Feature: Colorful history of Chinese newspapers in Philippines

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The history of the Chinese-language newspapers in the Philippines is invariably linked to Philippine- China relations and even to major events in Philippine history.

For example, the World News, currently the largest Chinese language broadsheet in the Philippines, was founded in l981 immediately after the lifting of martial law in the country.

The World News was founded by Florencio Tan Mallare, a Chinese lawyer who used to work as a reporter of the old Chinese Commercial News.

According to published accounts, Mallare established the World News six years after the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China in l975 in order to provide alternative news to then largely pro-Kuomintang Chinese-language press.

From its founding up to today, the World News is the favorite newspaper of pro-China organizations in the Philippines, such as the Filipino Chinese Amity Club under the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FFCCCI).

But in terms of its contribution to contemporary Philippine history, the old Chinese Commercial News had played a more vital role.

The Commercial News, formerly the Chinese Commercial News, was founded in October 1919 as the Huachiao Commercial News, a monthly newsletter for the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce then headed by Dee Cheng Chuan, with Yu Yi Tung as the newspaper's first editor.

According to published accounts, the newspaper was founded because in the aftermath of World War One, the Philippines, then a colony of the United States, experienced rapid economic growth, which called for the need of a newspaper on the country's latest business developments for the large Chinese-Filipino business community.

In February 1922, the Chinese Commercial News became a daily newspaper and ownership of the newspaper was transferred to the newly established Chinese Commercial News Publishing Company founded by Go Ki Hoc.

Its initial print run consisted of two pages and a circulation of one thousand copies, with foreign and local news translated from local English newspapers. In 1927, the Chinese Commercial News became the first Chinese newspaper to print a pictorial, and it began printing a weekly magazine in 1933.

During the Japanese occupation, the Chinese Commercial News was shut down after the owners refused to allow the paper to be used as a propaganda organ of the Japanese. Its editor, Yu Yi Tung, was executed by the Japanese.

The newspaper restarted publication on April 15, 1945, despite the lack of resources, by Yu Yi Tung's children, mainly the brothers Quintin Yuyitung and Rizal Yuyitung.  

On Sept. 21, l972, when the former president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, all publications, including the Chinese Commercial News, were closed down.

It restarted publishing after the People Power Revolution on June 12, 1986, the only pre-martial law Chinese-language newspaper to do so.

In the 1960s, the Chinese Commercial News advocated for the assimilation of Chinese Filipinos into the wider Filipino community and Philippine recognition of the People's Republic of China.

Another Chinese newspaper which is intertwined with Philippine history was the Fookien Times, which was founded by Go Puan Seng in l927. It was the biggest Filipino-Chinese newspaper in the Philippines in the l930s.

It was the first newspaper that engaged in adversarial journalism at that time. It exposed government anomalies and corruption which led to the filing of several libel suits against Go.

With imposition of martial law in l972, the Fookien Times, along with other publications, was shut down. Go Puan Seng went on a self-imposed exile to Canada and never revived the Fookien Times.

But his eldest daughter, the late Betty Go-Belmonte, who was educated abroad, founded what is now the Philippine Daily Star, one of the three most influential newspapers in the Philippines today. Her husband is Speaker Feliciano Belmonte of the House of Representatives.

The Fookien Times still publishes its yearbook once a year but more as advertising folio rather than a newsmagazine.  

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