Few people would imagine from its humble four pages that the tabloid-sized Weekly Katarungan is Mindanao’s, and possible the Philippine’s longest surviving Filipino-owned, edited and produced newspaper.
First established as Ang Katarungan (The Reason) on July 1, 1903, it was founded by the distinguished Neri brothers Ramon, Felino and Vicente in Cagayan de Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known).
the former Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Felino Neri.
Felino was a lawyer and Vicente Neri San Jose was a former Misamis Oriental provincial governor (1934), journalist and publisher .
When it first appeared, Ang Katarungan had the same size and number of pages as its present day descendant: the Weekly Katarungan now edited by Jerry Valenton and published by the founder’s great, great grandson Anton. It was type set by hand and printed in the venerable Minerva letterpress, many of which can be seen operating all over the countryside and had a respectable (for those days) 300 copies circulation
During the next 45 years, Jose A. Bautista of Camiguin, a staff writer of the Bisaya magazine, wrote that the paper changed its format no less than five times.
Bautista said among its past editors included Felino Neri, Salvador Pacana, Jose V. Yasay, Fidel Valledor, Patria Neri, Fidencio Neri, and Eustaquio Batoto Gonzales.
“From 1926 to the present (March 26, 1949), the paper had come out regularly as a Visayan-English newsmagazine in 16 pages, carrying on its masthead the pledge Devoted to the Development and Progress of Mindanao (which it does to present day).”
During that year, Ang Katarungan had a weekly circulation of 4,000 copies, and reached many points of Misamis Oriental and Mindanao.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the paper, starting with April 1937 when its office and printing plant was razed to the ground. Another fire struck on June 28, 1940 when a great fire which killed 12 persons wiped out the business and residential districts of the municipality. Barely two months later, however, published Neri San Jose set up another printing plant and resumed publication on August 17, 1940.
World War II began on December 8, 1941 and the paper was shut down in 1942. When Filipino guerrillas liberated Cagayan on May 10, 1945, the paper’s offices and plant were again destroyed.
But the indefatigable Vicente Neri San Jose persevered and again managed to resume publication on its 45th anniversary on July 17, 1948. That week’s issue had the late President Elpidio Quirino on its cover and cost 15 centavos. Not bad for a 16-page newsmagazine in those days.
During the paper’s centennial, writer E. Lazaro Garcia said the paper featured the Sept. 1, 1948 eruption of Mt. Hibok-Hibok in Camiguin (then a part of Misamis Oriental).
Garcia said among its ads for that issue were offers for the yet undeveloped Nazareth Subdivision (Cagayan’s first) and Ah Fat Store and Bakery with its ensaymadas, mammon, broas, cakes, etc. located at the corner of what was then known as South Divisoria-Real (now Capistrano) streets.
“It was housed at Neri’s Printing Press at Mindanao (Tiano Bros.) street.
Among its later distinguished editors and publishers were Augusto F. Neri, Sr., father of Atty. Augusto “Titot” Neri, Jr., former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, COPC) and added the prefix “Bag-ong” to its name.
AFN, as he was known to readers of his Political Diary, served as a city councilor of Cagayan de Oro for two terms during the 1960s, and was chairman of the board of the Cagayan de Oro City Water District until his death in 1982. He was also president of the COPC in 1958.
Regular contributors included Atty. E. M. Tamparong, Atty. Juan B. Regalado, Dr. Blas Ch. Velez (composer of Diyandi, a song-dance, believed to be the oldest song in Cagayan de Oro), Adrito Labial, J. M. Gandionco, Guido R. Ongpin and former Cagayan de Oro Mayor Reuben R. Canoy (In a Nutshell).
Garcia said it also carried anonymous columns and articles by writers with “varied and amusing” nom de plume like Ginaraying Tistis ni Intoy Kinilaw (in balak form), Piko-Piko Laguring ni Pakang; Siesta of Mari Lu Valdez and Kulas Lipak. (RMB)
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