Where We Are Going

Rising soon: A modern new home for The Philippine STAR

Published Jul 23, 2021 3:48 pm

When the new Philippine STAR building rises on Sucat Road, Paranaque, in early 2023, it will be a milestone edifice. It will be the most grand and most modern newspaper building in the country.

It will be a definitive pillar of strength, evoking all the ideals upon which the paper was founded 35 years ago. It will also be a metaphor in glass, steel and concrete, symbolizing The Philippine STAR as a mirror of truth.

Located on a 4,004-square meter plot of land, the structure is a four-story building with mezzanine. It will house the offices and printing facilities of Philstar Media Group, including The Philippine STAR, BusinessWorld, Pilipino Star Ngayon, Pang Masa, and the Group’s various digital properties. The Freeman and Banat News hold office and print in Cebu.

Situated in Amvel City, it is near landmarks like SM City Sucat and All-Home Global South; the Arcadio Santos Station of the soon-to-be completed LRT-1 Extension; and the Sucat interchange of the soon-to-be completed South Link. Five minutes to NAIA Terminal 1, and 20 minutes to BGC and Resorts World, it is clearly a move away from the congested and traffic-heavy urban areas. 

It no longer will have a drive-through view of the beautiful sunset from Roxas Boulevard, like the old Philippine STAR in Port Area has. Neither will there be the sight of flotsam and jetsam of the Manila Bay.

To have a better perspective of the building, we interviewed Philippine STAR president and CEO Miguel G. Belmonte.

 A leap away from urban chaos: The P800-million Philippine STAR building on Sucat Road, Parañaque is a four-storey building with mezzanine on a 4,004-square meter plot of land in Amvel City.

On the second floor of the present STAR building lies a small but strategically located room of the company’s president and CEO. 

From here, editorial, finance, marketing and printing are just a few steps away. The room is crowded with plaques, trophies, paintings, newspaper files, and papers on the table waiting to be signed. The phone rings every 10 minutes or so.

Before the pandemic, visitors or employees would sit in his secretary’s room, waiting for their turn to be called. It was never a quiet place. 

This small room is the center of the universe for Miguel G. Belmonte. He can hear the hum of the printing presses from his table, even sense the chatter from nearby departments. It gives him a certain glow to know that his employees are always busy, often in a noisy way — even if it means they are nosy over some matter, for it might be fodder for tomorrow’s news.

He knows almost all of his employees by name, and they adore him. Not only because he still looks very crushable after more than three decades with The STAR, but also because he treats them like family.

He usually just grabs a burger for lunch or merienda when work piles up. And when the deadlines for the day have been met, he is usually the last to leave the office.

 MGB (Miguel G. Belmonte) welcomes college students at the office lobby near the statue of his mom, founder Betty Go Belmonte. The STAR hosted student tours before the pandemic.  Photo by Val Rodriguez

Work and more work. The sound of computers clicking. Printing machines running. These are parts of his being. Amid such clatter, Miguel Belmonte answers our questions about the future STAR building.

In the past decades, newspaper offices were traditionally in Manila where the main sources of news — Malacañang, Senate and Congress — were located; and also the Port Area section where the delivery of papers was accessible. What made you take a big leap and choose Parañaque as the site of the new Philippine Star building? 

We are actually happy with our Manila office. Old as our building is, it brought us so much luck the past 35 years, actually longer. That’s where our family had a book printing and commercial business during the Martial Law years, and our very successful newspaper publishing business since 1986. 

But unfortunately, even if we own the building, the land it stands on is owned by the government — the Philippine Ports Authority — and our lease expires in 2023. That’s why we don’t have a choice but to move. 

Aerial view of the present Philippine Star building in Port Area, Manila. Photo by Nick Galino

We prioritized looking for a property in the South since many of our staff live there. Also, our three housing projects for employees are in the South. After one year of searching, God led us to Sucat, Parañaque. It’s perfect for us. 

The renderings are impressive. So modern and beautiful. Did you have any peg or inspiration for the design? What were your “musts” in the directive for the architects/builders and interior designers? 

Yes, our architects and interior designers did a great job. No, we did not have a peg or model. We simply told them to make sure there are social spaces on every floor and an elevator. These are what we didn’t have in our present office building. And of course, we requested for them to work within our budget! 

Personally, what kind of office room did you always want for yourself? At present, you can hear the sound of the printing presses and have an easy view of the production area. What view would you like to have in your next office? 

I am a simple person and I am content with a simple office. Although my present office does have a view of our press area and I can hear when our machines are running, I think I would like a more quiet office this time around. And I picked a spot in our new building where I can have a view of Sucat Road. It was either that or a wall.

Given the termination of the lease contract at Port Area, did you and your mom, Betty Go Belmonte, ever talk about a building in the future for Star?

Would you believe that the original lease for our building was 99 years? There were still about 50 years on the lease when we acquired the building back in the ’70s. When Mom passed away in 1994, we still had close to 30 years to go. So no, she and I never discussed moving to a new office building. 

What is the best feature of the new Star building? Which would you be proudest of? 

Well, for starters, we are proud that we paid for the 4,004-sqm. property and the building construction, though ongoing, in cash. We did not have to borrow a single peso for this. This was money we earned and saved through our publishing business.

Artist's perspective of the soon-to-rise Philippine Star complex.

In terms of features, I would say I am happy that our new office will be better planned and more comfortable for all our staff. So unlike the unplanned office we have now since we had to keep adding spaces as the company grew and expanded through the years. 

You are an art collector and you greatly appreciate Filipino artists. Do you have an artist/ sculptor in mind to define the Philippine Star ideals through a mural or sculpture, say, in the lobby?

Right now the only sculpture of note that we have and will display in our new office is the bust of our founding chairman, my late mother Betty Go Belmonte, though we will still find the perfect spot for it once we walk through the actual structure. She deserves that honor and recognition. Without her there would be no Philippine STAR Media Group today. 

What will you miss most about the Port Area office? 

I will miss my scenic drive going to the office since I drive on the stretch of Roxas Boulevard and get to see a view of Manila Bay. Being in Manila also has the advantage of proximity to the finest hotels in the metro where we could meet. And for all its lack of glamor, Port Area felt like home.

Yes, Port Area felt like home. But, speaking in today’s hugot language, the new STAR building will be our forever home.

MILLET M. MANANQUIL, The Philippine STAR

Millet Martinez Mananquil is associate editor and Lifestyle editor of The Philippine STAR. She enjoys spending work days with her staffers... and date nights with Gong Yoo, Hyun Bin, Park Bo-gum and Nam Joo-hyuk.