Sometime in January 1987, I got a call from my good friend, the late Rod Reyes, former reporter of the defunct The Manila Times who infiltrated the illegal drug dens of Tondo, got out of it alive to expose them.
When I asked him what was it all about, he told me: “We are putting out a newspaper and I want you to join me.” We soon got together for lunch and Rod told me he got a call from Manda Elizalde that he is interested in coming out with a newspaper, and that it would be financed by the Elizalde Tanduay Rhum business with offices along Ayala Avenue. I got interested because at that time, I was not connected with any media outlet, having cut off all my ties with the Bobby Benedicto-controlled Kanlaon Broadcasting System operating Channel 2, GTV 4, Channel 9 and Channel 13. My resignation from the Benedicto-controlled broadcast channels was a blessing in disguise since soon after the People Power Revolution that ousted Marcos, the Lopezes got back their Channel 2, the government retained GTV 4 as its own, and Channel 9 and 13 were sequestered. I had joined the Dizon, Paculdo, Jurado, Jurado and Vitug Law offices in the practice of law, but I was not happyThe very thought of joining a newspaper excited me.
When Rod and I had lunch, he told me he got a call from Manda Elizalde from Miami, Florida that he was coming home after his self-exile in Costa Rica. Manda had fled to self-exile after a warrant of arrest was issued on him for allegedly leaving the Philippines with a group of Tasaday women. Just how Manda was able to enter the Philippines despite a warrant of arrest on him, and how he bypassed immigration is another story.
All I know is that some influential people very close to the Cory government were responsible, who they were and what did they do for Manda to evade arrest is also another story. All I know at that time was Manda, upon arrival, was brought to his rest house somewhere in Calatagan as a hideout. During the lunch, Rod told me that he would be the publisher, and I would be the Chairman of the Editorial Board, Jullie Yap would also be editor-in-chief, and both Jullie and I would write columns. We had our offices at the Tanduay Rhum building along Ayala Avenue, the same building that was soon bought by former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and soon acquired by the Ayalas to become a Financial Center.
Our first edition of the Manila Standard on February 11, 1987 was in tabloid form, we took the newspaper industry by storm. But, the business of newspapering is peculiar in the sense that if you can’t get advertising revenue equivalent to 60 percent of the gross cost of the newspaper, you lose. And the more you print, the more you lose.
Thus, after a year or two, Manda was complaining that he was losing money. This is when the combined group of the Sorianos and taipan Al Yuchengco came in as partners who bought out Manda Elizalde.
Rod Reyes soon quit to join ABS-CBN as senior vice president. I stayed on as a columnist.
When some businessmen were attacking Yuchengco over an issue on Oriental Petroleum, Yuchengco wanted to answer back, using the Manila Standard. But, the Sorianos did not consent since they, too, had interests with Yuchengco’s business enemies. Thus, Yuchengco quit the Soriano partnership. The Sorianos then partnered with billionaire taipan Ricky Razon of the International Terminal Container Services Inc. and now Bloomberry casino and entertainment, or Solaire.
After a few years, Razon sold out to the Kokoy Romualdez siblings–former Leyte Congressman Martin and Chamber of Mines Chairman president Philip. Now, Manila Standard has as its chairman Philip Romualdez and publisher, former PAL Vice President Rollie Estabillo, also chairman of the Plaridel groups of newsmen and journalists. At one time, former Ambassador to Hungary, Poland and Bosnia Andy del Rosario was also publisher with Jullie Yap Daza as editor-in chief. We also had Ambassador to the United Nations, Teddy Boy Locsin also as publisher when he sold out Today. I like being a columnist of The Standard because I believe in its vision and goals. Truth to tell, I had opportunities to become a columnist also in other broadsheets, but in my book, I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than be a small fish in a big pond. I’m now 89 years old going 90, and I think I will keep on making life comfortable for these like to be comfortable and making discomfort to the comfortable till I write ‘30.” I like the company of the staffer of The Standard and I am comfortable with them. Like what I said, I will remain with The Standard because it’s my kind of newspaper, no targets, no biases, nobody to protect, and above all, it tells the truth when it happens and where it happens. After all, the truth will set us all free.