My first love


Today, Valentine’s Day, I talk about my first love—journalism. 

Journalism is the noblest of all professions.  In both the Philippine and United States constitutions, only one profession is guaranteed its practice: Journalism.  Not law, not medicine, not accounting, not soldiering.  Only freedom of the press is guaranteed its untrammeled exercise. 

Section 4, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Philippine Constitution says:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

This provision makes Congress incompetent to pass any law abridging or limiting the exercise of press freedom.  It also distinguishes journalism from all other professions.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Second Amendment, right to bear arms, comes only after freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

I became enamored with journalism with journalism in third year high school when I qualified as a reporter of our school paper, The Quezonian, a monthly, in 1964. 

The following year, 1965, I topped the exam for editor-in-chief. You can say I have been a journalist for 58 years, since high school.

After high school graduation, in 1966, I topped the Manila citywide exams for the Arsenio H. Lacson Scholarship (named after a great journalist and the greatest mayor of Manila)—free tuition for four years and for the first two years, free books.  I also passed the entrance exams for UP, Ateneo, and La Salle Manila but all three universities had limited scholarships. 

So I ended up at the University Santo Tomas whose College of Arts and Letters offered the best four-year journalism program (nearly all the journalism professors were senior working newsmen).  At UST, in my third year, I was the news editor of The Varsitarian, the monthly university student paper.  As  the news editor, I made The Varsitarian into a weekly.   In my fourth year college, I became the managing editor.  I made the student paper both a weekly and a monthly at the same time. I graduated in 1970, a magna cum laude, major in journalism, and minor in economics and marketing.

In 1970, the late Rod Reyes hired me as a correspondent of The Manila Chronicle which became Newspaper of the Year twice under his editorship.  I was paid on per column-inch basis because I found the fixed monthly salary less than my expectations.  As a per piece correspondent, I could make ten times more than a regular reporter’s salary. I was very productive.

In 1971, I joined The Manila Times as a senior business reporter, under Alfio Locsin, business editor.  

In early 1972, Alfio underwent a kidney transplant.  He had two assistant business editors—Satur Ocampo and Jake Macasaet.  Satur went underground.  Jake got an extended travel grant to the US.

This made me, at age 24, the youngest business editor, although in acting capacity, as well The Times’ Construction and Real Estate editor.  Later, I joined The Times Journal,  becoming at 27, the youngest business editor.

Despite my heavy work load, I managed three semesters of MBA at Ateneo Graduate School, then at Padre Faura in the 1970s. Manila. Later, I finished global journalism at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

I have worked for the largest, oldest and premium news organizations here and abroad, including Asiaweek of Time Warner, Mainichi Shimbun of Japan, ARD and ZRD TV stations of Germany, and the Roces’ Manila Times, Lopez’s Manila Chronicle, and Romualdez’s Times Journal and Manila Standard.

In 2001, after 25 years with Asiaweek, I put up my own magazine, BizNewsAsia.    The weekly is remarkable for its incisive and in-depth reporting on business and the economy and for chronicling the achievements of the country’s leading enterprises and entrepreneurs.

Today, I join The Philippine Star as a columnist.  The stint should cap my career as a journalist of almost six decades.  I have written a column for ten years with The Manila Times under Dante Ang Sr. and another ten years with The Manila Standard under Speaker Martin Romualdez.

Writing for the Star is a dream come true.  In 1986, Betty Go Belmonte and Art Borjal invited me to join the then nascent Star as an investor and a columnist.

 I declined because of my non-compete contract with Asiaweek where the pay was in dollars.

Undaunted, Betty, the doyen of Philippine journalism, told me, “Anytime, you want to write for us, call me.” 

The late Max Soliven tried to buy my magazine BizNewsAsia as part of the Star Group. 

He liked my weekly so much he asked me to put him on the cover –twice, and each time, ordering 10,000 copies.

Before he left for a trip to Japan, Max invited me to join the Star. But he died on Nov. 24, 2006, the eve of my birthday.

Today, I marry my fate with the Star group under the able management of Miguel Belmonte, scion of great and respected journalists.   

Miguel’s dad, Sonny Belmonte, the best mayor of Quezon City, is a self-made man. As a rising from police reporter, he studied law and became a newspaper entrepreneur, savvy business tycoon and LGU executive.

As the Star prepares to relocate to its new headquarters, my starting a column for this great paper is a moving experience, in many ways.

— Philippine Star, Feb. 14, 2023