Brief History of Negros Press Club

"Founded by six newspapermen in Bacolod City sometime in 1936, the NEGROS PRESS CLUB is without doubt, the oldest existing press association in the Philippines today. The founding members were Bartolome (Bart) Medel, Rosendo Balinas and Manuel Jayme, all of the Negros Times, then published by Dr. Nestor Gustilo, a prominent medical practitioner in Manila; Rodolfo Vargas Garbanzos, Sr. editor and publisher of the “Balhas” Magazine published monthly in English and Hiligaynon; Ariston M. Echevarria of La Linterna, published by the late Esteban Vasquez and Jose S. Aguirre of Civismo, published by the late Aurelio Locsin, Sr. During the organizational meeting held at the University Club, Bart Medel was elected president; Rodolfo Garbanzos, Sr., vice president; Rosendo Balinas, secretary; and Manuel Jayme, treasurer.

During the latter part of Bart Medel’s term, a certain William Valentine, manager of the Manila Trading & Supply Company in Bacolod City and himself a newspaperman in America, became an honorary member of the NEGROS PRESS CLUB.

In one of its meetings, he mentioned that in America, people had a rather vague idea where the Philippines is. They thought it was somewhere in the Indian Ocean and Negros Occidental was in Western Africa inhabited by Negroes. He showed a copy of an American Magazine wherein an obituary appeared. It read: “Reverend W.O. Valentine died in Bacolod, Negros Occidental where he was a pastor among the Negroes there.”

Shall we change the NEGROSS PRESS CLUB to one which would make the club sound more like a club of Negros printers than association of Negrense newspapermen?

The majority decision then was for a change. Since then, until the Japanese landed in Bacolod City in early 1942, the NEGROS PRESS CLUB became known as the News-papermen’s Association of Negros. Despite its limited membership, the association was very active. One of its ambitious projects, which had the endorsement and support of the late Governor Valeriano M. Gatuslao of Negros Occidental, as well as the families of the late General Juan A. Araneta and Aniceto Lacson, was the erection of the Araneta-Lacson monument to perpetuate and remember for posterity the heroic deeds of two illustrious sons of Negros which culminated in the surrender of the Spanish forces in Bacolod on November 6, 1898.

Financial pledges, sufficient for the monument’s construction, were forthcoming when the last World War broke out. The monument, in bronze and marble, was to have stood in front of the Negros Occidental provincial capitol facing General Lacson Street, Bacolod City. After the interregnum, when duly constituted authority was re-established in the country, Civismo and Balhas Magazine resumed publication and founding members as well as new members reorganized the Newspapermen’s Association of Negros and gave it its original pre-war name: NEGROS PRESS CLUB. Its first post-war president was the late ex-congressman Carlos (Carlitos) Hilado.

Like some institution destined to live and endure, the NEGROS PRESS CLUB had its trying and distressing moments. During the second term of its fourth post-war president and disgruntled presidential candidate “seceded from the union,” formed a separate organization and, with the help of the club’s splinter group, had themselves elected their own president. The group adopted the club’s pre-war name: the Newspapermen’s Association of Negros. For some months, there were two press associations in Negros. The situation was an acid test for Negros newspapermen’s capacity for unity and paced squarely before the misguided members.

It did not need the recitation of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for the rebel organization to disintegrate from the “rebels” to return to the fold. And so from then on, the NEGROS PRESS CLUB became one again.*