, January 12, 2005
(STAR) Speaking as guest of honor in the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) Gala Night Dinner this evening (7 p.m.) in the Heroes Hall of Malacañang Palace, President Arroyo is scheduled to deliver her New Year’s report to the nation.

This was announced by MOPC chairman and STAR publisher Max V. Soliven, who added that the occasion marked the nation’s oldest and premier press club’s 60th anniversary. Club president Tony Lopez reported yesterday that every seat at the dinner, which was "by invitation only" owing to the Hall’s capacity, and security protocol, has been "taken," apologizing to the many prominent individual requesting reservations.

Soliven added that the Chief Executive’s speech is expected to be her pre-SONA, or her pre-State of the Nation Address, since her formal SONA to Congress won’t be delivered till next July.

Tonight’s affair will be the first important event of the year with the diplomatic corps, leaders of business, government, and the media, as well as foreign correspondents in attendance.

Coverage will be broadcast live over ANC Channel 21 and ABS-CBN’s global network. Babe Romuladez, chairman of the special events committee, said that the Gala Night is the first of many events that the MOPC will hold.

Over the decades, the MOPC had become a hub where leaders from both the private and government sector can mingle freely with each other and openly express their views on business, politics, governance, and any other topic or event considered hot for the day or time. To this day, MOPC remains the center of analysis and insight for both local and international discussions with MOPC members in the spirit of camaraderie and fellowship.

While the MOPC’s main role is the professionalism of journalism, it also carries with it a social character, and this is what makes MOPC distinct from other clubs. For in the MOPC, a unique mix of people interact with each other on equal footing. Top media men, publishers, foreign correspondents, government officials and business giants would be seen socializing with each other, playing card and dice games in a friendly and amiable atmosphere that only being in MOPC’s halls can create.

Over the years, the MOPC has had a colorful and rich history. In fact, its founding, while acknowledged to be in 1945 at the Manila Hotel, is awash with several "myths and legends" that suggest that its founding could even be much earlier than the officially recognized date. One such story tells about Time-Life photojournalist Karl Mydens chancing upon three emaciated foreigners in a tent within the war-torn ruins of the University of Sto. Tomas Concentration Camp. Looking inside the tent, Mydens recognized Manila Times editor David Bugoslav and Dave Sternberg, a radio commentator. Mydens, upon recognizing them, exclaimed, "My God, it’s David! This has got to be the MOPC!"

MOPC’s first president was William Wilson, and it was five years before a Filipino president was elected in the person of Rodolfo Nazareno. The early years of the MOPC saw American media men dominating the membership of the club, until 1952 when the number of American correspondents began dwindling, which marked the signal for Filipino newsmen to join the club. The mix of American and Filipino newsmen proved auspicious, for the Americans stressed on their Filipino counterparts the importance of protecting press freedom.

MOPC can also take pride in the fact that its leaders, past and present, are well respected in the field of jounralism not only here but in the international circles as well. Among them are Joaquin P. Roces (1962), Napoleon Rama (1966), Emil P. Juardo Jr. (1971), the late Teodoro "Ka Doroy" Valencia (1975 to 1979), the late Art Borjal (1982), Menardo Jimenez (1990), Jesus Sison (1991), Tony Seva (1996), Cip Roxas (1998), Hector Villanueva (2001), Ricardo "Dong" Puno Jr. (1994, 1999 and 2003), current president Antonio "Tony" Lopez (1989, 1993, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004) and STAR publisher Max Soliven (1969), who is also MPCO’s Chairman of the Board.

Journalism at work can be seen during MOPC’s various nights, the most popular of them being the "President’s Night," which started during the time of President Ramon Magsaysay. A presidential speech delivered during this night is considered to be almost as important as, and also the second, State of the Nation Address, where signal of policy changes are keenly watched by the business community and political watchers. There are also other nights, like the Congress Night, AFP Night, the PNP Night and the Diplomatic Night, also one of the more well-known activities of the club where goodwill and stronger relations between the Philippines and other countries are promoted.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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