IF SUNSTAR Cebu were a woman, 39 years old might sound over the hill.
But, hey, life begins at 40.
And so today, at 39, SunStar begins a new chapter with all the fire and moxie of its generations of scribes past and present propelling it to a future unknown yet exciting.
Who said unknown territory was alien to SunStar anyway? This paper’s journey to 2021 and multi-hyphenate information enterprise breaking the digital barrier was seeded by the many firsts in its storied odyssey.
1. First in Hall of Fame
It was the first community paper to be elevated to two Halls of Fame after being the first to achieve two three-peats: Cebu Archdiocesan Mass Media Awards Hall of Fame in 1994 for being a three-time awardee as “Best Newspaper” (1991, 1992, 1993), and “Philippine Community Newspapers’ Hall of Fame” by the Asia Media Project Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Philippine Press Institute for being the “Best Edited Daily” for three years (1997, 1998, 1999). As of October 2021, SunStar Cebu has reaped 307 awards from national and local award-giving bodies.
2. First name
The newspaper was born on Nov. 25, 1982 as SunStar Daily with the aim of serving the Cebuano people as a community paper. It changed its name to SunStar Cebu in 2000, five years after the launch of its network of community newspapers nationwide that spurred the need to have its area of operation reflected in its name.
3. First home
Its first business and editorial offices were at Door 14, Borromeo Arcade, F. Ramos St., Cebu City. But editor-in-chief Pachico Seares would move the team to a second home just a year later on Osmeña Blvd. to secure a larger area for its printing equipment. The paper moved to its third and current home, its own building at the corner of P. del Rosario and Don Pedro Cui Sts. in 1994, from where it first reached out to the globe.
4. First nationwide linkup of community papers
Through joint venture agreements with other regional papers in growth centers throughout the country, SunStar Publications Network was born in 1995. The pioneering effort grouped 11 dailies, seven weeklies and three magazines with Cebu’s SunStar Daily as the flagship. This brought the SunStar brand to key cities like Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Bacolod and Baguio, among others.
5. First Visayan daily tabloid, first annual dedicated to Cebu
To complement its daily English-language offering, SunStar Daily spawned the first Visayan daily tabloid, SunStar Superbalita, in 1994, as well as the first annual publication devoted entirely to Cebu, The Cebu Yearbook, in 2001. Superbalita in turn spawned other Visayan tabloids in similar mold in Cagayan de Oro and Davao, while The Cebu Yearbook, the coffetable book of essays and features exploring the trends of Cebu, has become the ultimate journal on Cebu’s business, governance and culture.
6. First community paper with a website
In 1996, SunStar Daily put up a website to serve readers beyond geographical boundaries, becoming the first community newspaper in the Philippines to publish a website. On May 10, 2000, www.sunstar.com.ph became home to the only network of community newspapers in the country, pooling news from SunStar newspapers and networks in 12 major cities in the Philippines.
7. First to be included in global collection of headlines
In 2001, SunStar Cebu became the first and only paper in Southeast Asia to be featured in the book “September 11, 2001,” a collection of newspaper headlines from all over the world. Page 138 shows Page 1 of SunStar Cebu’s September 12, 2001 special edition, one of the dailies selected by the Florida-based The Poynter Institute. In 2005, SunStar’s front page about the demise of Pope John Paul II, “A Lesson in Dying,” also landed in Poynter Institute’s book on newspaper headlines about the Pope’s death.
8. First in drone technology
In 2013, it became the country’s first community paper to regularly use remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, in its photo and video journalism. And it all began when then SunStar Publishing Inc. president Julius “Jayjay” Neri Jr. used a drone and a phone to produce images and video of the Sinulog seaborne procession, allowing the public to see the annual procession from a new angle.
9. First livestreaming
In January 2009, SunStar was the first in Cebu to broadcast live via the Internet, through sunstar.com.ph, the Sinulog grand parade from the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center. This started the livestreaming innovations of SunStar in bringing major news events about Cebu to the world.
10. First webcast
On July 5, 2013, a test broadcast named “SunStar webcast” was first aired on www.sunstar.com.ph. It was formally launched on Nov. 5, 2013 as “SunStar Pilipinas,” covering reports from communities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The webcast, the first among media companies in Cebu, ran for 30 minutes at noon Monday to Friday. Today, the webcast has evolved into a news and current affairs program called “Newsbits” aired live over Facebook at 7 p.m. Monday to Friday.