Today marks the 213th anniversary of Del Superior Govierno, our country’s first newspaper. Making its debut on 8 August 1811, or 218 years after printing was introduced here by the Spanish friars, it was intended for local Spaniards to satisfy their need for the latest develpments in Spain and the rest of Europe.
Del Govierno Superior was edited by Mariano Fernández del Folgueras, a two-time governor-general of Filipinas (he’s the same man who gave English traders permission to establish the first commercial houses here). The newspaper came out during a time when Spain was in tumult — the mother country was then ruled by a French monarch, Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, the elder brother of the more famous Napoléon Bonaparte. The French invasion of Spain, however, had little to no impact at all in our insular affairs. Nevertheless, the happenings in the peninsula explains as to why throughout Del Govierno Superior‘s brief stint (it came out with only 15 issues over a six month period), much of its content was about the events surrounding the costly Napoleonic Wars.
In addition, Del Govierno Superior was also our country’s first newspaper to show in its layout the name, date, and place of its publication. And despite its brief existence, it paved the way for more newspapers, albeit belatedly, to appear in later years such as La Esperanza (1846), La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848), and a host of others. All the newspapers that followed soon expanded to a much wider readership, not just to the Spaniards. There were also “specialty newspapers” which catered to a specific audience (for instance, the Revista Mercantil de Filipinas was a weekly newspaper founded in 1892 and was dedicated solely to financial, agricultural, and commercial interests).
I just wonder why this newspaper was not included in Wenceslao Retana’s El Periodismo Filipino (1811-1894). In the said book, Retana made a list of all known newspapers in Filipinas throughout Spain’s rule. But instead of Del Govierno Superior, he cited La Estrella as our country’s first real daily.
Of course there’s no need to mention that our first dailies were all written in the sonorous language of Miguel de Cervantes and José Rizal. And that’s the odd thing about it. We are commemorating today the inception of our country’s first ever newspaper, a newspaper that was written in the Spanish language, in a milieu dominated by English-language newspapers and Taglish tabloids.
As an aside, it is sad to note that there are no more Spanish-language newspapers in our country. The last such newspaper was the weekly Nueva Era which ceased publication in 2008. I am proud to say that I was a part of that newspaper, having worked there as assistant to its editor-in-chief on a part-time basis (nothing big; I just swept floors and made coffee). Aside from Nueva Era, the now defunct Manila Chronicle used to have a Spanish section on its Sunday edition called Crónica de Manila (edited by former Instituto Cervantes de Manila Director José Rodríguez y Rodríguez and the late statesman Raúl Manglapus). But it didn’t last long; eventually, the newspaper itself folded up sometime during the last decade.
Critics will be quick to say that, of course, there are no more Spanish-speaking communities for such newspapers to cater to. However, keen observers will immediately point out that, bit by bit, the language of our forefathers is making a comeback, thanks in part to BPOs that pay above par salaries to those who are fluent in the language. It should also be remembered that a couple of years ago (3 July 2006), the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines created Resolution No. 2006-028 which urged the national government to support and promote the teaching of the Spanish language in all public and private universities and colleges throughout the country. Then a year later (17 December 2007), the Department of Education issued Memorandum No. 490, s. 2007 which encouraged secondary schools to offer basic and advanced Spanish subjecs in the 3rd and 4th year levels respectively, as an elective.
And then there’s social media (and my other blog, hehe). Speaking of which, the Internet may already be sounding the death knell for print journalism in our country and elsewhere, regardless of language usage, especially since all major dailies today have their own websites. Even known columnists have their own blogs. Some are also predicting that the impending death of print journalism will happen in the next couple of years. But that’s another story altogether.