29 years
of
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MUNTING NAYON
News Magazine
Operated by couple Eddie Flores and Orquidia Valenzuela
News and Views of the
Filipino Community Worldwide
Our “Times Journal” days



By Willie Jose
September 15, 2017

 
 


I will always treasure the unforgettable memories I’ve made while working many years ago at the Philippine Journalist Inc. (PJI), whose flagship paper was the defunct Times Journal newspaper.

These days, every time I look at my gold ring, a token of the loyalty award given to me in 1989 by the PJI, fragments of nostalgic memory keep coming back to life.

One recent morning while I was at sipping coffee at Tim’s Horton coffee shop in Toronto, out of a clear blue sky, I started reflecting on how I had spent the best years of my life working at PJI.

Working in a newspaper during those early years of martial law in the 70s was not really so fearsome; all the paper had to do was publish positive stories about the country and follow Malacanang’s directives.

Actually, I rose through the ranks, I had started as a proofreader, a reporter, and a copy editor—and that was why I made so many friends there working in various departments: production, editorial, accounting, motor pool, and circulation.

I remember that when our office was still at the old Chronicle building in Pasig in the late 70s, life was easy, and all of us were busy making a living and raising our young families—and we were not so overly concerned about the political situation at that time. In 1977, we moved to Port Area in Manila and aside from the Times Journal and the Women’s magazine, the PJI had started publishing several supplements like the Campus Journal, Architectural Journal, and People.

Actually, we didn’t feel any pressures from doing our respective work; when we had our break time —snacks, lunch, and dinner at the canteen--it was always a time for bonding. The management was not strict; work was light and we could even loiter around, going from one office to another to have a little chat with co-employees.

Although we worked in different departments, we knew each other well because we considered ourselves belonging to one little family. While some of us were busily raising our families, the others were moving heaven and earth, courting their life’s partners—it was a real time then for bonding and forming lasting friendships

I remember with fondness the early days of the newspapers’ operation when the employees were very well taken care of by the paper’s big boss, Gov. Benjamin "Kokoy" Romualdez, the brother in-law-of former President Marcos.  Our salaries were relatively good, plus we had our Christmas and anniversary bonuses; we could easily get company loans for our children’s tuition, payable through salary’s deductions. We simply did our work well, without worrying so much about living under martial law-- right in the office, we never talked about martial law.

However, we knew how the paper managed to operate during the initial years of martial law with the ubiquitous presence of censors who actually did the checking of the paper’s content before its publication. The editors themselves had to exercise self-censorship, knowing full well what they could possibly publish under their care. 

Eventually, these military censors were nowhere in sight because the editors became more adaptable; the unwritten rule at that time was that the paper could publish anything under the sun except negative stories about President Marcos and the First Family.

Since there were not enough political stories to publish, this situation gave rise to the birth of the “ People’s Journal”, a tabloid which was sold at 15 Cents a copy. These tabloids were selling like hotcakes—and with some eye-catching headlines about “ Don Pepe” “Ben Tumbling”, publishing these crime stories was more acceptable and safer than writing about politics.

Despite some failed attempts we had before to organize a union, with the advent of the EDSA Revolution, we then closed ranks once again to form a union and that was the time when the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) took over the PJI’s management—and the rest was history.

With today’s technology, it’s much easier to get in touch with my colleagues and friends at the PJI. From time to time, I would have a chance reading their posts on Facebook, exchanging notes about their whereabouts, where and when they would celebrate their wedding anniversaries or scheduling some informal get-togethers for some Balikbayan friends.

Though most of them have already retired what’s important is despite our physical distance, we’ve stayed connected; we are very much concern about each other’s welfare.

When I look at their photos posted on Facebook, they are good reminders that we’re not over the hill yet —the smiles are still there—but the physical changes tell them all, ”we are not getting any younger!

A few years ago, when I visited the Philippines, I had to go all the way to Tarlac to meet my good friend, Joven Custodio; I’m happy that he’s now actively making use of   Facebook to share his wisdom with his friends. Last February, I met Robert Roxas and Romel Saniel, both, photographers and Ed Rivera from the purchasing dept. Even here in Toronto, I had met Evelyn Maniquiz and “Balut” and her husband. How I wish I could see all my PJI friends.

Occasionally, I get a chance to see some friends’ names on Facebook and I’m so glad to know that a number of them have migrated to Canada, US, and Australia. Some of them have become editors, freelance writers, and PRs of politicians.

Of course, we had some disagreements with the management especially when we were trying to form a union but still we owed a lot to “Puti” our big boss, Gov. Benjamin Romualdez; it was at PJI where we had started to make a living, to raise our young families and to hone our skills as journalists.

And most important of all, it was at the PJI where we made long-lasting friendship with our co-workers.

We’ve gone a long way, folks!

Let’s have a reunion next year!

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