THERE is perhaps no other Cebuano journalist in Manila who has ranked as high in the editorial hierarchy as Napoleon “Nap” G. Rama Sr.

He was publisher of Manila Bulletin from 1987 to 2004, where he also wrote a column. Rama, who passed away on Jan. 10, 2016 at age 92, was also a political writer for the Philippines Free Press for more than a decade.

He was a lawyer, a political figure and a prolific writer both in English and Spanish.

“He was writing in the school paper back in college. He didn’t take up journalism, but it was his first love,” said his daughter Gina Rama.

Rama had attended the University of San Carlos seminary in Cebu City to learn and master the Spanish language. He became the school paper’s editor-in-chief.

Corazon Rama-del Prado said her older brother’s main influence and mentor was their father, the late former senator Vicente Rama, founder of the Spanish newspaper La Nueva Fuerza and the opposition newspaper Bag-ong Kusog.

ARREST. 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate and Philippines Free Press writer Napoleon Rama (sixth from left) reunites with the people arrested with him when Martial Law was declared in 1972 (among them from left): Philippines Free Press editor Teodoro M. Locsin Sr., poet and former senator Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, and Manila Times publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, and senators when arrested Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Jose “Pepe” Diokno, (flanking Rama) and Ramon Mitra Jr. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Not wanting to be in the shadow of his father, Rama left Cebu for Manila in 1954 to make a name for himself in journalism.

He was a political writer for the weekly Philippines Free Press from the late 1950s to the late 1980s (with a break from 1972-1986 when a government clampdown shuttered it), where his article “North Borneo belongs to us” was published in 1961. The story later became the basis for government negotiations to reclaim ownership of Borneo (Sabah), said a Manila Bulletin report.

RAMA WITH TWO PRESIDENTS. Napoleon Rama shows Corazon Aquino the book he wrote on her administration, “A Time in the Life of a Filipino.” Years later, in 2011, her son, President Benigno S. Aquino III awarded him the Presidential Legion of Honor with the rank of grand commander during the 25th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Rama’s subjects were varied—from investigative articles on the tax declaration of elected officials to essays on social problems—but most notable were his stories on Martial Law.

He was vocal and fearless in his search for the truth during the Marcos dictatorship, particularly in preventing a Marcos dynasty, said his nephew, former Cebu City mayor Michael Rama. This led to his arrest on the night Martial Law was declared in 1972, along with former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

Gina believes her father lasted six decades in journalism because of his integrity, strength of character, and courage in telling the truth.

Among his accolades as a journalist and democracy advocate were the Ninoy Aquino Memorial Award in 1990, the Premio Zobel in 1992 (the Philippines’ oldest and highest Spanish literary award), and the Presidential Legion of Honor with the rank of grand commander during the 25th anniversary of the Edsa Revolution in 2011.

Rama was also editor of El Observatorio, a Spanish newspaper in Cebu that regularly published news stories about Spain and South America. In 1990, he also wrote “A Time in the Life of a Filipino,” a book compiling his editorials that tackled current events, Filipino values, and solutions to various problems the Philippine society faced then.

As for his political achievements, he was vice president of the 1971 Constitutional Convention and floor leader of the Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1987 Constitution.


Other journalists who were born or lived in Cebu and considered Cebu their hometown before working for publications in Manila:

Natalio “Talyux” B. Bacalso (1908-1980)
Dubbed Cebu’s top radio commentator, the Pardo, Cebu City native edited Bisaya from 1932-1934. The fictionist-playwright also edited the Manila-based Cebuano weekly Lamdag.

Tiburcio Baguio
Editor-in-chief of Bisaya from 1986-1995, the Cebu City native was a 1991 Gawad Balagtas awardee for Cebuano fiction.

Maximo D. Bas
The Talisay, Cebu native became editor-in-chief of Bisaya from 1946-1950. Years later, his brother Nazario would also lead Bisaya.

Nazario D. Bas
After joining Bisaya in 1956, he became its editor-in-chief from 1966-1969, returning for a second term from 1973-1986. The Talisaynon also worked in the advertising department of the Ramon Roces Publications and became editor of Alimyon for Bulaklak Publications.

Flaviano P. Boquecosa (1898-1957)
Editor-in-chief of Bisaya from 1934 to 1941, the Dumanjug, Cebu native went on to edit the Manila-based Cebuano weekly, Lamdag, after World War 2.

Francisco T. Candia (1908-1966)
The Candaguit, Sibonga, Cebu native became editor-in-chief of Bisaya from 1950-1966, after joining the magazine in 1933 and becoming associate editor in 1945.

Potenciano “Junne” Cañizares Jr.
The Talisay, Cebu native worked under Francisco Candia as literary editor of Bisaya from 1960-1965.

Austregelina “Lina” Espina-Moore (1919-2000)
The Toledo City, Cebu-born fictionist was a cub reporter for the Manila Times and a staff member of the Manila Chronicle.

Oliver P. Flores
From 1986-1998, the poet and novelist from Sogod, Cebu was a member of the editorial team of Bisaya, where he became literary editor.

Harry Gasser (1937-2014)
Born Harry Alesna in Carcar, Cebu, he appeared on “Balita Ngayon” on ABS-CBN from 1969 to 1972, and on “BBC Primetime News” on Banahaw Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) Channel 2 from 1973 to 1977. He anchored RPN 9’s NewsWatch from 1975 to 1999. He was also overseas program manager and news manager of Radio Veritas.

Juan L. Mercado
He was associate editor of the Evening News, before co-founding and editing until 1975 DepthNews, launched by the Press Foundation of Asia in the 1960s. He was a correspondent for London’s Financial Times and the Honolulu-Star Bulletin, before returning to the Philippines to write columns for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and various community papers.

Marcel M. Navarra (1914-1984)
After joining Bisaya in 1938, the Tuyom, Carcar, Cebu native went on to become its editor-in-chief from 1969-1973. The “Father of the Modern Short Story” and “the Cebuano Hemingway” also edited Lamdag in 1947.

Jenara “Cookie” R. Newman
She wrote the column, “Stardust,” as entertainment editor of the Evening News in Manila. Today, after editing several Cebu newspapers and magazines, she is a regular contributor to Sun.Star Cebu.

Vicente C. Padriga (1895-1980)
The “Prince of Cebuano Poets” was the first editor-in-chief of Bisaya, the Cebuano weekly magazine published by Ramon Roces Publications in Manila. He edited it from 1930-1931.

Santiago R. Pepito Jr.
Editor-in-chief of Bisaya from 1995-2001, the Sogod, Cebu native was a 2002 Gawad Balagtas awardee for Cebuano fiction.

Ina Reformina
The Dumaguete City-educated lass was an anchor-reporter for ABS-CBN Cebu’s TV Patrol newscast from 2000-2002 before moving to Manila to work as a reporter for ABS-CBN Manila.

Godofredo M. Roperos
The Balamban, Cebu native was literary editor of Bisaya magazine in the 1950s before becoming associate editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, the weekly supplement of The Manila Times, from 1957-1964.

(Sources: Cebuano Studies Center, Bisaya, Sun.Star Cebu, Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, 2007 Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas, Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, Philippine News Agency, Resil B. Mojares and Erlinda Alburo/CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Philippine American Literary House, Manila Bulletin, Cebu Daily News, Cebu Journalism and Journalists 5, UCANews, Wikipedia)

(CJJ11 was published in hardcopy in September 2016.)