We salute The FREEMAN celebrating 100 years!

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila - The Freeman

Our heartfelt congratulations to the men and women behind the operation of Cebu’s fair and fearless newspaper, The FREEMAN, that celebrates its 100th year. I’ve been writing in The FREEMAN since Editor Juanito Jabat knew that I started working for The Philippine STAR publisher Maximo V. Soliven and he loved that I became a columnist in The FREEMAN as my practice newspaper before he (with Betty Go Belmonte) allowed me to write for The Philippine STAR, which I still do today. The rest, as people say, is history!

While I write for The FREEMAN, my first entry into Cebu journalism was during the wake of my father when the late Marcelo “Noy Celing” Fernan was still practicing law in Cebu and trying to form the Cebu Newspaper Workers Foundation (CENEWOF). He said my mother should be CENEWOF director. This was because the Avila Family once had a newspaper, The Cebu Advertiser, run by my grandfather Don Jose Avila. Somehow my mother asked me to join CENEWOF even if I wasn’t even a columnist yet.

Perhaps she had a premonition, but I ended up a very serious journalist writing for The FREEMAN and eventually for The Philippine STAR and hosting Cebu’s longest-running TV talkshow, and now I manage MyTV Channel 30 in SkyCable. But I must admit that I cannot contribute much about Cebu’s newspaper history, hence I went to Google and this is what I got:

“Cebuano literature, as much as most literature of the Philippines, started with fables and legends of the early people in the Philippines and colonial period, right down to the Mexican (Viceroyalty of New Spain) and Spanish influences. Although existence of a pre-Hispanic writing system in Luzon is attested, there is proof that baybayin was widespread in the Visayas. Most of the literature produced during that period was oral. They were documented by the Spanish Jesuit Fr. Ignatio Francisco Alzinal. During the Spanish colonial period, the religious theme was predominant. Novenas and gozos, most notably the Bato Balani for the Santo Niño.

“The first written Cebuano literature is Maming, by Vicente Sotto, The Father of Cebuano Literature. The story was published in the first issue (July 16, 1900) of his Ang Suga. Two years later Sotto wrote, directed, and produced the first Cebuano play, Elena. It was first performed at the Teatro Junquera (in what is now the Oriente Theater owned by the Avila Family) on May 18, 1902. The play established Sotto's reputation as a writer. Vicente Sotto attacked the decadent forms of linambay in his newspaper Ang Suga. He was challenged by a friend to write his own play as he was always attacking the linambay form.

“Sotto wrote the Cebuano "Ang Paghigugma sa Yutang Nataohan" (Love of the Native Land) as a response. The play was successful; Sotto organized the Compania de Aficionados Filipinos. Within the year, two more plays were written by Sotto: "Elena", which deals of a girl's love for an insurrecto; and "Aurora", which deals with a scandal involving the priests and nuns of the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion. Realism in Cebuano theater was stretched too much however; even Sotto himself was a victim of the movement he started, when prior to his running for mayor in 1907, a play entitled "Ang Taban" (1906, by Teodulfo V. Ylaya) was released. The play dealt with a kidnap allegation involving Sotto.

“During the American period, Ang Suga became the medium for publication of Cebuano writers. A community of writers slowly grow, to include the names of Florentino Rallos, Filomeno Veloso, Marcial Velez, Timoteo Castro, Segundo Cinco, Vicente Ranudo, Dionisio Jakosalem, Selestino Rodríguez, Filomeno Roble, Juan Villagonzalo, Leoncio Avila and Filemon Sotto. (Most of these people were recognized for their achievements by the generation right after them, as evidenced by the use of their names for major streets in Cebu City, but their role in the furtherance of Cebuano culture is lost to subsequent generations.) Juan Villagonzalo was the first to write a Cebuano novel.”

Actually, there’s a lot more you can find in Google about Cebuano newspapers. But I had to find information that I would use for today. So, once again, kudos to the men and women of The FREEMAN and most especially to Sir Jose “Dodong” Gullas, Sir Eddie Gullas, and to Miguel Belmonte, and above all, all of our readers. Thank you! Salamat kaayo sa pagtuo sa The FREEMAN!

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