After Lipa’s liberation from the Spanish forces on June 18, 1898, the town underwent a cultural revival. It was in this atmosphere, in the ardor of the revolution, that brought to life the newspaper Columnas Volantes de la Federación Malaya, an obscure and unrecognized contribution of Lipa to Philippine journalism and to Philippine history in general. Fernando María Guerrero, a renowned Filipino poet and writer during the golden age of Philippine Literature in Spanish, wrote the following in praise of the said publication.
“¿Cuantos de la presente generación filipina están enterados del papel heroico que desempeñó, en aquellos días de lucha, “Columnas Volantes”? En realidad, muy pocos. Sólo contados bibliófilos tienen noticia de ello. Y tan cierto es esto que muy rara vez-por no decir nunca se ha hecho mención de la labor meritísima realizada por aquel haz de claros talentos y almas vehementes que fueron ayer y siguen siendo aún orgullo, prez y gloria de la provincia de Batangas en particular, y, en general, del pueblo y la raza filipina.” Prologue of Fernando María Guerrero, Columnas Volantes, Max Bernard Solís, published in 1927 (Translation: How many of the present Filipino generation knew of the heroic role played by the Columnas Volantes in those days of the revolutionary struggle? Actually, very few. Only a few bibliophiles knew about it. And so true was this, that very rarely – if ever – mention has been made of the most meritorious work done by that bundle of distinct talents and passionate souls that were yesterday and still continue to be the pride, glory and honor of the Batangas province in particular, and of the Filipino people and race in general.)
Under the directorship of Don Gregorio Aguilera y Solis and the auspices of the Club Democrático Independista, a group of editors, brilliant and spirited young Lipeños, who were fresh graduates from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, and Universidad de Santo Tomas, driven with their patriotic fervor, published the Columnas Volantes de la Federación Malaya. The weekly newspaper was written in Spanish and Tagalog and its first issue appeared on Friday, March 24, 1899. The title of the newspaper drew inspiration from the noble sentiment that cherished the beautiful idea of seeing the Philippines not only independent but progressing at the head and in union with all the Malay people.
The editorial staff of the Columnas Volantes were composed of Gregorio Aguilera y Solis (the director), Pedro Laygo (the redactor jefe or editor in chief), Dr. Baldomero L. Roxas (the cronista de sociedad or society columnist), Fidel Alejandro M. Reyes (critical commentaries columnist), José Petronio M. Katigbak (features and poetry columnist), Tomás R. Umali (military strategy columnist), and Albino C. Dimayuga (the Tagalog section editor). As a journalistic custom of those days, these young writers used pen names such as: “R. del M.” for Aguilera, “Dr. Pangloss”or “Lumiere Rouge” for Roxas, “Negro” or “Fin de Siecle” for Reyes, “Hamlet” for Katigbak, “Florete” or “Adonis” for Umali, and “Albicus” for Dimayuga (a portmanteau of his first name – Albino and mother’s maiden name- Custodio).
For each issue of the Columnas Volantes, the editorial staff convened in an office located in one of the mezzanine floors of the building occupied by the Club Democrático Independista, one of the most spacious houses in Lipa, owned by Señor José A. Luz. Their writings broke into print in an old minerva managed by a couple of Spaniards, who were then prisoners of war in Lipa but were treated chivalrously by the town’s local authorities. The chief typesetter was a sergeant of the cazadores, who during his civilian life had worked in a printing press in Spain.
The size of the Columnas Volantes was, more or less, 12 x 8 inches. It usually consisted of 6 pages, and it used an ordinary newspaper. The text was printed on two double-column galley proofs, so that, due to the size of the weekly, only two galley proofs entered each page. They were quickly printed in the minerva without being corrected because they had to be broken down to make up the second page, and so on. For this reason, the articles appeared with all the imaginable errors.
Max Bernard Solís, a first cousin of Gregorio Aguilera, gave a personal description of Columnas Volantes in an article he wrote in 1927.
“Aquel Semanario era ecléctico. Resumía todas las actividades de la vida nacional y batangueña. Esto, naturalmente, según lo permitían los medios muy defectuosos de comunicación e información. Desde luego, el artículo de fondo o editorial, que generalmente iba firmado, siguiendo la practica de la prensa francesa estaba consagrado al comento de las distintas fases de la política nacional y del curso de la guerra filipino-americana. Fuera de esto, véanse, distribuidos convenientemente entre sus páginas, ora un cuento, una poesía, una revista de salón o de arte, ora un artículo de crítica, de sátira, de estrategia militar, etc., etc., sin contar con las informaciones generales, que, a diferencia del sistema de hoy, estaban distribuidos a capricho, según las exigencias de la explanación.” (Translation: That Weekly was eclectic. It summarized all the activities of national and Batangueño life. This, of course, as permitted by the very defective means of communication and information. Of course, the editorial, which was generally signed, following the practice of the French Press, was devoted to commenting on the various phases of national politics and the course of the Filipino-American war. Apart from this, one can see, conveniently distributed among its pages, either a short story, a poem, a journal or art magazine, or an article on criticism, satire, military strategy, etc., etc., without counting the general information, which, unlike today’s system, was distributed at will, according to the demands of the story.)
“Fuera de esos defectos de detalle que se han mencionado arriba, Admira la cultura y amplitud de criterio con que el Semanario sabía tratar las cuestiones de actualidad, la destreza y habilidad con que eran expuestas, a los lectores, y la valentía, a veces punzante y agresiva, en la expresión de los puntos de vista. Esto en lo que se refiere al aspecto doctrinal de la publicación. En cuanto a las secciones de amenidad, capean en sus columnas el buen gusto literario, la inspiración poética, la sal ática, el severo juicio del Critico, y la amenidad y elegancia del Cronista.” (Translation: Despite its defects, one must admire the culture and breadth of criteria with which the Weekly knew how to deal with current issues, the skill and ability with which they were exposed, to the readers, and the courage, sometimes sharp and aggressive, in the expression of the points of view. This concerns the doctrinal aspect of the publication. As for the entertainment sections, the good literary taste, the poetic inspiration, the attic wisdom, the sharp judgment of the critic, and the amenity and elegance of the Chronicler, all prevailed in its columns.)
Glenn Anthony May, a writer and professor who specialized in Southeast Asian history, also made reference to the historical newspaper in his book Battle for Batangas, A Philippine Province at War. “The Columnas Volantes manifested patriotic sentiments as well as fierce determination to resist the Americans. In issue after issue, the writers expressed their intention to continue the struggle to fight for freedom to death.” May also lifted and translated one of editorials from Columnas Volantes, which discussed the possibility of a forthcoming American invasion.
“Uneasiness, to some extent justified…, prevails in the populace. Regions which were untouched until recently are being invaded…Where will all this end? Will we succumb to such pressure?…These are questions which one hears frequently, enigma which every Filipino longs to see deciphered, obviously in favor of our aspirations. But if bad luck sends us precisely the opposite of what we hope for, there are fortunately many mountains and craggy spots (in the province). No doubt it will be preferable to live in such places, sheltered from the opprobrious flag which usurps our rights, than to live in a village with a chain around one’s neck.”
Unfortunately, the Columnas Volantes, after one year of operations, folded its last issue in 1900 when the American troops seized and confiscated its printing press and all its materials in the town of Rosario, near Lipa, where it took refuge from the American persecution.
Solis, Maximo Bernardo A. Columnas Volantes de la Federación Malaya: Contribución a la Historia del Periodismo Filipino. Balmaceda Collection. National Library of the Philippines. 1927.
May, Glenn Anthony. Battle for Batangas: a Philippine province at war. Philippines: Yale University Press, 1991.
Historical Bulletin. Manila: Philippine Historical Association, 1957.