Raymond Carl Gato

The National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) is here! This year, the annual journalism ‘Olympics’ joined by various campus journalists around the country will be held in the Cebu province from July 8 to July 12, 2024. But before heading to its vibrant ceremonies and tough competitions, let us look back at how the NSPC has become every CJ's "dream destination" today.

The Coconut of Manila High School (Currently Araullo High School) becomes the country’s first published secondary school paper. However, it was in 1923 when regular issuance of school papers was initiated through La Union High School’s La Union Tab.

The country’s first press conference was held in Pasig City after Mr. Ricardo Castro, the former principal of Rizal High School, led the Philippine Secondary Schools Press Conferences (PSSPC).

Participants compete in on-the-spot legend writing, editorial writing, sports writing, features, news, interviews, and even a spelling contest. Outstanding school papers with the best sections are also evaluated and recognized during the PSSPC. 

Due to the onset of the Second World War (1939 - 1945), the PSSPC was postponed. The PSSPC turned into the National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC) when it returned to operations in 1948. 

1948 - 1949
Copyreading and Headline Writing (CRHW) replaces the spelling and legend writing contests.

NSSPC is now open to secondary schools both private- and state-owned. Furthermore, newspaper contests have begun to evaluate school paper entries based on school population and consistency of performance in the competition.

The NSSPC was shortly postponed when the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. declared Martial Law in 1972. Upon its return, a new category, namely Development Communication Writing and Section, was introduced to promote the Marcos Administration’s programs and projects. 

One of the annual event’s highlights was the search for the most beautiful journalists of each region to compete for the Ms. NSSPC award. Aside from this, host regions get to showcase the beauty of their culture to all delegates from different parts of the country.

The National School Paper Advisers Association, headed by then President Mrs. Elisa Palma, was advised by Ms. Elena Q. Tanodra, then Chief of the Educational Information
Division, Technical Service of the Department of Education, to propose a campus journalism bill that would also help in gaining government support and legal recognition of the NSSPC.

Even after the passing of Mrs. Palma, calls for Congress to support a campus journalism bill were amplified by her successor, Mrs. Cristina Cabuhat, and fellow officers of the association. The bill was supported by Representatives Hilario de Pedro III, Congressman of the Second District of South Cotabato; Conrado Estrella III of the 6th District of Pangasinan, Amado Bagatsing of the 5th District of Manila and Butch Abad of the Lone District of Batanes.

Representative de Pedro announced the bill’s approval at the Lower House during the 1989 NSSPC. Also, Senator Wigberto Tañada sponsored the said campus journalism bill

Then President Corazon C. Aquino signed the bill into Republic Act 7079, or the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

The NSSPC was changed into the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC), with Malolos, Bulacan being the first host of the said competition. This was also the first time that elementary school papers and campus journalists were allowed to compete in the NSPC. 

It was also in 1995 when the Technical Services Division of the Department of Education last handled the annual competition after the responsibility was transferred to the two Bureaus of Elementary and Secondary Education. 

Radio Scriptwriting and Broadcasting were also first introduced in the 1995 NSPC. On the other hand, compared to earlier NSSPCs, the winners in on-the-spot writing and photojournalism contests were trimmed down from ten (10) to seven (7).

It was during the 1996 NSPC in Victorias, Negros Occidental when only the top three (3) winners in the Regional Schools Press Conference (RSPC) were allowed to participate at the national level.

The top seven (7) winners of every region’s RSPC are allowed to compete at the national level. Also, after the NSPC 1998 in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, the annual competition was moved from the traditional December to February the following school year. 

A rule on the maximum number of pages (20) in newspaper contests was also imposed.

The first regional screening of school papers was conducted. During this time, the Department of Education disqualified newspaper entries that followed the international standard on tabloid size, 11” x 17”, instead of the 12” x 18” standard of DepEd.

Desktop Publishing was first introduced as a special event during the 2004 NSPC hosted by Sta. Cruz, Laguna. 

Science and Health Writing, which will be eventually renamed into Science and Technology Writing, becomes part of the individual writing category.

Campus journalists joined the Online Publishing contest for the first time during the NSPC 2016 hosted by Koronadal City, South Cotabato. In this category, participants form groups to create a fully functioning news website.

The 2020 NSPC in Tuguegarao, Cotabato was shortly postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic scare. After a month, the national competition was continued on March 9-13.

2021 - 2022
From the traditional in-person conduct of NSPC, the Department of Education directed all contest operations to shift to the online medium to avoid crowd-drawing events as the country’s coronavirus cases continue to increase.

New activities, namely mobile journalism and documentary films that cover investigative reports, science discoveries, and advocacy journalism, were added to NSPC’s roster.

After the 2-year hiatus of face-to-face activities, the NSPC returned to Cagayan de Oro City. However, public dismay arose when changes to NSPC eligibility were implemented. This is because only the top 1 regional winners in individual and group categories were allowed to participate in the NSPC. Meanwhile, the top 5 regional winners are NSPC-bound in the school paper category.

With a long history that has shaped the country's largest stage for student journalists, the NSPC has witnessed the silent beginnings of notable television and radio broadcasters and writers—kids who aspire to show the rest of the Philippines what they have.