By Januar E. Yap

Domingo M. Estabaya’s colleagues in the newsroom would tease him for his frequent writings on the Portuguese explorer, but there was more to the tag that speaks about him.

“He had a yen for facts, information,” said Godofredo Roperos, who was then literary editor for Bisaya magazine, where Estabaya contributed his articles in Cebuano. “He must’ve acquired it along the way as a journalist.”

From the 1960s to the 1970s, Estabaya submitted stories on Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and local chieftain Lapu-Lapu to publications like Graphic Magazine, Philippine Panorama, The Weekly Nation, Philippines Free Press and The Freeman Magazine.

OBSESSED. For his frequent writing on Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu in the 1960s and 1970s, D.M. Estabaya (1915-1992) endured ribbing from colleagues. Above are features he contributed to (from left) Philippine Panorama, Graphic Magazine, Philippines Free Press and The Weekly Nation.

Estabaya, also writing as Esteban M. David in some of his newspaper and magazine bylines, also wrote extensively on pre-Spanish Philippines. He wrote about a multitude of other things, but it was to history writing that he gravitated.

He turned over a hardbound compilation of his works to the Cebuano Studies Center, and one can get a glimpse of the man’s writing life. The collection spanned Oct. 12, 1949 to Jan. 26, 1983. He had meticulously arranged the articles according to fields of interest: sports, entertainment (which included serious discussion on Cebuano cinema), fiction, poetry, politics etc. These came in three volumes.

“When he writes, you can be assured that the facts can’t be questioned. He was very informative, credible and dependable whenever he wrote about something,” recalled Roperos.

Estabaya’s passion for research made him a versatile writer, an ideal journalist who did not choose his subject and executed every piece of assignment with the tenacity of a hound—yes, from Cebu’s political history to Gloria Sevilla.

In the middle of his career as a journalist, he pursued graduate studies in business administration and finished them with a historical survey of the publishing business in Cebu as his thesis. He had asked the question about the survival of the newspaper business in Cebu, ultimately recommending that the firms create a “materials cooperative” so they could bargain for lower prices for printing materials.

Esoteric as he was, Estabaya had a rather prophetic insight when he concluded his study: “By and large the printed word is here to stay despite the onslaught of other mass communication medium.”