Last Updated: April 3rd, 2019
Graciano López Jaena, although not often heard as often as Rizal or Bonifacio was one of the leading voices of reform in the Philippines during his time in Spain. His work for the fortnightly paper, La Solidaridad, contributed to the rise of the Propaganda Movement–and later, the Philippine Revolution.
Born in Jaro, Iloilo on December 18, 1856, to Placido López and Maria Jacoba, Graciano López Jaena grew up in a family that barely made ends meet. Working as a seamstress to help her family, his religious mother, dreamed for the young Jaena to become a priest–feeling that being a priest is the noblest profession. And although his father attended school, he only made a living as a general repairman.
With the encouragement of his mother, Jaena was sent to study at the Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer in Jaro under the time of Governor-General Carlos María de la Torre y Navacerrada. During this time, López Jaena worked as a secretary for his uncle, Claudio López–who served as the honorary vice consul of Portugal in Iloilo.
Working as a Physician, and “Fray Botod”
Determined to fulfill his dream to become a physician, Graciano sought admission at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila but was denied for not having a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was directed instead to work as an apprentice at the San Juan de Dios Hospital. With financial support from his parents already running out, he would eventually return to Iloilo where he practiced medicine in outlying areas with his limited expertise.
In his return, Graciano worked in rural areas where he realized the injustices suffered by Filipinos during the Spanish colonial rule. He would later write “Fray Botod”, a story about false piety, which depicted a fat friar. A copy of the story would later catch the attention of the friars who knew Graciano to be behind it–albeit having no proof to support their suspicions.
Leaving for Spain, and La Solidaridad
With threats to his life becoming more evident after his refusal to testify in the deaths of a number of prisoners at the hands of the Mayor of Pototan, Iloilo, he sailed for Spain in 1880. There, he decided to pursue his degree in medicine at the University of Valencia but bowed out before finishing his course. He eventually settled in studying journalism and would later work with Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. Del Pilar for the fortnightly and bi-weekly newspaper, La Solidaridad.
La Solidaridad was established to express the aspirations of the Propaganda Movement towards the assimilation of the Philippines by becoming a province of Spain. With this, Filipinos will enjoy representation in the Spanish Cortes (Legislature), freedom of expression, economic liberalization, secularization, and equality before the law of Filipinos and Spaniards.
López Jaena is widely regarded by Filipino historians as one of the triumvirates of Filipino propagandists together with Rizal and Del Pilar. He was also one of the first Filipinos to arrive in Spain and were collectively known as ilustrados–the native-born Filipino educated class that was exposed to liberal and European nationalist ideas.
Graciano died of tuberculosis on January 20, 1896, in Barcelona. He was said to be buried the following day in a mass grave called La Fossa de Pedrera in Montjuic Cemetery in Barcelona. The mass grave to which he was buried is also a burial site of those who lost their lives in the Spanish Civil War.
While the government worked on repatriating his remains since 1916, efforts to move forward with this have come to naught due to the difficulty in finding its exact location.
The Manila Project
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- University of Vienna
- ABS-CBN News
- Agoncillo, Teodoro A. (1990). History of The Filipino People (8th ed.)