To my knowledge, no library in the Philippines or abroad has a complete set of newspapers that were published between the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution in 1896 and the Philippine-American War in 1899. If we had all these primary source materials available in microfilm or digital form, those turbulent years would be better documented. I first dipped into a sampling of revolutionary periodicals as an undergrad exploring the treasures of the Lopez Museum. Thanks to a certain Braulio Francisco who collected first issues of various Philippine newspapers, all of them Vol. 1 No. 1, I was able to see and handle actual copies rather than skimming through bibliographies or listings like the famous “El Periodismo Filipino” (1895) by Wenceslao Emilio Retana or “History of the Philippine Press” (1927) by Carson Taylor.
Though incomplete, the third volume of Retana’s “Aparato bibliografico de la historia general de Filipinas” (1906) contains a chronological listing of newspapers with reproductions of the masthead and other publishing details. Retana has been my lifeline for many decades; his obsessively detailed bibliographies allowing me to write about books I have not read or seen. For those who have no patience to plow through the actual newspapers, especially those in Spanish, “Balita: The History of Philippine Journalism, 1811-2019” by Jose Victor Z. Torres is the best reference available.
Of the many revolutionary papers, my favorite is “La Independencia” whose maiden issue is dated Sept. 3, 1898. To mislead the enemy, the masthead stated that the paper was printed in the Asilo de Huerfanos (orphanage) in Malabon, but it was actually printed secretly in Antonio Luna’s Binondo home. Aside from Luna as founding director, the paper had as one of its contributors someone who signed under the pseudonym “Paralitico” for articles in Spanish, and “Lumpo” for articles in Tagalog. He is none other than Apolinario Mabini whose criticism of the Malolos Congress was so sharp the government threatened to censor “La Independencia.”
After using the copies of “La Independencia” in the Lopez Museum, I was able to have my own reference after stumbling upon 30 copies in the Heritage Art Gallery being sold at P100 each! What initially attracted me to “La Independencia” were its bilingual advertisements, particularly those with a drawing of false teeth or “postiso” for “The Dental Cabinet Bonifacio Arevalo. Established in 1876. General operations of the profession. Removed 1st Elizondo St. Quiapo. Operaciones generales de la profesion se ha trasladado a la calle Elizondo—Kiapo bajada del Puente de San Sebastian.” What is lost in the English translation is the exact location of the Quiapo clinic being at the foot of San Sebastian Bridge.
Food and drink ads were plentiful, starting with Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel boasting production of six million bottles. Doctors recommended its Cerveza Negra for the sick, though I was told black beer was best for lactating mothers. A case of four dozen bottles of Doble Bock or Lager was P17.50, the Negra at P21.50. One could also buy beer in 20 liter barrels; the Lager costing only P8. If one just wanted carbonated or fizzy water without the alcohol, you could find it at the Fabrica de Aguas Gaseosas on 42 Misericordia Street, Santa Cruz, that also sold horse feed or zacate. Another option was the Aguas minero-medicinales de Malbog Gazan (more popularly known as Aguas de Boac) that was prescribed for “elefantisis, herpes, sarnas, escrofulas, dispepsias, acidas, flatulantes, diareas, etc.” with doses of half a glass per meal.
The Fonda de Lala Ary referenced in Jose Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” advertised: boneless Bacalao (salted cod) mantequilla superior (butter), powder for kari-kari, mango chutney, and fish from Bombay. Not to be outdone, Juan Soler’s Hotel de España advertised full meals and budget meals: “Sa restaurang ito ay nagpapakain ng halagang piso o isang salapi ang bawat kubierto at nagtitingi ng isang racion o ulam.”
On the surface, advertisements look trivial but these are the individuals and companies that kept the revolutionary paper going. These advertisers took a risk by openly supporting a newspaper fighting for Philippine independence at the dawn of the American occupation of the islands. They deserve a second, closer look.
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