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New building, new journey

By IRIS GONZALES, The Philippine STAR Published Nov 27, 2023 5:00 am Updated Nov 28, 2023 8:52 am

Miguel “MGB” Belmonte remembers tagging along with his mother, Betty Go-Belmonte or BGB to that old Philippine STAR building in Port Area, Manila way back in the ‘70s. He was just a kid, perhaps a 10-year-old boy at the time.

The building, owned by the family, had seen many transformations; it used to serve as the office for the Belmontes’ publishing business including The Fookien Times and, at some point, Bibles and textbooks, says MGB.

On July 28, 1986, it became the home of The Philippine STAR, the newspaper founded by the legendary BGB, together with her co-founders Max Soliven and Art Borjal. 

Miguel Belmonte has navigated The STAR through storms and the new office is a symbol of The STAR’s staying power and resolve to continue providing quality journalism.

Later on it became an old, faded and building battered by the passing of time and the chaos and elements of the Bronx-like district of Port Area.

Thus, on Nov. 11, or 11:11—said to be the luckiest of all angel numbers—The STAR had its last editorial press work in the Port Area building. Perhaps, it was a good time to say farewell to the newspaper’s long-time home. The “ones” signify new beginnings, to mean that you are about to embark on a new journey, spiritual experts said.

The STAR moved to its sleek and new, modern building that glimmered under the afternoon sun of southern Metro Manila, a perfect metaphor to describe the legacy of MGB, our president and CEO, whose leadership of what is now the country’s most significant newspaper, has helped steer the ship to faraway places and distant shores. 

These are big and bold changes that entail big adjustments for many of the employees but MGB took that leap of faith and we’re not just talking about moving to a shiny new building. 

It’s really all about leading a newspaper at a time when the country and the media industry are changing and the changes are still ongoing.

Out of his mother’s shadow

The STAR editor-in-chief Amy Pamintuan said MGB indeed has come a long way from his early days when he would just tag along with his mother. 

“All my earliest memories of Miguel Belmonte include his mom, Betty Go-Belmonte. They were always together, whether at Malacañang when I was a reporter, or at the STAR office in Port Area.

“Today, as MGB reaches a milestone in his life, he is fully out of his mother’s shadow. And it is but fitting that the milestone coincides with the STAR’s move to its new home, which is a testament to how far MGB has taken the newspaper following his mother’s demise,” Pamintuan said.

The new office, Pamintuan said, is a symbol of the STAR’s staying power and resolve to continue providing quality journalism—news that the public can trust—which is critical for the long-term survival of a media organization.

“The construction of the new office is all the more impressive as it was put up during the COVID lockdowns and the worst economic crisis the country has faced since World War II. At the same time, the newspaper industry has faced tough existential challenges with the emergence of social media. Yet MGB has steered the company to profitability, which he has plowed back into his legacy project, the new office building. On his milestone, his parents Betty and former speaker Sonny Belmonte no doubt are mighty proud of their son. It is, surely, a happy birthday for MGB!” Pamintuan added.

How did MGB manage to rally his team to embrace such changes? The answer depends really on who is speaking but most of the employees will agree that it is because MGB is no doubt an inspiring boss.

Sports is life

Veteran sports columnist and analyst Quinito Henson summed it up well:

“As a writer, I’ve always found inspiration from our president and CEO Miguel Belmonte. His passion to deliver a daily broadsheet that speaks the truth, tells meaningful stories and brings to life what happens in the world on the printed page is why we in the STAR strive to be as dedicated and committed to excellence as he is. 

Quinito Henson

“During the pandemic, he braved challenging conditions to be with the staff at the office, showing care and concern for co-workers. As a leader, he is someone we all look up to. As a friend, he is sincere and understanding. I’ll always cherish his texts about anything sports from EJ Obiena to Alphonse Areola to Gilas to the UAAP,” Henson said.

“Whenever I receive an award or any kind of recognition, he never fails to congratulate and encourage me,” says Henson. “I remember we once texted each other, agreeing that ‘sports is life.’ In many ways, he’s like his mother, Mrs. Betty Go Belmonte, who loved the STAR. In my early years with the newspaper, I recall wonderful telephone conversations with Mrs. Belmonte on topics like journalistic ethics, responsible writing and a devotion to the truth. Today, the STAR is blessed that our leader is a man of principle with a big heart. Happy birthday, Sir Miguel!”

Jarius Bondoc, longtime OpEd columnist, says that as an investigative columnist, he enjoys the support of the newspaper led by MGB. It was former speaker Feliciano Belmonte, MGB’s father, who invited him to join the newspaper. 

Jarius Bondoc

As a former editor of the now-defunct Daily Globe, Jarius would be a good addition to the STAR, deemed the former House speaker, and could help their son MGB run a big newspaper. 

The rest, as they say, is history. Jarius joined the STAR in 1999 and is grateful for the support of the newspaper under MGB’s leadership. 

STAR editorial has supported my investigative work, knowing that it is the core of journalism. STAR management has protected me from harassment and nuisance suits, all the latter of which were dismissed,” said Jarius, whose medical condition does not deter him from doing investigative work. 

Bondoc has been going blind for seven years now due to glaucoma but he continues to write by dictating to an editorial assistant and reading books and periodicals via audio apps. In 2019, six years after naming him journalist of the year, Metrobank Foundation recognized Jarius with an Award for Continuing Excellence and Service. Also in 2019 he was named among Lifestyle Asia Magazine’s “Men Who Matter.” A year before the National Press Club gave him the Apolinario Mabini Award for handicapped journalists.

Atty. Ernesto Maceda Jr.

COMELEC Commissioner and STAR columnist Atty. Ernesto Maceda Jr. marvels at MGB’s hands-on approach: “No one among us can know or imagine what goes into running a business like the Philippine STAR—the most successful broadsheet in the country. One might cringe at the thought of his 1,001 things to do daily but there is never a sense of much left undone at day’s end. And I speak of a man who, rather than delegate, will not hesitate to personally visit staff even for simple requests.”

He adds: “Miguel comes from a family of politicians but he is not a politico—none of what he does is pakitang tao. Ayaw nga ipakita sa tao. Even when personally engaged in the purely philanthropic activities of the STAR’s charitable arms, you will find him involved in organizational, administrative and even menial tasks—distributing on site, packing goods, carrying sacks and cartons. And, same as when he eschews any special entitlements when at work, he never demands to be treated differently when he is out helping.”

The STAR, indeed, has seen so many changes as it continues its journey of recording the country’s triumphs and travails, its stories of love and war and dreams and nightmares. 

Through it all, since he took over the leadership of the newspaper, MGB has been steering the ship through both rough and quiet seas, through good times and bad. 

He has learned to move along with the changing tides, cheer the victories and to survive and thrive through the challenges. 

Marianne Go

Rallying behind him is the whole STAR family. As Business Editor Marianne Go said, being with The Philippine STAR is really like being part of one big family. 

As MGB turns a year older, he continues to write his legacy. It is so much more than just providing a dream building—a new home—for the STAR

It is really about steering the newspaper through all the challenging times, through the advent of social media and artificial intelligence and through all the political upheavals—all the while smiling, laughing, and still having the time to catch up on the latest updates, whether it’s about showbiz, high society or sports.

It is an unfinished job, but MGB’s work continues. For sure, the best is yet to come as he leads the newspaper in making sure the truth prevails —dizzying and challenging as the times may be.