Sangil: My world as a writer

MANILA in the sixties was a beautiful city for those who had extra money to spend. There was not much traffic yet, unlike the horrendous daily jams being experienced today. There was the imposing Jai Alai fronton at Taft Avenue where you can bet on your favorite pelotaries. The horse racing at Sta. Ana hippodrome was a diversion during the weekend races. Of course there was the iconic Manila Hotel, which was only a far-away dream for a poor promdi student like me who can hardly make both ends meet.

The University of Sto. Tomas had very wide and spacious campus, unlike today where buildings seemingly built everywhere unregulated. I used to stroll on the campus and appreciate the floras at the Pharmacy Garden after spending time writing comic scripts at the Philets dean’s office. I tried submitting several story scripts to comic book publication, but got the rejection slips with a little note of encouragement from the editors.

After burning the proverbial midnight oil, through study, hardwork and persistence, my succeeding scripts paid off later on. I was paid twelve or sixteen pesos for every three or four page story. I was averaging more than the monthly minimum wage of 120 pesos at that time. Now with extra money I was able to go either at the Manila Grand Opera House or at Don Jose Zara’s Clover Theater where vaudevilles were featured after the movies.

When I entered UST, earlier veterans had made their exit through graduation and others, the dropouts all made names in several fields. Many worked on newspapers and other media organizations like radio and television. Some became public relations practitioners. It was on a semestral break I remember, while in San Fernando waiting for a bus ride that I happened to browse at Paking’s news stand. On display were national papers and magazines, but what caught my attention were local weeklies. Tom San Pedro’s Luzon Courier, Armando Baluyut’s The Voice and Ram Mercado’s Star Reporter. I said to myself that local newsweeklies can stand improvements in editorial content and make-up. I glanced at the papers’ headlines and then I knew what was in store for me.

It was in this era when advertising support for local newsweeklies came from local merchants and business institutions. But not much revenue from these sources. It was more of an accommodation than the belief that it can reach the target publics for their products. Political patronage for the local papers was the rule of the day. Each publisher had his own patron who subsidized printing expenses in exchange of favorable publicity, in addition to enhancing whatever causes the politicians had.

When I came out with the Pampanga Examiner, the well-entrenched local weeklies publishers raised the quizzical eyebrows, ‘who is backing up Max Sangil’s paper?’
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