Forty years after its first post-Martial Law copy appeared in the streets of Virac and other towns, the Catanduanes Tribune celebrates its foundation anniversary today, March 3, 2021.
But honoring its four-decade history as a community newspaper in the island province, regularly appearing week after week in times of crisis or even super typhoons, would be incomplete without mentioning the fact that the Tribune’s first edition saw print on Nov. 24, 1967, with the late PR man and journalist Bubby Dacer as publisher and then Court of First Instance (CFI) clerk of court Fredeswindo T. Gianan Sr. as editor.
Consisting of four pages, Issue No. 4 dated Dec. 15, 1967 also listed Gerry Valenton as managing editor and business manager, Efigenia Gianan, Gabriel Rodulfo and Nelia Valeza as columnists and Romeo de la Cruz as circulation manager.
Although it had a following among local folks, the paper apparently ceased publication before mid-1968, with a new paper, The Island Reporter, put out by Dr. Antonio Zantua as publisher and Fred Gianan as editor.
This paper enjoyed a three-year run until about September 1971, with a new version of the Catanduanes Tribune coming out on October 25 of that year, this time with Fred T. Gianan as publisher-editor, and Gabriel Rodulfo, Estela Tioxon and Estrella Sarmiento as columnists.
Its success was again short-lived, as all but a few newspapers nationwide were closed following President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972, as announced by Gigmoto son and then Minister of Public Information Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
Upon the lifting of Martial Law in February 1981, Gianan resumed publication of the Tribune as publisher-editor, with Sisenando Abundo Jr. as business manager and Jose T. Buebos as treasurer.
The first issue dated Feb. 11, 1981 was actually numbered “Volume II, No. 1.” This indicates that this was the very first issue, and not Feb. 13, 1980, probably intended to circumvent the one-year publication requirement for the publication of legal notices with the tacit consent of the local court.
In the next four decades, it would grow in credibility and reputation under Gianan’s helm, with a number of columnists soon writing for the paper beginning with Alfonso Taniegra.
When the publisher was enticed into running for public office as provincial board member, either his eldest son, Fernan A. Gianan, or Fred Gianan Jr., took over as publisher.
Shortly before Fred Sr. fell ill from heart troubles and pancreatic cancer in late 1999 and was no longer able to handle the work, Fernan Gianan took over as publisher-editor.
The founder’s death on May 4, 2000 at the age of 63 wrote finis to Fred Sr.’s sterling career in Catanduanes’ journalism that began when he was editor-in-chief of the Catanduanes Collegian.
In December of that year, the Tribune started its own website, www.catanduanestribune.com, with Canada-based Richard Revelar as web administrator. Late in 2020, it began putting out its news and columns on Facebook where the paper has gained followers.
Although the pandemic has taken a toll on its circulation, with the number of copies falling from 1,500 to 1,300 weekly, what is remarkable is that it never missed putting out its weekly issue last year even during the lack of printing materials due to the nationwide lockdown.
When monster typhoon Rolly slammed into Virac on Nov. 1, 2020 and destroyed power and communication lines aside from many infrastructures, the Tribune issue was out on the streets the next Wednesday morning, Nov. 4.
Early this year, the Court of Appeals affirmed the guilty verdict for libel rendered by the Regional Trial Court Branch 1 of Legazpi City on Gianan and former columnist Rosulo Manlangit but modified the decision by removing the three-year imprisonment, replacing it with a fine of P7,500 each. It also reduced the award for moral damages due to complainant Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) from the original P8 million to just P1 million and the attorney’s fees from P1,265,000.00 to P300,000.00. The case will be elevated to the Supreme Court.
Its ability to survive these man-made and natural calamities is not only attributed to its being able to put up its own printing press in 2008 through its sister company Tri-Star Press & General Merchandise but also to the dedication of the publisher-editor, its columnists and circulation staff, and the support of their respective families who recognize the vital role a journalist and his community paper play in this part of the world.
With the help of the publisher-editor’s three sons, one of whom graduated cum laude in journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, the Tribune now has a significant presence on social media and is moving forward to further improve its website content.
At this time when many weekly tabloids in the Bicol mainland and elsewhere in the country have folded due to the economic crunch and the inroads of online news, the Catanduanes Tribune remains committed to deliver to the island’s reading public their weekly newspaper and to netizens everywhere a narrative of events from the perspective of responsible journalism.