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Birthing a newspaper

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AN IMPOSSIBLE dream. For the longest time, just about every newspaper in Pampanga had its thoughts fixed on a daily frequency as soon as it got birthed.  Only, to grow and live a weekly existence – many even dying before getting to their volume 2.

Even in these dot.com times, still impacted in the very core of Central Luzon’s oldest newspaper – founded in 1954 – is that dreamed-of masthead, The Daily Voice. Notwithstanding the nearing extinction of the print media. There’s just no substitute to the smell of pulp, especially on a daily whiff.  

But dreams come true. Not, unfortunately, for Pampanga’s “best in reading, no kidding” “most cherished newsweekly.”

Sometime in mid-1995, media maven Jose “Joe” Pavia called his PNA (Philippine News Agency) bright boys to a meeting at the Shanghai Restaurant in Angeles City. Over a sumptuous lunch, Joe adumbrated the plan for a daily newspaper that will serve, primarily, as a platform for the Clark Special Economic Zone as well as the recovery of Pampanga from the then-still extant Mount Pinatubo devastations. SunStar-Clark, it will be called.    

While owned by the Sun-Star Cebu of the Garcias, SunStar Clark will be independent of it with Joe himself as publisher-executive editor, thereafter promptly assigning Bong Lacson as editor-in-chief, Fred Roxas as news editor, and Peping Raymundo as managing editor, giving us the freehand to recruit the editorial staff – from section editors, to reporters, correspondents, and photographers. 

Fred cited possible conflict with his position as PNA-Pampanga bureau manager but could help from the sidelines. Lacson begged off being the senior consultant to Gov. Lito Lapid, unwilling to risk the paper being identified with the then new governor. 

Asked who could be EIC, Lacson recommended Ody Fabian, then acting publisher of The Voice. Roused from his siesta, Ody managed to join the group for coffee. 

Joe asked if Lacson could be at least named associate editor and serve as opinion editor, to which the latter acceded. 

Among the first to go onboard SunStar-Clark were news reporters Joey Pavia, IC Calaguas, and Ashley Manabat; photographer Ricarte “Boy” Sagad; columnists Sonny Lopez and Cora Taus. Lacson’s column Golpe de Sulat in Mabuhay, Joe’s Bulacan-based weekly, was also moved to SS-C.   

Dry-runs thereafter ensued – first weekly, then three times weekly, until all weekdays. The editorial offices moving from the office of Sonny’s Sunny Vision company at the Marlim Mansion to Ody’s rented house at Sta. Maria Subd., both in Barangay Balibago, until settling at Plaza Romana in Dau, Mabalacat. 

The maiden issue was officially launched with former DOTC Secretary Jesus Garcia Jr. and Gov. Lapid as guests of honor in November 1995. 

Joe Pavia has left a lasting impression not only on the staff that worked under him at SS-C, but on every journalist that came under his tutelage. No anniversary of the papers he founded or served would be complete without some memorials for him. 

Joe was the most respected long-time general manager of the PNA and no-nonsense editor of a number of publications from the pre- to the post-martial law eras, as well as chair of the Philippines Press Institute.

To say that Joe Pavia was a pillar of Philippine journalism is an understatement.

The mantra every journalist fortunate enough to have been mentored by Joe is “Accuracy. Accuracy. Accuracy.” Be it in a news story or in a headline.

No, he would never settle for simple fact-checking. It had to be checked, rechecked, cross-referenced with all possible sources for a final check. And then, after each news story: “Ang follow-up?”

Still, to Joe: No story is worth dying for. The well-being of the journalist of utmost precedence. 

And then, Joe had this never-the-twain-shall-meet rule with news vis-à-vis opinion writing. At SS-C, he expressly enjoined me to lay off news stories as I was already writing a column and the editorials. Precisely, as news is bound by facts, and columns/editorials stand on opinions.

Food for thought: What would Joe say about SunStar-Pampanga today? 

(P.S. Reconstructed from ageing memory, the writer apologizes for whatever lapses in this story solicited for the paper’s 27th anniversary under the headline SunStar-Pampanga: The Origin.) 

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