Date of Interview: June 14, 2001
Venue: Corporate Department, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Pasong Tamo, Makati City
Sassy Mae Sumulong: So basically my question will be more like a personal data gathering. So, first can you state on record your name, ah place of birth, and date of birth.
Alexandra "Sandy" Prieto - Romualdez: I'm ah, my name, my formal name is Maria Alexandra Prieto Romualdez. I'm called Sandy and I was born March 18, 1967.
Q: And you've been born here in the Philippines?
A: Yeah, I was born here
Q: Ah, particularly where?
Q: Ah, Manila. And then your parents are?
A: Marixi and Alex. They have been married 40 years, um they're both Filipino.
Q: So right now you are married to
A: Philip Romualdez and we have a son, 5-month-baby. He's, he was born December 15, 2000.
Q: How about your, um, educational background?
A: Education. Um, it's actually a mixed, pretty mixed My first year, ah, well, my grade school and high school was in Assumption um, ah, Assumption Antipolo for grade school and Assumption, ah, SanLo for high school. And then my first year of college was in UST I took, ah, AB - Socio, Sociology then I transferred to UP, um, I decide I want to take Social Work so I took, ah, Social Work and then I decided to go to the States ah and ah went to the College of Notre Dame, while I was there, I, I went on, ah, my, my second semester of the third year, I, um, took a College Study Abroad Program, so I studied in, in Kenya, ah for 6 months and then graduated in College of Notre Dame.
Q: So, what's, ah, the other branch of Assumption that you've been?
Q: Antipolo and
A: SanLo, San Lorenzo, Makati.
Q: So how about, um, your journalism
A: I'm sorry. And then I took masters a couple of years later in '94, I took um, masters in Development Management in AIM, Asian Institute of Management here in Makati.
Q: But the, um, with your UST education it was just first year?
A: First year.
Q: Then you shifted
A: to Social Work
Q: Social Work, but
A: Then I went back to Sociology
Q: Ah, ok but you, you had a degree on
A: in Sociology. AB - Sociology.
Q: Then you took another course with, um, the College of Notre Dame or
A: No, same, Sociology. I graduated, my, my major was in Sociology and my minor was Psychology.
Q: And you took the ma, masters in
A: in Development Management.
Q: So how about your journalism experience?
A: Um, actually, my, I, I, as far as my, um, education is concern I, I, I never had it, ah, um, I'd not even taken like a class in journalism, it's, it's really more um and in even, even today I really draw more from my management courses than in, than, more than anything because I, I handle the, the business side of the, of the paper. If, um, you know how we manage the paper it's ah, we sort of like, we have two big one is the business side and the other is the editorial side, okay, um, and it's, ah, it's a, you know we sort of like, ah, have a line between us and we have a, um, set of policies and guidelines that keep us on each side, I mean of course it's, it's not a, it's not a wall I mean you know it's, it's just sort of like a line in the sense that, um, I do not, ah, interfere or, um, as far as like choosing the stories for, for frontpage or like I don't, I read the paper or see the paper the same time as everyone else with, with their morning coffee, um, I, I, we choose to do that because we feel that the editorial should be given as much independence as they can have, um, or they can have. So that they'll, they'll be able to feel free in choosing the stories. I feel that if I sat down, for example, in the story conference I might and duly influence their decision, for example if, if, um, I have a friend or a relative that's been written up or, or has this business then I might, you know, um, I'll duly influence them in saying, "oy, huwag yan, that guy is an advertiser or a friend you know " but post, ah, post publication I do comment or give feedback and, but these are more or less policy related let's say for example if I feel there was a violation of a policy, like we have a policy on fairness where, ah, we must always get the other side of, um, the topic of the article, um, and print it in the same, um, on the same day. And let's say for example that wasn't done, um, the next day I, I, you know, call up a reader's advocate and say, um, the thing was unfair, that we didn't come out with the other side, can we make sure we'd come up with the other side with the same comment so I do, I do, you know, give feedback and, and, um, sort of like a post evaluation, kind of thing, um, so as far as journalism is concern, um, I, I draw more, as I said from, from my management, ah, background, ah, than, than, my journ but what I did, um, you asked me here about my early years, um, what I did was when I first joined the paper, um, I spent about a month in each department, like I, I spent some time with the reporters and I went around with their beats. I, I spent some time with the circulation managers, so, I, I delivered paper, um, spent time with, with, um, in sales course I went around with the agencies, um, for me to be able to get a good sense of, of, ah, you know, what it is to be in a newspaper. I spent a month in each department that, that helped a lot in giving me a sense of that and then, um, ah, there's, there's no better teacher than experience. So, um, ah, I've been Inquirer for about 7 years now. And I have to say that there's, there's still, um, new things that, that we undergo and that you just need to be able to, to learn from, um, so, that, that's how more or less. So, I, I, although I'm the president of the company, um, we have a very, um, we have respect for, for the editorial, we would try to keep it as independent as possible. It's more or less run that way.
Q: I failed to ask about the years of your educational data, so ah when did you spend time during, at UST, like what year?
A: UST, let me see, I was I think there in '85, yeah '85, and I graduated, ah, in '89, 1989
Q: How about your masters?
A: My masters is in '95.
Q: So right after college
A: I'm sorry '94, I graduated, I, I
Q: How about in Kenya?
A: I was in Kenya in 1988.
Q: So right after college what was, what was your first job?
A: Job, ah let me see, I, I, we had a restaurant, Singaporean restaurant, so, I actually had two jobs. I was doing that and I was also the student coordinator in Assumption College, and then so I was doing, I, I had two jobs and then after that I taught in Assumption and, um, in '94 that's when I took my masters and it's a full-time, full-time thing so I had to give up my, my work. And then after that, actually it was only by chance that I ended up joining the Inquirer. My brother, Louie, who, um, was the one, um, who was representing the family in Inquirer unfortunately passed away, he got into a motorcycle accident, um, so at that time my, my mom was the chairman of the board asked me if it's something that I would be interested in. And I said more than the interest I, I think you'd want someone who's, who's, ah, capable and competent enough to do it so maybe what, what we could do is sort of I'll, I'll join and then, um, in a year evaluate if it's something that, that I could handle so that was how I joined the company. It's why I joined the company, that was in 1995.
Q: So you've mentioned about you've been to different departments
A: 1995? 1994? 1994.Yeah, I graduated 1994 and then joined the Inquirer
Q: So you've mentioned, ah, you've been to different departments was it more like a hands-on that you really was a reporter and doing the story
A: Yeah, yeah, but that was only for, for a month so, um, like, I mean, I'd, I'd write the story but it's not like, ah, it was gonna be printed. I mean because I, I think, um, you know, so but there are other things were I was at, like when I was in sales, I close the deal or present, like a presentation. So, more or less it was, it was a hands-on experience.
Q: In handling the paper what, what side do you think you more enjoy?
Q: The journalistic side or more of the business?
A: Ah, actually I enjoyed more the, um, well, um, I actually, ah, enjoy the, I enjoy the people aspect, 'cause I, 'cause, ah, what I mean is like when we have, ah, more HR related things, like training and, um, which cuts across both editorial and business, I like, ah, planning, ah, strategic planning like, ah, I enjoy, I enjoy the people aspect of the operation like, ah, training, research, more, more the people aspect.
Q: So your first job assignment with PDI ?
A: I was executive assistant to the president so, um, I would handle like, ah, special projects, um, and, ah, give advice to, to the president and attend to things that, ah, it feels, um, need special attention.
Q: And the president at that time was?
A: Ben Pangilinan. So I went from executive assistant to executive vice president and then president.
Q: It was also Ben Pangilinan when you become, when you were promoted to ?
Q: How about, um, during your seven years its quite a long range of experience with PDI do you have any memorable people that you've dealt with ?
Q: Like some that made impact on who you are right now
A: Who I am right now? Yeah.
Q: Can you name some?
A: Ah, okay. Well, Ben is one. Ben who was the president then as I said, ah, thought me, um, how to be more, ah, to look at, to look at things in all angles, um, he is quite conservative in his, ah, in his ways and that's good because, um, sometimes you know, you over expand what, what his, his, um , you know, you're never too, you're never too big or high up in, in, to, to look at the smaller details. Like, ah, you know he always says that, that never fail to let say for example, check on the returns on a daily basis or check on the receivables on a daily basis, he is very, he thought me how to be more, um, rigid about those things, um
Q: How about with the reporters or people on the like the field work are there some that gave an impact on you which made you enjoy your stay here in PDI?
A: Yeah, yeah, um, there, ah, there was one reporter who, um, you know even when ah, ah, there's a lot of pressure because it was the time of President Estrada and, ah, you know, ah, it was, it was difficult to do a job given the pressure but, ah, she was able to succumb that and be able to, um, go about it in a very professional way. And I felt that that give, that give it more, more pride in the paper given that all eyes were in hurled, like, like you know they wanted to fail and, you know, they come up with a, with a wrong story or, but she was able to as I said, succumbed that, so that was quite inspiring. To see that, that despite all the pressure that she was still able to keep her cool and, ah (interruption) So that, that was, ah, quite what inpires me or what makes me, what makes me proud of the company with regards to reporters are those who have been able to, um, you know, give us very solid and comprehensive, ah, ah, scoops that, that really you know, um, they are able to present the, or expose, you know, um, anomalies, um, and there, there have been quite a few that have been really, ah, they came out with a series on the pork barrel. Ah, in just how much of this is being used, um, misused, um, the time that, ah, um, we came out, you know, ah, I, when several stories have had impact like to the kind, we came out with the story on the whale sharks of Pansol and we exposed that people were killing these whale sharks for so because of that a law was passed prohibiting the killing of the whale sharks and then, um, World Wild Life Fund also so they helped put up eco tourism projects in the area. Um, we also came up with the story on, this girly bars in Quezon City that were it was the girls were made to stay in like a glass, ah, glass you know the men would choose, so it's sort of like they call it like a human aquarium. So because of that the place was padlocked, so you know, when, when I, when we are able to see that, um, because of a story or expose that, that certain, ah it changed, developed or, or that, ah, certain wrong doing was put to a stop.That, that makes me proud of, you know, being in the paper, um, and softer stories like, I don't know if you saw our ad, um, we wrote a story on a, this ah, small girl who needed a heart transplant and because of our article a lot of people came to support, came to support her. We had several stories in the past about, um, you know people just calling up to help. Like this, ah, small boy who was electricuted. He was playing with the high tension wires in Baguio. You know these good, good Samaritans just called up and help. That, that sort of like makes me, you know inspires me and, ah, you know, makes me say that, you know I like my job. Because I'm able to you know, um, help people in our own way or, ah, move, move people to, to do certain things or to inspire them that, that, that for me, um, you know, in, ah, on, ah, hard day when I feel down and I feel na parang I, you know, or, um, you know because it stop being in a paper because you affect lives so, um, sometimes when I'm in a conference or I'm, ah, asked to speak and, you know there just heightened emotions. People either love you or hate you, you know, um, and, ah, you know on a down day when all I, all I hear are complaints about the paper, um, I think of, of that. I think of, of our mission of being able to, um, affect, ah, social change and try to, ah, inspire people to action. So that sort of things. Um, you're asking me about what idols or, or people that I look up to I have to say that, that my mom is one. Um, ah, even if I wasn't related to her I, I would still pick her up as one of the people that, that influenced me, mainly on, on the, on, on certain things, noh. First when we went through that very difficult time, last, ah, 1998, during the boycott, um, sorry '99, ah, you know she was very, because that really affected, affected our, not only our revenue but our, also our profit and so, you know for her to be able to say, no we'll still continue and, ah, still be able to print the news as we see it and, ah, you know, so even if it, if it means coming up you know with a, with a 12-page, page paper, if it becomes that, we just have to do it. You know it's, it's you know, very few peop.., very few businessmen can say it's more than just business, you know they'd turn the other way and say, ah, okay, you know parang sure we, we have, um, we lose profits but there's this, ah, there's a mission. It's the first time that I actually saw, um, our mission being questioned in, in and, ah, and you know when you have values, when you have certain experiences, you're, you're, you then reaffirm those values. Like you can say I'm not for abortion but when, when, when you're, when you have an unwanted pregnancy and yet you choose to have that baby then you can say that, yeah, I've affirmed that value of life, that I'm pro life, you know. But until, until you've gone through, through an experience like that you, that, that value remain sort of like in the head, you know, na parang okay I'm for this, I'm for that, let's say I'm for the environment but if it means, um, you know, you not being able to, you know, you wouldn't, ah, you know, to be very strict about, about it, you know, ah, then, then that's the only time you can say "I believe in this value." For me that's, that was the experience with the boycott. When we were able to say okay we believe in freedom, independence and yet it was tested and, and for me that, that value was reaffirmed our mission was reaffirmed during hard times, when you're able to still make certain decisions it just shows, you know, your, your conviction in your mission. So I saw that with, with, um, I witnessed that with her and, and, and of course the different board, board of directors but, but mainly her because um, you know at that time there, here we just saw the profits just slipping, slipping. And so, um, and, and we've seen how other people, um, dealt with their own problems like, I would, I would never put myself in the same, in the same shoe or try to I try to down, down play. But in the case of Manila Times they apologized. You know so she could have also done the same thing and, and said, oh, I'm sorry and there have just print the news, um, that is favorable to the government. So, um, people don't see that, they think it's the, it's the editorial side but for me at that time I, it was actually for me the, ah, business decision. Because, um, saw you the Manila Times case that the editorial didn't want to apologize they were very you know firm but when the chairman and the president decided "no, we're apologizing" it was there. Because, um, in the end, it's gonna fall back on the, on the decision of the board although as I said we give the editorial as much, as much independence. Um, you still need to fund, you know, I mean you still need to, to pay salaries all over head and the pay for paper and things like that and that's the business decision. It's, it's we choose not to dangle it on the editorial head but if it come, boils down to, um, that, it still goes back to the, to a business decision, um, in that, ah, when you're sued for example or the entire company sued it's not just the editorial I mean it's not just the, I mean it's not just the, that is being sued, the entire company is being sued, I'm also sued, the chairman is being sued. It's because they are attaching or suing the company. That is always what I tell about the reporters or the editors, that "although you're the main producers or talents that we have as far as the introducing the paper, the supporting departments are so important like the, um, circulation, HR, I believe that the other thing why I, that Ben has a strong impact on me, he made me realize that. Even how good your editorial is if you don't have a good circulation group, if you don't have a good sales staff, it's not And there are couples of paper before that were excellent papers but because they did not have good circulation, um, department, it didn't you know, it really needs to be a whole team. And I always keep on telling each department that no one single person or department can claim that they've given Inquirer its success or its leadership. It's actually all. I can give you several examples so I would say her, Ben, our editor in chief-she is, that's Letty Magsanoc - she's been able to, as far as pressure, many people are calling her up and for me to see people in this business, that have been able to keep that integrity intact is just almost a miracle these days because the power influence that the people in Media have, um, you know it's so tempting a lot of people offer you, and you know "kill the story because, you know, here's the money" and she has unquestionable integrity and you know and we need that because if readers feel na, "o nabayaran kayo" then that's the end of your credibility and you feel that the editor in chief makes decision 'cause she decides what goes on in the front page. If the people around her feel that it's okay to accept, you know, it has come from the top so and then the readers feel that you've make certain decision on a story because he is a friend or he is paid so your credibility is lost. And she, she has unquestionable credibility. So I would say that gives, I mean that inspires me a lot and you know, makes me believe in the company. So I would say those three people, you know.
Q: I'm just curious, when you first got yourself involved in Inquirer have you been prepared with this things, the pressure, or have you had foresight or
A: Ah, no. Actually, when I look back and that's why when I talk to people and I give some, I always tell them to stay open and flexible because you know, you just need to, because you know, not at all, that is why you might have been shocked to know that I'm a sociology major and I'm not a journ major and yet I run the Inquirer and, um, I don't think there is anything that, but what it is, is when you say what prepared me what, what if I look back, it sort of like a mixed of different things, um, if youre gonna ask me it's a way back of how was I brought up it's, um, I mean, so it's not just really from schooling, it's like being able to, if there's one thing that I got from school, sociology, it's the appreciation of people and just being able to see the importance of, ah, being able to see society in a a certain way and I appreciate that. It's also my experience as a volunteer. I volunteer as a, I'm sorry, when got beck from the States that was my first job. But it wasn't really a job because I was a volunteer but I was a volunteer of the Associate Missionary of Assumption and what I did was we volunteer for a year in different areas. It's either teaching or parish work. So, I volunteered. But at that time they needed some help in Makati so we helped out in school and it's day care center. "So last two questions"
Q: So you mentioned that also the way you were brought up helped on who you are right now...
Q: So you think there is something to do with you being a Roces, your dad having a Roces blood?
A: Um, I think what I would say from the Roces side is just from stories about how, um, my grandfather and because he was in Manila Times, you know just stories about how, you know, they handle their business and what are the certain philosophies that they carried, um, like I know my grandfather was, um, was always an open person you know the term "keep the ears close to the ground", he would always, I understand walk in the printing press and listen to people and he was really approachable. I'd like to think that I can also try to do the same. You know I always tell people that my door is open and that, there is no job small enough for me. Like getting coffee, you know certain things just never or rather you won't ask someone to do certain things that you yourself don't want to do. Like the idea of letting someone do the dirty job or like you know you just treat them like parang you just do this for me, if you do not want to be treated in a certain way, don't treat that person that way. So I would say those things that I got from just in the stories that I was told and another thing that I know is from the Roces side is that they as far as independence is concern in being able to print, um, what they feel needed to be printed, that is a Roces trait because I know for a fact that Manila Times was quite, um, like that so they closed down so, in a way that I can relate to and that I guess if you look at it, it's probably in my genes that, ah, and I'm glad that its there that, you know be able to stand for what you believe in is definitely something that I've witnessed and, um, I didn't spend a lot of time with them unfortunately but it sort of like seeing them from a distance with tito Chino and even if I was just five years old when my grandfather died, I remember him very well because he was very well because he was a very kind-hearted person, um, he would make sure as spends time with us and all that. So those are the things that, and oh, another thing that I learn from him was that, you also know how to balance things not just work, work, and work but you're able spend sometime with the family so he was good at that he was good at balancing both work and home.
Q: How does it feel to be part of the Roces clan?
A: It's great. As I said, unfortunately, we don't get together as often as I like to I said I've always been proud of that heritage and like, um, it's something that, um, you know few times and I'm glad you have taken this topic up because it's good for me to remember that because of that heritage that, um, I need to constantly go back to so I would say proud because there is nothing that they're a very kind clan, sometimes too kind parang they don't, I know when they get into business it's never cutthroat. I don't you know, to my knowledge, I don't think there is someone or a Roces out there that is, um, they're not devious, I mean, and that I'm proud of, but as I said I wish I get to know more or meet, um, have more gatherings from the little what I know that's something, um, I'm proud of.
Q: Finally, advice to budding journalists or students or those who want to venture in the business that you're in...
A: That I'm in? Um, the print medium, um, I would say, as far as media is concerned, for me is the best medium to be in let me explain way. As far as the news is concerned it's only in print that you have the time to be able to really gather enough information and be able to digest it so that you can inform the readers best sometimes when you come out in a TV you don't have enough time to check the facts, there is something sort of like, um, you check as much as you can but in print you have more time to be able to do that. I think among all the other media the print is the most, the least fragmented as of now like, in TV there is always channel surfing, and in radio you sometime listen to the music and once the news comes on, you switch channel. It's also the only, it is still as far as you know the portability is unmatched, you can bring a paper and read it anytime of the day and be able to do that so I think and you know about the fear about us being obsolete by the internet, it hasn't affected really the readership and even then, I don't think it would ever die in a sense that even if we come to a point where no one reads the print, they'll still read on the internet and it still be the content provider. So, um, I would say as far as journalism is concern I think print is where you can hone your skills and be able to really experience what it is to gather the news and be able to inform people. Secondly, what you need to do is its very important for one to have passion. I can't tell you, it's not something like everyday you exercise with passion by doing this without but what I know in how to be able to do this is be a curious person, be able to read a lot or even, um, you know sort of like be able to always try to think of yourself or put yourself in the other person's position and say okay if I was being written about what is it that I want to say and how I want it to be or just good practice because you're also be giving the readers more information, sometimes when you just get one side, if you put yourself on the person's position you don't want that so you'll make sure that you give your readers a very comprehenisve view of the matter. So I would say that and that there is no exchange for hardwork also. I spend a lot of hours doing the job, I try my best to keep in touch with global trends, and get as much materials in my hands to read, to watch. I would say, you know pursue your dreams because that's really where you have passion for so you know if this is something you can't force yourself into, if your parents force you to do this, I would say try to get your parents to see that it's not just your like because it has to be something that you must have passion for. Or know when you go and talk to the reporters, they love what they are doing, it's like it's just going after their scoop or story, it is as if it's their, it's like a meal for them, you know, they can't go on the day if they don't, you know, when they are pursuing the story and they do it with such passion. So, I would say to pursue your dreams of course when you come to your job, there are certain things that you don't expect and all that parang you look so sexy and attractive on movies or TV, how come but there are certain core things and values that will match. I would say that, and practice, it pays off if you practice your writing, as I said hardwork, that will, for me I can see for good reporter and not so good reporters the difference is that they really spend the time in either pursuing the story or researching. That is also part of the discipline. That's it.
Q: That'll be all.