What makes the NPC fail


What makes the NPC fail

By Teodoro Valencia

Simply stated, the emphasis on “rights” and the disregard for duties and responsibilities of the members of the National Press Club has been the main cause of the failure of the club to achieve its goals. The second big cause of failure has been the sublimation of the good of the club to political ambitions of the few. A third big reason has been the failure of club officials to realize that the primary objective of the club is to provide them a meeting place instead of a political arena.

I was among the doubters who refused to join the National Press Club after an unpleasant experience in 1953 when the annual election of officers held at the Malacanang Park turned out to be a politician’s nightmare instead of a healthy get-together of brethren in the profession. I thought this attitude would die the moment we could put up a press building. We were wrong. After a brief respite, the apathy and indifference of club members to what’s good for them, came back.

Since 1955, the National Press Club has done great things for its members. We have settled so many in permanent homes in the various government housing projects. The press has since become a cohesive force for good, speaking with one voice in times of national crisis. We have had successful attempts to gain international recognition as an active force in the press of the free world. But, sad to say, the club itself has degenerated. It is no longer the gathering place of the press. The building stands as a symbol of unity but it has failed to generate the fellowship that it was meant to promote.

The tragedy is that every member of the Press Club is aware of his Rights. He complains loudly about bad meals, about prices and about the lack of facilities in his club. Yet, nobody has ever thought of the need for supporting the club adequately. The P1-a-month fee is entirely out of the line with present needs of the club and yet every attempt to raise funds was met with strong opposition. We want a first-class club on a tenth-rate fee. We want something for nothing. Nobody ever got that. We won’t either.

The result of these is that the administrations of the club have depended entirely on the personality of whoever was President of the club. IN other words, group action never ruled the Press Club. A careless President meant a careless carefree administration. A fighting President meant a good administration. The members could not care less. They left everything to the President and felt that their only duty was to gripe.

I have almost stopped going to the National Press Club. It saddens me to have to say this but it hurt me every time I witnessed members taking the club as if it were a business establishment that they patronize and from which they could expect the best for the least amount of money. The personal hygiene of the members left much to be desired and this was obvious from the cigarette butts all over the place, the filth that could only have come from the lack of cooperation from the general patronage.

It is strange that the library, for instance, is the very same library that it was when we put up for the first time. Many good books are no longer in the shelves because some members have taken them home for their personal libraries. On had a right to expect that the library would receive personal donations from the members instead of being pirated of valuable editions. We once tried the honor system in the library but it turned out that even with the usual library registry rules, we were to lose our books.

The National Press Club is saddled with debts incurred by members who signed chits without regard to their ability to pay. The SWA (Social Welfare Administration) had nothing on the NPC. For many, the Press Club was for exploitation. Their answer to requests for payment was to stop going to the Press Club and to denounce it for arrogance or for unreasonableness on members.

The quality of the membership deserves one paragraph. Every self-proclaimed newspaperman feels that he has a “right” to membership and the officers of the club felt that some persons “have to be” taken in. It has never occurred to anyone that bad eggs should be eliminated from the membership and barred from entering the club in order to make the club a pleasant place for the rest of the newspapermen. We have had so many sad experiences with drunks and deadbeats that one would think we have learned a lesson but the truth is that we have not.

It has come to a point where members of the club don’t dare take their friends to the club because of the possibility that they would be accosted for a “touch” or perhaps engaged in a debate on subjects that have little or no interest for the guest. There was a time when foreign correspondents felt it a “must” to visit the National Press Club. Now, it is safer to show them the building and then detour them to more pleasant places for taking meals or snacks.

The National press Club was never meant to be anything but a club. It is not, and should not be molded into a headquarters for labor activities or politics. People are supposed to go to the club for relaxation from their daily toils – to sit with friends and contemplate the passing events in comparative ease, devoid of the tensions of a newspaper assignment. We have never learned to relax in the club. We have always tried to make it a battleground for ideas instead of tired heads and aching muscles.

There are many good newspapermen with executive abilities who could make the club work but they shy away from the National Press Club because they know that they would have to work alone and against odds if they want anything done at all. Unless we remove the “gimme” attitude of the members of the club and inspired in them, instead, a desire to do their part, we shall always have the building but no National Press Club.

One of the best examples of how we have ruined our own club is the way we butt into other people’s business. Almost no one is safe in giving a party in the NPC without the danger of being invaded by uninvited gusts or “kibitzers”. We have been thrown the rule book in our insane belief that since the NPC is “ours”, we can do in it what we please. In the process, we have ruined it even for our purposes.

It is incredible that the only time we get the newspapermen to go to the NPC is during election day. And most of the members go only to vote. Throughout the year, we have a handful of people who park around the club because they’ve been used to the idea or they have nowhere else to go. During special occasions, such as Gridiron Night or some special press conference, many who attend don’t want to pay their share of the expenses because they feel they have “rights”.

Unless we learned that we can’t have a real club unless we pitched in and did our share of responsibility, we shall never have one that we can be proud of. It is pointless for anyone to devote his entire energies to making a good club if that someone finds himself alone and derided for the effort.

In retrospect, I think we made a mistake in putting up this edifice called the National Press Club. We should have put up a more modest one that we could have improved as the years went by. The brutal truth is that we made the mistake of putting up a National Press Club building before we had a National Press Club in fact. We tried to build a club around a building and failed in the process. We’re still trying but the building is the handicap. Most of us feel that we “own” a share in the glory and the advantages but not in the work necessary to keep the club going.

We might save the day for the Philippine press if we elect dedicated men who will run for office in the club for what they can do for it and not for the glory that they will heap upon themselves by winning an election. The trouble today is that so many become candidates in the hope that with victory they shall be an inch taller. We need tall men who shall guide the membership, work with vigor and selflessness, not ambitious men who will inflict themselves on the club and to hell with what happens to it.

Perhaps it is time to dissociate glory from club officership. We need a permanent board of management who shall be chosen on merit and not by popularity vote. This, we must divorce from the elective board of the club who shall decide policies of the press as a professional body and help managers of the club re-make the National Press Club into a real social residence of the members. This is how they do it in the National Press Club in Washington and in other places they have successfully run press clubs.

We don’t stand to move ahead with our present ways of doing things. A politics-ridden club can only head for the scrap heap, let us forget personal glory and ambition and get together in putting up a press club that we can be proud of. We have the building. We have the land. What we don’t have is the will to make the most of our gifts of the civic community and of the government. We were given a toy but we are not playing with it. We are tearing it apart, piece by piece. There is still time to save it. If we cast aside pride, we can do it. It is later than we think.

Lifted from: The National Press Club of the Philippines 50 Golden Years

Sunday, June 15, 2008

NPC Seal symbol of Press Freedom

The Manila Times., Dec. 30, 1955, p11

The seal of the National Press Club utilizes Philippine motifs and symbols with rich historical background to signify freedom of the press.

The dominant motifs and symbols of the seal are the sea lion, the quill and the tambuli, complemented by the sun rayonnant with letter K written in the old Tagalog script.

According to Galo B. Ocampo, member and secretary of Philippine Heraldry committee who designed the seal, the sea lion with a sword with guard and hilt is the heralsdric symbol for Filipinos and signifies "ever alert to defend the fatherland."

The Philippine sun with eight rays and the letter K, written in the old Tagalog script as used in the Katipunan standard, is used to complement the sea lion, thus giving the seal a rich historical background.

National colors of red, white and blue give added significance . Red is the dominant color, signifying "courage to express oneself," and is tempered by blue, signifying justice and white purity. ####

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