A NEW world was opening for the Philippine islands when the Manila Daily Bulletin began publishing on February 2, 1900 – 120 years ago today.
For some 350 years, the people of our many islands knew about the world mostly through Spain and, with the galleon trade, Mexico. Now, at the start of a new century, there was a new country – the United States (US) – whose navy had just defeated the Spanish navy in Manila Bay.
The Bulletin was one of several newspapers set up in 1899 and 1900, many by Americans who brought the tradition of press freedom. Their political leaders introduced their democratic system of government and their educators set up a public school system, with young teachers who came to be known as the “Thomasites” – after the ship that brought them here.
After its relative isolation for centuries, our country soon found itself involved in world affairs – World War II and the Japanese occupation, the subsequent peace and the founding of the United Nations, wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Through all these years – except for the three years when Japanese occupation forces banned the established publications and the first two months of President Marcos’ martial law in 1972 – the Bulletin was part of the life of the country.
The Bulletin has always been known for its interest in foreign news, possibly because its founders and its earliest editors were Americans, starting with Carson Taylor, a school teacher from Illinois, and H. G. Farris, its first editor. It maintained this interest in the world along with national developments as it passed on to its Filipino owners, Gen. Hans M. Menzi in 1957, then Dr. Emilio T. Yap in 1984.
Today, we find world news again dominating the news. There is a coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, now spreading to many countries. For a while we feared a new world war in the Middle East when the US killed Iran’s top general. Climate change is melting the polar glaciers, raising ocean levels that will sink low-lying islands, possibly including some of our own. The same climate change is sending more and more powerful typhoons in our direction.
Our own overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are very much part of the world news; their stories, such as the recent death of a Filipina in Kuwait, land on our front pages. With five million Filipinos now living and working in the US, most of its political developments affect us in the Philippines. Pope Francis has just named a Filipino – Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle – to be one of the Vatican’s top officials.
All these are foreign news – but they are of supreme interest to Filipinos and are therefore duly reported in the Manila Bulletin. Our principal concern as a national newspaper is, of course, with national developments, especially the decisions and actions of our government. But we have always held a world view, dating to our earliest years as a newspaper.
We look back to all these developments as we celebrate the Manila Bulletin’s 120th anniversary today. It has been a rich and colorful past and we look forward to an even richer and more significant future in the service of our readers and of our nation.