: Alfredo Roces
Date of Birth : 29 April 1932
Place of Birth : Sta. Cruz District, Manila
Civil Status : Married
Parents : Rafael F. Roces / Inocencia Reyes
Siblings : Rafael Jr. (deceased), Jesus (deceased), Joaquin, Jose, Francisco, Alejandro, Luis, Marcos
- school, year graduated and degree (elementary, high school, college, graduate)
St. Mary's College 1946 (elem.)
Far Eastern University 1950 (High School)
University of Notre Dame 1954 (BFA)
Arts Students' League of New York 1955-56 (under artist George Grosz, no degree)
Daily columnist, Daily Mirror -1958, Manila Times daily columnist 1959-72, Editor in Chief, Filipino Heritage 1972-78, Editor Geo, Australasia's Geographical Magazine 1979-90
of different involvements in journalism :
Most of my work was as daily columnist for the Manila Times and here in Australia as editor of a quarterly magazine. In both instances I had a very free hand in writing what I wanted and doing what I wanted, which I suppose was not typical journalistic experience. I participated in regular seminars with the Press Institute and the Press Foundation.
are the early years?
The early years were a crash learning process whereas now it is merely a learning process. But making a living off journalism in the 50s to the 70s was extremely difficult. I was paid twenty pesos a column, and I had to write everyday seven days a week, including Christmas and all holidays, whether I was sick or not, or I did not get paid for that day. Until the last day I wrote for the Times my fee was still twenty pesos a day. I never got an increase over ten years! In 1972, when the Times was closed down and I lost my job, it was even harder because I could not write freely and although I was offered jobs in the Marcos papers, I begged off.
I began as a ghost writer until I was offered a column of my own in the Daily Mirror. I chose to write about subjects I was familiar with and close to my interest, mostly art and culture. So you see I did not start as copy boy or as a reporter at all which again makes my journalistic background and approach different from most journalists. In later years I expanded my topics to cover politics and current events.
persona at work:
The person I most associated with was my brother Alejandro, who had training as a creative writer. We shared interests in Philippine culture. When he became Secretary of Education we sort of took different directions. My cousin Chino was publisher and while I kept an arm's distance from him to avoid his telling me what to write, I developed a rapport with him. In the end he asked me to serve as a consultant to the Manila Times board. He also asked me to write the pooled editorial column which appeared in all major newspapers in Manila just before Marcos declared Martial Law. Frankie Sionil Jose was editor of the Sunday Times Magazine and we established a friendship that lasts to this day. I knew the editor in chief Joe Luna Castro, and the Mirror's editor Abe Cruz (who at one time asked me to ghost write his editorials but after about a month it grew too tedious for me). Cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo whom I took in as cartoonist for the Far Eastern University's school paper (I was moderator) the Advocate. Artist Bencab and his brother Badong were also with the Times then. The Chronicle's cartoonist Liborio Gatbonton was another acquaintance.
moments during inclination to journalism:
I suppose professionally, my coverage of the Cultural Revolution in China in 1965 (?) was the most professionally satisfying. The series made the front pages of the Times despite the fact that the editors were playing up the Marcos State visit to the US. As I engaged in quite a number of polemics via the column I would have to look over my files to recall these high points. I remember scooping all the papers with the news of the finding of pleistocene man in Tabon Caves, Palawan, and covering that story. In Australia I interviewed Richard Attenborough. And my photo-journalistic coverage of The Pacific Arts Festivals in Papua New Guinea and in Townsville, were rewarding as well as the photo coverages of Sri Lanka and Thailand.
inclinations (e.g. business, arts, etc.):
My real formal training is as an artist. I majored in painting and took further extra studies under a well known German artist named George Grosz at the Arts Students League of New York. But my minor was philosophy and that has helped inform my writing. As an artist I also do sculpture, pottery and photography. The last interest of course is related because I have done quite a bit of photo journalism with Geo in my years here in Australia. I also do book design, and along with photography, I have merged all these with writing via the computer. So my latest inclinations are digital art and writing via the net. I once operated a public relations and advertising agency. I had trained for a year at an advertising firm in New York (Donahue & Coe) but I discovered buttering up to clients was the only thing that mattered not professional merit. So I lost interest. I have written a number of books on Filipino artists and culture out of interest in these subjects.
does it take to be a Roces?
You are a Roces by accident of birth, but I suppose there are family valuese and a family culture imbibed through the years. My parents brought us all up aware of the value of money and our side of the family (Roces-Reyes) have always lived relatively modest lives. My parents also cautioned us against using our family name for personal advantage stressing that we should get ahead on merit. Our part of the family drew a distinction between my uncle and cousins who owned the newspapers, and my brothers and myself who simply worked for them. I have never confused myself as a journalist with my cousins who were the owners and publishers of the paper.
does it feel to be part of the clan that made a name in journalism?
I have always been extremely proud of my family roots, specially my parents who were living examples of humility and responsibility; and also of my eldest brother Liling who gave his life for his beliefs during World War II. With three other brothers preceding as columnists for the Manila Times, I was conscious I had to live up to their reputation. But having said that, I have also sensed a resentment on the part of other writers and editors who think I have established myself through my family connections. So I felt I had to prove myself as a writer and a journalist. Okay lang.
to budding journalists:
It's a hard slog. A difficult career. I believe more so now than in my time, because the quality of journalism in the Philippines has declined and journalists of integrity have a harder time getting established. There's very little financial reward. There is also now a language problem to confront in the coming years. But the satisfaction of self expression and of communicating with others is fulfilling. So my prime advice is that you must keep your integrity no matter what for that is the only true measure of a good journalist. To strive to be professional requires much work and discipline. Without study, diligence and discipline you will always remain mediocre. If you try to get away with just pure talent and bola, your printed words come back and haunt you. Keep an open mind. You have to be objective and not let your personal feelings obscure your insights and your reportage. Cross check and double check. Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write. And please do not transform journalistic success into political career.