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So long, Port Area: The STAR makes its move

MANILA, Philippines — Though it’s been a long time coming, STAR employees, especially the veteran troopers, haven’t really wrapped their minds around the head office’s move from Port Area in Manila, to Sucat, Parañaque.

Not only because of the shift in direction on the way to work (from west toward the sea to southbound if coming from the central metropolis), a good number adding several kilometers to their travel while others benefitting from the new building’s location almost being right at their doorstep. Both, however, are sure to miss the sights and sounds at the corner of Railroad and 13th Street, itself a landmark of the printed word.

For 37 years the building off Anda Circle, given a spanking makeover by former mayor Isko Moreno, has been the home of The Philippine STAR, and before that the newspaper from which it spun off, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Lore or apocrypha has it that when the paper broke away and was about to pack up, founder Betty Go Belmonte said wait a minute, we’re the ones who should stay since it was her forebears who had leased the place from the Philippine Ports Authority.

There was a dry run before the maiden issue on July 28, 1986, the whole staff brainstorming on the cramped first floor, while just a stone’s throw away between Rizal Park and Quirino Grandstand the scene was set for murder in the afternoon and the paper’s first headline: Wear yellow and die. With the byline Alex Fernando who, years later, would man the slot in the newsroom, assigning stories for rewrite or wrap up to the desk editors for next day’s page one.

Might say those were halcyon days, no such thing as digital, the cellphone a dream or two away, and the fax machine and pager were considered revolutionary. Things were simpler, with stripping in the layout section and galleys done manually, the photographer’s dark room smelling of chemicals among other stuff, and the racket of typewriters since been turned into a musical instrument.

The last holdouts were the Christmas parties, with improvised kris-kringles, held in nearby restaurants or hotels with door prizes of gift checks, mostly costume-themed with raucous competitions among departments.

During the