The Mindanao Cross newspaper: digitized from first issue on Feb. 6, 1948

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/06 February) — In a world gone digital, one might think that the presence of online platforms would eventually spell the death of the print industry.

Not for the longest running Catholic newspaper in the Philippines, The Mindanao Cross, the first newspaper in Mindanao to undergo a micro-filming process to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage and promote academic and research interests for the country.

Editor-in-Chief Eva Kimpo-Tan and News Editor Carlos Bautista turned over on Tuesday, January 31, the CDs containing the digitized newspaper from its first issue on February 6, 1948 to  December 2012 to Notre Dame University (NDU) President Fr. Charlie Inzon, OMI and Sheila Algabre, Vice President for Administration and Extension and Executive Assistant to the President.

Eva Kimpo-Tan, Editor in Chief of the Cotabato City-based weekly newspaper, The Mindanao Cross, and News Editor Carlos Bautista turn over to Notre Dame University President Fr. Charlie Inzon, OMI and Sheila Algabre, Vice President for Administration and Extension the CDs containing the digitized newspaper from its first issue on February 6, 1948 to December 2012. Photo courtesy of THE MINDANAO CROSS

The microfilming process began in 2013 and ended in 2015. It was a joint project of the Ateneo De Manila University Rizal Library and The Mindanao Cross Publishers Inc. with funding support from the Center for Research Libraries – Southeast Asia Microforms Project.

“In the past, researchers both local and foreign, had to fly to Cotabato City to secure a copy. This time, there is no need to travel far. It is now convenient and accessible,” said Fr. Jonathan Domingo, OMI, chief executive officer of The Mindanao Cross.

To facilitate the implementation of the project, a memorandum of agreement was entered into by Fr. Domingo and Rodolfo Ang, acting vice president of Ateneo De Manila University.

Under the agreement, The Mindanao Cross will receive free from the Ateneo Rizal Library a copy, scanned from the microfilm, in digital format. Additional copies shall be provided at the regular price.

Strictly following the international archival quality standards on preservation microfilming, the Ateneo Rizal Library made a master negative film of every page of the newspaper.

“The digital copies of The Mindanao Cross are not only for the preservation of history and cultural heritage, but also for the academic and research interests of the members of the faculty and students of Notre Dame University,” Fr. Domingo said.

Microfilms are films strips rolled in reels containing photographic records of printed materials on a reduced scale.

The Mindanao Cross microfilmed copies are now preserved in earthquake- and fire-proof Ateneo Rizal Library. With right temperature and humidity, microfilm copies can last up to 500 years.

MC at 69

The turn-over of the digital copy of the paper to Notre Dame University was done as The Mindanao  Cross, known as  “The Little Paper With A Big Cause,” turns 69. Over the past six decades, The Mindanao Cross has grown to be a standard bearer of news for the whole of Central Mindanao, pioneering in peace reporting and advocating for Muslim, Christian and Lumad solidarity, and the preservation of the cultures and traditions of the region.

The Mindanao Cross, digitized from its first issue on February 6, 1948. Photo courtesy of THE MINDANAO CROSS

The Mindanao Cross has received multiple awards since 1997.

It was first awarded the Best in Editorial Page by the Philippine Press Institute in 1998. It took home the 1999 Gerry Gil Foundation’s Best Editorial Page and again won in the 2006 Community Press Awards also in the Best Editorial Page category.

It won Best Edited Newspaper three times, Best in Editorial Page four times, and Best in Culture and Arts Reporting. It has since been a consistent finalist in almost all seven award categories in the PPI’s Annual Community Newspaper Awards.

Humble beginnings

Originally founded by Oblates of Mary Immaculate missionary Gerard Mongeau, the first Archbishop of Cotabato, as part of the congregation’s mission in Mindanao, The Mindanao Cross first hit the streets of Cotabato on February 6, 1948, with the help of a printing press that was donated to the Oblates.

Archbishop Mongeau, who died on October 29, 1994 at the age of 94, wrote in his diary his dream of publishing a Catholic paper in Cotabato.

“Fr. Boyd, OMI received an offer of a small printing press in New York. He generously donated to me the press. We made arrangements for the shipping. I met Fr. Cuthbert Billman, OMI who showed much interest to be in charge of the press and publish the Cotabato paper which we decided to call The Mindanao Cross, a littler paper with a big cause,” wrote Archbishop Mongeau in 1981.

Fr. Billman was the first editor of The Mindanao Cross. After him came other Oblate priests and laymen who have pooled their talents in making the paper grow from four pages to 28 pages.

The paper missed one issue when martial law was declared in 1972. Former Editor-in-Chief Patricio Diaz went to the Supreme Court to petition and the paper was allowed to publish again.

“It is the only Catholic paper which has survived to so long in the Philippines. Others were born, lived for a while and died,” Archbishop Mongeau wrote. (Valerie Ann P. Lambo /The Mindanao Cross)

CORRECTION, PLEASE. MindaNews columnist Patricio P. Diaz, editor of The Mindanao Cross from 1968 to 1989 writes this piece to correct two points and add more information about “The Little Paper With A Big Cause.”