was then for sale. But, when Yuchengco conducted due diligence on Malaya, he found it laden with debts and he deferred.

When the Sorianos decided to leave the Philippines, they sold their interests including Soriamont and the San Miguel Corp.

Thus, Soriamont was left with Ricky Razon as its sole owner. Razon was then chairman, and still is, of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. or ICTSI. Thus, Razon was left owning the Standard.

Then Teodoro ‘Teddyboy’ Locsin, who owned another newspaper called Today, partnered with the Standard, but the partnership did not last long.

Ricky Razon sold the Standard to the Romualdez brothers, Philip and Martin. Philip as we all know is the husband of Sandy Prieto, the owner of the Inquirer.

Well, I am still writing a column for the Manila Standard, but my name is also there in the editorial board as Chairman Emeritus of the Editorial Board.

If you ask me why after 37 years I am still with the Standard, my stock answer is I like the mission and vision of the newspaper, and I like working with its staff.

I had many opportunities to write a column for other newspapers, but here I am, still at the Manila Standard after 37 years.

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