Feature: The Newsboy Who Became Newspaper Executive

From being a newsboy, then 19-year old Pert Toga worked his way to become a multi-awardee newspaperman.

President, Editor-in-Chief

That in brief is the real story of NDB’s Ruperto Galvan Toga, now 76 years old, who started as a newsboy to earn money for his early years as a high school student and spent time working as news reporter, rose to become editor and finally editor-in-chief of the weekly Negros Bulletin, later known as the Negros Daily Bulletin, now the oldest existing newspaper in Negros Occ.

His near-meteoric rise in the print media industry, however, was attained only after almost a lifetime of sacrifice, hard work and lots of challenges since childhood, during which he tried his hand on menial jobs in a sugarcane hacienda planting cane points, uprooting grasses and weeds on rows of cane plants, harvesting palay during the harvest season together with most members of his family, selling newspapers and magazines on the streets of Bacolod City, earning a few centavos and pesos to help support his family’s daily needs, and at the same time spend for his early schooling. At a time, he would resort to gathering empty cans, medicine bottles in garbage heaps to accumulate anything to sell and earn something.

All these he suffered having been born to a poor family of seven children, whose father was a lowly calesa driver, constantly getting sick and could barely earn enough for the family’s basic needs.

Many times, his parents would try asking him to stop going to school and just help the family by working for their survival, but the boy and teener would rebuke them, because of his passion and determination to pursue his studies even at a great sacrifice.

As a result, he finished his elementary and high school education among the top honor students, thus earning recognition and substantial discounts in his tuition fees. The hard work continued until his crucial high school days.

As a newsboy-student, Pert Toga has to spend his weekends selling some magazines and newspapers to augment his meager resources to finish secondary education.

On Saturdays, he would join hundreds of other boys and teeners selling the Hiligaynon magazine, which at the time was the most well-read household magazine in Bacolod City. He would carry no less than 50 as he outrun several others on the major thoroughfares, reaching as far as five kilometers southward to Barrio Tangub on foot until all the magazines he carried were all sold.

On Sundays, he would resort to selling other magazines and newspapers from Manila like Philippines Free Press, Sunday Times and Weekly Graphic with local publications as supplements, including Negros Bulletin.

In his final year at Bacolod City High School in 1958, he was chosen scholar of the Bacolod City Jaycees, which enabled him to graduate with honors, too.

Despite the hard work and sacrifice of his mother, Pert Toga was left with no option but to stop pursuing his college education as his father’s illness had worsened and he had to find employment for the sake of his aging mother and siblings who had all stopped their own schooling to help support their family’s daily sustenance.

The sad plight of his family, whom he often considered the poorest of the poor, prompted Pert Toga to approach his barrio mate who was a noted Hiligaynon novelist in the vernacular, Lino V. Moles for possible employment as a laborer at the City engineer’s office, being at the time personnel officer after having lost the election for city councilor of Bacolod.

Moles, knowing Pert as a staffer of his high school paper, offered to him the task of news reporter of his new-found weekly paper, the Negros Bulletin, and the rest is history. The teenager proved to be a good writer and fast learner, showing enthusiasm and interest in the print media.

He became Moles’ most trusted and all-around assistant in the paper’s operation, and within a few years had assumed most of the editorial responsibilities of the editor in cooperation with his mentor Moles and his business partner, Santi S. Alacapa, who eventually assumed full responsibility as publisher for the publication when Moles was appointed as commercial agent and provincial standards officer for Negros Occ. in the Bureau of Commerce.

It was no bed of roses for Alacapa and Toga who had to scratch the surface to be able to continue publishing the Negros Bulletin but with faith and hard work through the years, the duo managed to keep the flames burning until the paper weathered the storms, so to speak, emerging as a daily in 1994 todate.

Under Pert Toga’s editorship, the NDB was adjudged nationally as “Best in Environment Reporting” for 2001, 2003 and 2004 from the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAF) of Germany.

Pert was also one of 7 top awardees of the Negros Press Club as media stalwarts on October 10, 2009; Special citation plaque from Bacolod City as “Outstanding Media Practitioner” during the Banwahanon Awards on the City’s 69th Charter Anniversary on Oct. 19, 2007; One of the five awardees as Outstanding Bacolodnon in the field of journalism on the City’s Brilyante award rites during Bacolod’s Diamond anniversary on October 19, 2013; one of the 14 Media Lifetime Achievement Awardees for 54 years as media practitioner on November 15, 2014 from the Negros Press Club and Rotary Club of Bacolod East.

Finally, he was honored as one of three Presidential Citation Awardees by the Negros Press Club and Rotary Club of Bacolod East for exemplary commitment and passion to the media profession on October 15, 2016.

He was twice-elected President of the Negros Press Club, three times as Vice President of the Iloilo Press Club, among other media groups which he joined and headed.

As a well-travelled newsman, he was RP’s lone delegate to a Journalism Workshop hosted by UNICEF and the ASEAN Confederation of Journalists in 1986, and the lone Philippine grantee in journalism under the auspices of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) with several weeks stay in Boston, Massachusetts, State of Virginia, Upstate New York and New York City, Niagara Falls, and Washington, D.C. having stints at the White House, the Pentagon, US Capitol and Department of State in 1988.

He had study tours in Bangkok, Los Angeles, CA; Long Beach and Las Vegas in 2011.*(PPTJr.)