Newspapers of the Revolution

“La Solidaridad”, that valiant fortnightly of the Propaganda Movement bid its readers farewell on 15 November 1895. Its maiden issue was dated 15 February 1889, and against all odds, it survived for almost 7 years. Graciano Lopez Jaena was its first editor, then Plaridel (Marcelo del Pilar) took over. It had distinguished contributors like the indefatigable Tikbalang and Kalipulako (Mariano Ponce), Antonio Regidor, Jomapa ( José Panganiban), Eduardo Lete, Isabelo de los Reyes and Ferdinand Blumentritt.  It survived the resignation of   two inveterate writers, Taga-Ilog (Antonio Luna), Dimasalang and Laong Laan (Jose Rizal) who had gone back to the Philippines. The latter was banished to Dapitan in 1892, after setting up La Liga Filipina, the seed of a civil society. Plaridel must have been devastated by the evanescence of the “periodiquito” when funds from Manila dried up; its last editorial vowed to continue the quest for the “rights and freedom of an oppressed nation living in bad times of slavery.”

The Katipunan, a secret revolutionary society led by Andres Bonifacio (he was a member of Rizal’s La Liga Filipina) soon felt the need for publishing a newspaper to disseminate its objectives and attract many more members to   the cause. But how could they set up a printing press? The Katipunan was always short of funds.  Moreover, the Comisión de Censura enforced merciless censorship laws that imprisoned, deported and banished those who dared write against Church and State.

Fortunately, two intrepid Filipinos who had worked as pearl divers in Australia gladly and patriotically contributed a thousand pesos each so the Katipunan could purchase a small printing press sold at the Bazar El Cisne on Carriedo Street in Santa Cruz, Manila. The press cost 400 pesos, there was enough money to buy letter molds and types, especially vowels which Tagalog uses a lot, and consonants like k, h, w and y. Four Katipuneros working for the “Diario de Manila”in Intramuros fastened themselves to the task of supplying “Kalayaan” with purloined letter molds. The printing press was secretly set up in Bonifacio’s house on Zurbaran Street. Later, when Dr. Pio Valenzuela agreed to supervise and edit “Kalayaan”, the press was moved to his house on Lavezares street in San Nicolas. To mislead the Comisión de Censura, Valenzuela placed Marcelo del Pilar’s name as editor and Yokohama, Japón as its origin. The first issue, dated 18 January 1896, had 8 pages. Unfortunately, when the Katipunan was betrayed by Teodoro Patiño– ironically enough, a worker of “Diario de Manila” — the Katipuneros had to destroy the printing press before they went underground.

Meanwhile, in the Visayas, “El Heraldo de Iloilo “began in 1897, replete with news received by telegraphic cable. Historian Epifanio de los Santos (EDSA!)  listed at least 19 revolutionary newspapers and periodicals, not only in Manila, but also in Bulacan, Batangas, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Cebu and Bohol. Together with Clemente Jose Zulueta, E. de los Santos himself published “La Libertad”in June 1898, a week after the Declaration of Independence in Kawit, Kavite. When the revolutionaries took over an orphanage in Malabon, run by the Augustinian Order, they found a printing press and immediately put it  in the service of the First Republic. Strangely enough, Pres. Aguinaldo censored “La Libertad”, fearing that the boldness of its young writers would unnecessarily cause agita.

Many other newspapers circulated in 1898-1899: “La Revolución” of Jaro, Iloilo; “Columnas Volantes” of Lipa, Batangas was published by the Club Democrático Independiente, young professionals fascinated with politics and military affairs.  Bohol had its “La Oportunidad” based in Tagbilaran.  On 15 September 1898, “La República Filipina” saw print, its first editor was Pedro Paterno, then Leon Ma. Guerrero, both members of Aguinaldo’s cabinet. It promoted republicanism, democracy, the rule of law, liberty and dignity. “The Filipino people is a society not of serfs, or subjects, or ignoramuses, but of free citizens, of persons who know their rights such as God created them.” This newspaper must have closed down when the Philippine-American War broke out.

Special mention should be made of “El Heraldo de la Revolución”, the official gazette of the Revolutionary Government, by virtue of a decree signed by Pres. Aguinaldo.  A bi-weekly in Spanish and Tagalog, it aimed to spread the ideals of freedom and patriotism espoused by the Philippine Revolution. It changed its name three times before the inauguration of the First Republic— “Heraldo Filipino”, “Índice Official” and “Gaceta de Filipinas.” It folded up after General F. Funston captured President Aguinaldo in Palanan, in 1901.  Meanwhile, “La Independencia” outlived the savage assassination of its founder, General Antonio Luna. Our progenitors were definitely fighting for independence with both pen and sword.

(Source: Torres, José Victor Z. Balita, the story of Philippine Journalism, 1811-2019. Vibal Group, Inc. Quezon City, 2021)