La Solidaridad and La Independencia
First issues of periodicals, those that indicate “Vol. 1 No. 1,” are coveted by a particular kind of collector, such as a certain Braulio Francisco, whose harvest of now rare Philippine periodicals is preserved in the Lopez Museum and Library.
As an undergrad student, I went through all of these yellowed newspapers, fascinated by their age and the fact that they survived time, revolutions, wars, humidity, silverfish and vermin of the two-legged kind. From the text on these brittle pages, one could get a sense of the world these newspapers were published in. It was a delight to make out the different typefaces and font sizes, though I did not dare take a whiff of the scent of paper and printer’s ink, because I am allergic to book dust.
La Solidaridad, for example, is a newspaper we all learn about in school. It is larger than life, a crusading reformist paper whose pages carried the articles of Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Antonio Luna and many more forgotten by history.
La Solidaridad is physically small by the standards of our broadsheets and tabloids today. Imagine a piece of legal-size bond paper folded in half to make four pages, carrying two columns of text per page. Aside from its now iconic masthead, there is not much to attract us visually, although the historian Vic Torres found in the University of Santo Tomas what is probably the only issue with a drawing of a Japanese man on the cover. In an archive in the Czech Republic is yet another rare issue of La Solidaridad with a photo of Rizal’s best friend Ferdinand Blumentritt.
La Solidaridad did not engage me as much as the short-lived revolutionary paper La Independencia, which ran for a year, from Sept. 3, 1898 to Sept. 30, 1899. It was printed on one big sheet of newsprint, folded in the center to make four pages. I was interested in this because its editor in chief (“director” in Spanish) was Antonio Luna.
The Lopez Museum has two special issues that have a portrait of Rizal in one and the Philippine flag in another. When I first went over these newspapers, I was attracted to the back page advertisements, particularly one that had a pair of dentures (postiso) giving the address of Bonifacio Arevalo’s dental clinic.
It is said that Antonio Luna, who had worked on La Solidaridad when he was in Spain, wanted a new and more radical paper. He proposed one called La Patria, but was refused by the US provost, thus giving birth to La Independencia. Luna had to publish the paper secretly, so, to avoid raids on their editorial office and printing press, the masthead indicated its place of publication as the Orphanage (Asilo de Huerfanos) in Tambobong (now Malabon). But the first issues were composed, set and printed in Manila, under the nose of the enemy.
The newspaper was printed wherever Luna and the staff were; at one point, it was supposed to have been printed aboard a railroad train when the Filipino forces were retreating to Northern Luzon. Its last issue was printed in Camiling, Tarlac.
La Independencia was run by young people. Its editorial staff were Gen. Antonio Luna (pseudonym, Taga-ilog) as director; chief editor Salvador Vivencio del Rosario (X and Juan Tagalo), and seven editors, namely: Jose G. Abreu (Kaibigan), Rafael Palma (Hapon or Dapit Hapon), Fernando Ma. Guerrero (Fulvio Gil), Clemente J. Zulueta (M. Kaun), Cecilio Apostol (Catulo), Mariano V. del Rosario (Tito-Tato) and Epifanio de los Santos (C. Solon).
These editors alternated putting out issues whose proofs were read by Felipe G. Calderon, one of the framers of the Malolos Constitution. This was not an all boys’ club; in a rare photo of the editorial staff, you will spot two women: Rosa R. Sevilla and Florentina Arellano.
La Independencia was so independent that it caught the ire of some delegates to the Malolos Congress, who were pricked by some very sharp commentary by Apolinario Mabini. Mabini hid under the rather obvious pen names “Paralitico” when he published in Spanish, and “Lumpo” when he published in Tagalog. It came to a point where Aguinaldo was pressured to either censure or close La Independencia, and leave the propaganda work to the lackluster La Republica Filipina, edited by Luna’s pet peeve Pedro Paterno.
While newspapers are now going digital, it is essential to look back to understand the ways of news and fake news today.
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