Before I Forget

Vergel Santos, Manny Mogato, Jose Tence Ruiz: The Manila Times newsroom, Feb. 22-25, 1986

And the rest is history…

2023 is the year the image of the onion looms before our eyes larger than that of the Edsa People Power Revolution, the year this simple ingredient cost as much as P700 a kilo, pricier than meat. The late Noel Cabrera, our managing editor in the Edsa-era Manila Times (to be differentiated from today’s MT) who hated onions, must be laughing, somewhere up there.

But we’re not. Those of us who worked in fear and excitement in the newsroom in 1985 on those four days in February remember every detail we lived and helped to create the moment. More than our hope, it was our commitment. To the generations that come after us, however, the Edsa People Power Revolution, most likely, is a meme.

That night, we were in the newsroom when we learned about Ramos and Enrile calling for a presscon. With our Manila Times reporters Sheila (Coronel) and Malou (Mangahas), we rushed to the camp barricaded by soldiers. To get inside, I remember, we had to be hoisted over the fence by the soldiers. When my turn came right after a much thinner Sheila, I remember, the soldier said, “Mas mabigat ito (This one’s heavier),” referring to my post-natal weight.

Inside, the place seemed to be in a cigarette-smoke-filled haze, at least that’s how I remember it. The atmosphere was sober, but not funereal, as the Marcos’ officials and the rebel soldiers announced their separation from the regime.

Back in the newsroom of The Manila Times that had been newly revived by editor Vergel Santos and publisher Titong Roces, we tried to focus on putting the paper to bed, even amid the buzz that the loyalist soldiers could be at the corner ready to shut down The Manila Times.

In one of the days that followed, what we distinctly remember was Vergel’s anger as he confronted the publisher, before the bewildered staff, about Vergel’s belated discovery that The Manila Times was funded by an official of the Marcos government.

That night in February led to our most memorable summer, a story telling to be deferred for another day.

One thing I learned from February 1985: Democracy is a task of a lifetime. It is not a moment.

Here are priceless recollections from our colleagues—Vergel Santos, executive editor of Edsa-era Manila Times and now Rappler columnist; Manny Mogato, the journalist awarded with the Pulitzer Prize and now columnist; Jose Tence Ruiz, one of the country’s foremost artists. — Thelma Sioson

VERGEL SANTOS:
Journalist, book author

EDSA was to me the most exciting and promising news of my generation, and I somehow felt sanguine about it; I thought it was redemptive and transformative.

I thought it was redemptive and transformative—Vergel Santos

Anyway, once the fight was won, on the fourth day of the rising, I allowed—if you would remember—my less democratic feelings to rise, and argued that our newspaper go for an interim revolutionary regime. We did take that position, in an editorial no less (written by Doro, if memory serves). (Doro is Amando Doronila.)

I’m not so sure, though, that we—I myself—had thought it through enough, let alone knew how it could be pulled off. All I know is I became convinced that, given the extent of damage Marcos had done, it would take some bold, decisive action—by a “revolutionary commission” (my own phrase)—to repair it to the point that democracy could be made to work again, reasonably. I was particularly afraid of the entrenchment of the dynastic club Marcos created, comprising his own cronies and co-opted old elites.

Cory, of course, would have none of it; she was only too anxious to get us back on our democratic footing. And I won’t deny feeling some relief about her option, and argued no further.

At any rate, EDSA would prove no more than a quick burn, and, as they say, the rest is history.

MANNY MOGATO:
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, columnist

Photo from pressone.ph

Banner na sana, kaya lang lumayas na si Marcos

In the morning, tension rose in the old Makati Police Station when police forces loyal to Gen. Fidel Ramos stormed the building, trying to take control of the police headquarters from holdouts who stayed loyal to the mayor and Ferdinand Marcos.

There was a bloodbath. It was the only incident in the four-day popular uprising that toppled the dictator from power, ending two decades of iron-fisted rule.

I was there. I was one of three police reporters of the newly-revived Manila Times—the other two were Abe Cerojano and the legendary Dave Veridiano. Although I was principally assigned at the Western Police District in Manila, I rushed to Makati City after learning of the incident.

When the smoke cleared early afternoon, some police officers who defended the station lay dead and there were dozens who were wounded in the firefight.

“Banner story na ako,” I said to myself. It was the biggest story of the day and it was the first sign of violence in the EDSA popular uprising. Rosaries and flowers prevented bloodshed when Marine tanks rolled down on EDSA but were stopped at the corner of Ortigas Avenue, where the EDSA Shrine now stands.

Vergel Santos and the late Noel Cabrera ran a tight ship of selected journalists from the crony press—Journal, Bulletin and Daily Express—to form the core of the revived Manila Times.

Our newsroom was in a room on the second level of what appeared to be a bodega at the back of the Roces-Davila family-run Pinoy Komiks empire. There were only a few typewriters. A few tables and you can almost smell the newsprint from the printing presses.
But it was the best team assembled. Malou Mangahas covered Cory Aquino, Sheila Coronel monitored the foreign affairs department and the late Bert Castro was inside Malacanang during the four-day drama.

The late Danny Florida broke the news when then-Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then-Vice Chief of Staff Ramos announced their breakaway from Marcos at Camp Aguinaldo.

Danny stayed the whole time in both camps. He moved to Camp Crame when Ramos went back to his headquarters a day after the historic press conference that shook the world.
The news also jolted the Manila Times newsroom. Our resident political analyst, Amando Doronila, was so terrified to learn about the mutiny. Doro, as he was fondly called in the newsroom, had just returned to Manila after years of exile in Melbourne, Australia.
Fearing a Marcos crackdown, he did not want to return to jail—the dictator threw dozens of journalists in military detention after he imposed Martial Law in September 1972.
Doro wanted to return to Australia but the editors—Santos, Cabrera—and other people in the newsroom—Rollie Fernandez, Fort Yerro, Thelma San Juan, Pete Daroy, Berry Marfori, Lily Lim and Lorna Kalaw-Tirol calmed him down.

The newsroom became an instant dormitory for reporters during the next four days. Walang uwian. We slept on tables and on the floor, and helped ourselves to unlimited coffee when Dave brought in his coffee maker.

Saklap. Banner na naging bato pa—Manny Mogato

We can feel the tense atmosphere but we all remained in high spirits, with lots of jokes, beer and coffee in the company of artists led by “Bogie” Ruiz (Jose Tence Ruiz) and the late Nonoy Marcelo. The photographers—Pete Reyes, Dante Peralta, Rudy Sakdalan, and Philip Duquiatan—never got tired even if they had to return from coverage to print their pictures in the dark room.

Bert and Danny never went home. Doro disappeared but came back in the newsroom, Abe, Dave and I roamed Metro Manila streets in search of drama.

That came on the fourth day in Makati City along J. P. Rizal Street when a firefight erupted.
The editors were excited. Nilatag na ang page one (page one had been laid out), and the Makati incident was the banner story. Aba may byline pa ako (I have a byline) for the first time. Police stories were always in the inside pages with no bylines.
But everything changed by 9 p.m. when news filtered out that Marcos and his family had fled Malacanang, whisked by US helicopters to Clark Air Base, still an American base at that time.

Bakbak ang headline (The headline was ripped off and changed). “Marcos Flees” ang pinalit. My police story was cut short and placed in the back page. Wala nang byline (no byline) and trimmed down to several lines. Saklap. Banner na naging bato pa.

JOSE TENCE RUIZ:
Multi-awarded artist

Edsa People Power Revolution

Jose Tence Ruiz at his ForceManeure exhibit

Vignettes from the days that made EDSA1
From the Bodega Newsroon, The Newly Revived
Manila Times,
Issued Feb 1 1986
After having shut down 14 years

Edsa People Power Revolution

Manila Times issue of Feb. 26, 1986 (From FB Jose Tence Ruiz)

The Call. Afternoon, Feb 22.

Someone in the news desk shouts for all to hear: “Bumaligtad si Enrile.”
More exclamation: “Pahuhuli na sila ni Marcos, nagtago daw sa DND
Office niya sa Camp Aguinaldo”.

This is somewhere late to mid-afternoon, after 3 or 3:30 p.m., and the newsroom is suddenly just frozen like a bad video frame, for a few seconds, then more of us gather around the news desk where a transistor radio is still relaying, in its staccato OA Radyo Patrol style, unfolding events. This, of course, after Marcos had been manipulatively proclaimed by the Batasan Rubber Stamp Pambansa. In spite of all evidence to the contrary. I had no particular illustration to do at that very moment so I shuffled over nearer to where the radio, and I think a small portable TV were updating us on this bizarrely welcome turn of events.

“Si Cory? Si Cory kaya?” Someone replies: “Mukhang tinago ng mga madre sa Cebu, o nakatago sa isang Kumbento. Parang safe naman siya dun”.

Hushed sigh of relief, heard all across the bodega. Heheheheh. Ok back to the drama at Camp Aguinaldo.

Later, maybe five-ish, Jaime Cardinal Sin sets EDSA 1 in motion. Across the radio, before Marcos military can go over to Fairview and demolish all the Radio Veritas transmission equipment, he manages THE pastoral call: “To all the faithful, to all devout Catholics, to all our brethren, please go out, go to Camp Aguinaldo and protect these brave men, Sec. Enrile and General Ramos”. (This could be a paraphrase from my biased recollection, but this is how I recall Sin entreated Catholics to move, and EDSA 1 began, first in trickles, in the thousands, then in a few hours, in a flood of faith, a million, later more,  preventing any street assault from making it to Camp Aguinaldo, EDSA after Santolan, Santolan up to Katipunan, the Gate at 15th avenue in Murphy, Cubao.)

EDSA had officially begun. As we were about to find out in 96 more hours.

Sarado Na! Evening, 9pm-ish. Feb 22, 1986

Everybody, tense, excited, scared, a bit confused, contemplating military detention in the back of their heads, still managed, professionally, to carry on, get the Feb 23 issue of the revived Manila Times offstone and printed. Para bang Zombies na glamorous, may ibang iniisip, pero tuloy ang kayod Dyaryo. But this was Philippine History unfolding in the shaky continuum of daily news work, we HAD to get this issue out. This Issue, bahala kung may susunod pa, as events were coming at us like silicone goblins a high speed Horror Booth Train.

Edsa People Power Revolution

Benjie Felipe three decades after 1986 People Power Revolution (Contributed photo)

On or at around 9 p.m., Benjie Felipe, destined in the ‘90s to be a TV gossip show anchor, pushes the entrance to the office ajar, proclaimed, like a taho vendor : “Sarado na ang Inquirer. Sarado na sila.”

The room freezes for half a second.

After that half second, without any signal, but all at the same time, grudging desk mates Me, Cesar “Sarsi” Barrioquinto and genial Sports editor Ernie Gonzales all suddenly just stop to arrange whatever few things we have on our disputed common table and seem, without any noise, to prepare to find the nearest fire exit and bolt out of the bodega, away from possible detention in Bicutan (or so we instantly imagined).

Vergel saves the day. He shouts back at a quasi hysterical (lagi naman) Benjie:

“Ano ba yan. Anong sarado. Nilusob ba ng militar?
Pinadlock ba?”

Benjie flashed an embarrased smile, realizing what his overenthusiasm had done.

Ay, hindiii Boss, hindi. Sarado: Offstone na sila, Naunahan na tayo.”
Yun lang, hindi po ni raid.

A babel of expletives rains on the copy boy.

We get back to work, me and Sarsi looking like embarrassed teenagers caught trying to grope a sexy lady’s breasts. Ernie was a master of “dedma,” but I knew he was relieved as well. Heheheheh. Sarado. Loko ka talaga Felipe. We eventually put our Feb. 23 issue to bed, not knowing that our print run would skyrocket from 45k to more that 145k in a day. The Manila Times was back, not how we expected, but it was back.

Read more:

So is People Power dead? Check your phone


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