Today we remember
Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — One hundred years ago today, The Freeman was founded by Atty. Paulino Gullas. It joined the number of local publications at the time. Quite a bold entry, for other papers had already established themselves way ahead.

The players in that first wave of Cebuano journalism soon faded, one by one. Some would say that the Second World War was the final blow, as many of those early local publications were already gone even before the war had started. Others would insist that the demise of those pioneers was forthcoming from the very beginning because of bleak commercial prospects.

As it turned out, The Freeman was not gone – but only went into a period of rest. Atty. Gullas got busy in Manila helping frame the first Philippine Constitution, in the early 1930s. He probably planned to continue with his journalistic endeavor in Cebu afterwards.  But war came: Atty. Gullas went missing and was never seen again.

When the Second World War ended, journalistic passion resurfaced in Cebu. There were already a number of new publications around when, in 1965, Atty. Gullas’ young nephew, Jose “Dodong” Gullas, dared to take on the formidable task of bringing The Freeman back. Formidable because money was scarce to begin with, and the commercial viability of the venture was uncertain.

And yet a difficult start was not the worst that the revived The Freeman had to face. For a very long time, commercial viability remained a challenge for the paper.

During the dark days of Martial Law, the paper had to uphold its journalistic integrity amid pressure from the powers-that-be. Dodong Gullas and Juanito Jabat risked going to jail than waver in their “fair and fearless” stance; they were ready to face whatever the consequences. And those were such perilous times, indeed – imprisonment was the least that could happen.

The Freeman’s revival came about during what may be considered as the second wave of Cebuano journalism. Again, the local newspapers from that time were soon all gone – except The Freeman, although the paper had yet new hurdles to face.

At one point, key personnel of The Freeman left the paper – in the fashion of a “mass defection.” They were offered a better deal elsewhere; a new daily enticed them with more, much more. Amazingly, despite only a skeletal force remaining, The Freeman still came out regularly, not skipping even one issue.

This newspaper may not be the best, or the strongest, or the most appreciated, or the most influential. Being any of those – or all of those – may be its continuing goal, but without being so consumed by the idea. The Freeman just takes it a day’s issue at a time, always committed to its avowed purpose of “fair and fearless” reporting.

There’s no doubt about it – this newspaper has stood the test of time. It’s come a very long way. Those storied 100 years are as much a reason for celebration as for renewing its commitment.

Today we remember The Freeman’s past, and feel proud to be part of its present. Today we also embrace the challenge of the future. We know that The Freeman is a work in progress, always, and the journey shall continue.

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