Hilarion P. Vibal

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Hilarion P. Vibal (1908-1988) was a writer, editor, and publisher. He is known as the co-founder of Vibal Publishing House, Inc.. He was among the first generations of Filipino writers in English. He was affectionately known as Larry or "HP".

Early Life

Mr. Vibal was born on October 21, 1908 in Bacacay, Albay. His parents were Gaspar Vibal y Belmonte (1870-1942) and Petronila Palomer y Arive (1872-1955).

He came from a large brood of 13 children: Manuela Vibal de Bibal (1889-?), Victor (1891-1950), Benito (1893-1894), Geronimo (1895-?), Josefa (1898-1924), Angelo (1900-?), Joaquin (1902-04), Severo (1906-08), the triplets Gorgonio (1910-12), Lourdes de Bernal (1910-?), and Concepcion (1910-12), followed by Arcangel (1914-?).

Mr. Vibal graduated from Tabaco Elementary School in 1924. He finished at Albay High School, Legaspi in 1928. On May 28, 1928 he entered the University of the Philippines, then located in Padre Faura. He first lived at 173 Florida St., Manila.

He initially convinced himself to study engineering, but he shifted to studies in English, after winning a Rizal playwriting contest with his first work, "The Waves". The historical play revolves around the plan of Paciano, Rizal's brother and Andres Bonifacio with members of the Katipunan to rescue Jose Rizal minutes before his execution. Rizal bids farewell to Josephine Bracken after their wedding in the early hours of the day. On the way to the execution place, he is unsuccessfully persuaded by two priests to recant his writings in exchange for his pardon Full text at Filipiniana.net The play was included in Philippine Prose and Poetry, which was the required anthology in English for high schools.

He joined the prestigious UP Writers Club which published the Literary Apprentice. Among his literary contemporaries were Severino Montano and Jose Garcia Villa.

He traveled extensively during his college years, from Cagayan Valley, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, Pagsanjan, Baguio, Tuguegarao, Albay, and Baguio.

He developed his passion for photography with a purchase of a Leica camera in 1930. He became one of the early members of the Camera Club of the Philippines in 1931. He would go together with camera members on outings to Tagaytay and even do portraits of then president Manuel Quezon. Mr. Vibal was active in the club until 1939.


After graduation he became a journalist. He served as business and finance editor of the Philippines Herald (1931-1938) and the Evening News, both leading broadsheets at the time that were formerly owned by Don Vicente Madrigal and later resold to Andres Soriano. He was also the literary editor of the Daily Mail (the celebrated launching pad of many writers) with Carlos P. Romulo as editor-in-chief. From 1939 to 1941 he also edited the Manila Railroad Magazine, the organ of Manila Railroad, which was then rapidly growing its operations.

After World War II, Mr. Vibal was recruited by Ramon Roces's associate D.H. Soriano to become the business editor of Evening News, also part of the Roces chain of publications. While there he met Esther Asuncion, whom he married on April 30, 1950.

As part of his work he traveled extensively: to Hong Kong in August 1946, Allah Valley, Koronadal and Bukidnon, for the Del Monte Plantation in June 1951, to Davao in 1954. He covered extensively many business conventions, including those of the National Conventions of Filipino Businessmen, National Economic Protection Association, and the Indonesian trade mission. He interviewed business greats, such as banker and Secretary of Finance Pio Pedrosa, Don Andres Soriano, and Mercedes McMicking of the Zobel de Ayala Family. His contemporaries were Carmen Guerrero Nakpil, Naty Alde Muguid, future ambassador Jose Zaide, Jose Aspiras, Sergio Loyola, Emilio Aguilar Cruz, editors-in-chief Cipriano Cid (Evening Express), Manolo Villareal (Daily Mirror), Ernie del Rosario (Manila Chronicle), and columnists Joe Guevarra and Horace Borromeo.

From this literary background and experience as a newspaperman and editor, venturing into publishing became a logical next step. In 1954 he left his newspaper job to start Insurance and Finance Publishing Co. at Room 323 in the Samanillo Building on Escolta, then the prime business district. Its maiden publication, the Insurance and Finance Magazine, pioneered in the field of business reporting. As editor and publisher of the magazine, Mr. Vibal was the prime mover in helping jumpstart the local business community which was devastated by World War II. Although the magazine started out as a quarterly publication, it quickly gained wide acceptance that it was published on a monthly basis, renaming it Insurance and Finance Journal in the late 50s. In April 1956, a true pioneer employee Murine D. Distor would be hired by Mr. Vibal as a utility man. Distor would eventually be the office and circulation manager of the two twin companies, Insurance and Finance and Philippine Trade and Commerce Publishing Co.

Because of his many activities covering the financial and insurance businesses, he was named president of Business Writers Association of the Philippines.

In 1957 Mr. Vibal moved his editorial offices to a new office-printing plant at the corner of EDSA and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. He established Vibal Printing Co. to print commercial magazines and labels. Also in the same year, Mr. Vibal's wife Esther would come in as a parttime publisher with the launch of the supplementary school magazine Science and School Publication. It would be one of the pioneer science magazines of the country, which was very much the vogue in curriculum that day. On January 1, 1959 he promoted Mr. Distor was as production Manager of Vibal Printing Co., having full control of the new printing presses, personnel, materials and properties. In 1960 he would hire another key employee Jean J. Fernandez as his executive secretary. She would rise through the ranks to eventually become its national sales manager.

In 1961, Vibal's textbook publishing division was begun by his wife Esther A. Vibal, formerly of the Manila Times. In 1963 it would publish one of its first texbooks in science called Science and Health for Everyone, Grade IV and Science and Health for Better Living, Grade V, both authored by Trinidad Mariño. In 1964 VPHI branched out to mathematics and social studies with the publication of New Adventures in Arithmetic and School Time.

He was among the early members of Rotary Club of Quezon City, Inc., along with Ceferino Pecache, Prof. Sibal, and D.H. Soriano. and he was named a Paul Harris fellow, together with his wife. In 1974 he suffered a major stroke, causing his early retirement. He died on September 1, 1988, just 2 months shy of his 80th birthday. At the time of his death, he was the president of Vibal Publishing House, Inc., SD Publications, Pacifica Realty and Development Corp., ASN Graphics, and A&V Holdings.


  • "Wild Grows the Zacate" (1935), a drama in 3 acts, 1st prize, 1935 Rizal Center Playwriting Contest
  • "Carmencita" (1937), a drama in one act

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