Malaya publisher Amado ‘Jake’ Macasaet, veteran journo and industry leader, dies at 81

January 7, 2018 - 11:35 PM
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Malaya Business Insight publisher Jake Macasaet, at his desk. PHOTO FROM ELLEN TORDESILLAS BLOG

MANILA – Malaya Business Insight publisher and veteran business journalist Amado “Jake” P. Macasaet, whose stint as chairman of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) was one of the longest, died Sunday morning, Jan. 7, at the age of 81, his family announced.

Macasaet was “peacefully brought home by his Creator God at 8:35 am, Jan. 7, 2018, surrounded by his family,” his wife, Karen, said in a post on social media.

Born on Aug. 9, 1936, Macasaet was a schoolmate of the late journalist and press freedom fighter Jose G. Burgos, Jr. at the University of Santo Tomas. He began his journalism career before martial law, and later joined Burgos in the pioneering newspaper Malaya, trailblazer of the so-called “Mosquito Press” during the Marcos dictatorship. The national political daily evolved through the years into a leading business paper under the helm of Macasaet.

Macasaet started as a columnist for the then Ang Pahayagang Malaya and soon became its business editor and associate publisher, working in tandem with Burgos. In the post-Marcos era, Macasaet took over the helm as publisher.

Macasaet was elected for multiple terms as chairman of the national association of newspapers, the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), alternately leading this institution with the late Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani M. Yambot and before him, the late BusinessWorld publisher Raul L. Locsin, among others.

Journalist and blogger Ellen Tordesillas, the longest-serving reporter at Malaya, wrote in her blog on Sunday that one reason she stayed on at Malaya was Jake.

A major change Sir Jake introduced upon taking over Malaya was to make it a “regular” newspaper, Tordesillas recalled.

Having been founded during what Tordesillas called “abnormal times” when the country was under the Marcos dictatorship, Malaya was known as an “alternative newspaper,” publishing reports that were not touched by the government-controlled mainstream media,” and bore the “leftist” tag, Tordesillas explained.

But in the democratic transition post-EDSA, Jake thought it best to make Malaya a “regular” newspaper, partly to keep it commercially viable. Tordesillas recalled that “Malaya’s makeover disappointed a number of people, but Sir Jake, who has never been known for diplomatic language, would say, ‘If there’s money in communism, I’ll go into it.’”

Jake’s “being a journalist made a lot of difference in the way he ran a newspaper compared to those owned and managed by capitalists,” according to Tordesillas.

“For one, he was fiercely protective of journalistic independence,” she added, recalling the time a government official asked him to pull her out of the beat because he did not like her coverage.

“He bluntly told the official that Malaya’s policy on beat assignments didn’t include securing the approval of offices and officials its reporters cover.”

This ability to balance both the commercial interests of a newspaper and its editorial independence partly accounted for his having been virtually “forced” by the print industry leaders to keep serving, for several terms, as PPI chairman, recalled InterAksyon managing editor Lourdes Molina-Fernandez, who sat in PPI meetings and in the PPI’s semi-autonomous Philippine Press Council as representative for TODAY newspaper.

“Jake understood the problems that publishers and media owners faced whenever there was an issue that impacted the industry. At the same time, he understood the day-to-day problems of journalists, having been a veteran reporter, nay, the eternal reporter who still liked to sniff around for materials for his column,” Fernandez said.

“For all his tough talk, Sir Jake was a softie. He couldn’t refuse anybody who asked for help, financial (a child’s tuition or a family member’s hospitalization) or otherwise,” recalled Tordesillas.

Fernandez, who worked with both Burgos and Macasaet as editor-in-chief of Malaya, remembers Macasaet as “a typical journalist, occasionally irascible, one who calls a spade a spade and is known to be very frank, doesn’t pull punches.”

She also fondly recalls him for his wry humor, his occasionally satirical writing, and “many wacky moments” he shared with journalists in the newsroom.

The Malaya announced late Sunday that Jake’s remains lie in state at Chapel 3 of Heritage Park in Fort Bonifacio.
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