Manila Chronicle Building
IT started life some 40 years ago as the Manila Chronicle Building, address Escarpment Road, Pasig, Rizal. At six stories, it was tall enough to be a prominent part of the Ortigas skyline, and there it held court for more than two decades. Benpres Inc.
president Don Eugenio “Eñing” H. Lopez Sr.
had the new structure built to house the printing press and operations of The Manila Chronicle, the newspaper he had purchased from Bert Villanueva in September 1947. Formal dedication
Ambassadors, press attachés, local publishers and editors graced the formal dedication of the building on April 2, 1971. Grainy black and white photos published in the paper the next day captured Foreign Sec. Carlos P. Romulo, Manila Times publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces, Philippines Herald publisher Sebastian Ugarte, Sen. Doy Laurel and Rep. Jose Laurel Jr. hobnobbing with members of the Lopez family led by Don Eñing and his eldest son Geny (then the paper’s publisher) and Manila Chronicle editors and staff.
Eleven foreign publishers from Europe, the US, Asia and the Middle East had also flown in for the event, among them Denis Hamilton, chairman and editor in chief of Times Newspapers Ltd. By this time, the paper’s editors were at loggerheads with Pres. Marcos over issues of corruption, cronyism and the growing power of the military. Don Eñing’s brother, Fernando, had also resigned his post as Marcos’ Secretary of Agriculture some four months earlier. Looming threat
The looming threat to press freedom must have been on Don Eñing’s mind then, for in his speech during the inauguration, “The Threat to a Free Press,” he said: “We must and we will fight to the last this danger in the Philippines, as we believe that the freedom of the press is the only guarantee for the preservation of our liberties…. Now, on the occasion of the dedication of this building, we reiterate our pledge to continue this crusade which is so dear to our hearts. And in this undertaking we shall draw inspiration from the people in whom sovereign power resides.” The Manila Chronicle was forcibly shut down less than 20 months later. Revival
A year after its revival in 1986, the paper once again operated from this building but later on transferred its base, this time to Bonifacio Drive in Manila where the printing press was located. At about this time, its old home was renamed Benpres Building. “Benpres” is derived from the combined names of Don Eñing’s parents, Benito and Presentacion. By then, the once short and lonely building in Ortigas Center started having new modern buildings as neighbors.
Ortigas Center had spruced itself up from backwoods to sleek business district in the ensuing 14 years. But the Lopezes restarted their many other businesses, from ABSCBN to First Holdings, from Benpres Building after EDSA 1. Today, a plaque of the National Historical Commission honoring Don Eugenio H. Lopez greets visitors to the historic structure that is Benpres Building. The building also serves as the nerve center of the Lopez empire and is home to 19 Lopez Group companies, including Lopez Holdings Corp. and First Holdings.