Thursday, April 8, 2010

Graciano Lopez Jaena on Stamps

Graciano López y Jaena
(December 18, 1856 - January 20, 1896), was a Filipino writer and journalist in the Philippine Revolution. He was recognized as the "Prince of Filipino Orators" who wrote great and striking articles in the infamous newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona, Spain.

López Jaena was born in Jaro, Iloilo to Placido López and María Jacoba Jaena. His parents were poor; his mother was a seamstress and his father a general repairman. At the age of six, López Jaena was placed under the care of Friar Francisco Jayme who raised him.

His parents sent López Jaena to the Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer in Jaro which had been opened under the administration of Governor General Carlos María de la Torre. While studying at a seminary institution, López Jaena served as a secretary to an uncle named Claudio López who was the honorary vice consul of Portugal in Iloilo. His ambition of becoming a physician, convinced his parents that this was the better course of action. López Jaena sought enrollment at the University of Santo Tomas but was denied admission because the required Bachelor of Arts degree was not offered at the seminary in Jaro. However he was appointed to the San Juan de Dios Hospital as an apprentice. Unfortunately, due to financial problems, his parents could not afford to keep him in Manila. He returned to Iloilo and practiced medicine in communities.

During this period, his visits with the poor and the common people began to stir feelings about the injustices that were common. At the age of 18 he wrote the satirical story "Fray Botod" which depicted a fat and lecherous priest. Botod’s false piety "always had the Virgin and God on his lips no matter how unjust and underhanded his acts are." This naturally incurred the fury of the friars who knew that the story depicted them. Although it was not published a copy circulated in the region but the Friars could not prove that López Jaena was the author. However he got into trouble for refusing to testify that certain prisoners died of natural causes when it was obvious that they had died at the hands of the mayor of Pototan. López Jaena continued to agitate for justice and finally went to Spain when threats were made on his life.

López Jaena sailed for Spain in 1879. There he was to become a leading literary and oratorical spokesman for the Philippine reformal issues. Philippine historians regard López Jaena, along with Marcelo H. del Pilar and José P. Rizal, as the triumvirate of Filipino propagandists. Of these three Ilustrados, López Jaena was the first to arrive and may have founded the genesis of the Propaganda movement.

López Jaena pursued his medical studies at the University of Valencia but did not finish the course. Once Rizal approached Lopéz Jaena for not finishing his medical studies. Graciano replied, "On the shoulders of slaves should not rest a doctor's cape." Rizal countermanded, "The shoulders do not honor the doctor's cape, but the doctor's cape honors the shoulders."

He then moved to the field of journalism. Losing interest in politics and academic life, he soon enjoyed his life in Barcelona and Madrid. However, his friends would forgive him these indiscretions due to his appeal with words and oratory. Mariano Ponce who was another of the Filipino propagandists in Spain observed, "... a deafening ovation followed the close of the peroration, the ladies waved their kerchiefs wildly, and the men applauded frantically as they stood up from their seats in order to embrace the speaker."

Rizal noted, "His great love is politics and literature. I do not know for sure whether he loves politics in order to deliver speeches or he loves literature to be a politician."

In addition he is remembered for his literary contributions to the propaganda movement. López Jaena founded the fortnightly newspaper, La Solidaridad. When the publication office moved from Barcelona to Madrid, the editorship was succeeded to Marcelo H. del Pilar.

López Jaena died of tuberculosis on January 20, 1896, eleven months short of his 40th birthday. The following day, he was buried in unmarked grave at the Cementerio del Sud-Oeste of Barcelona. His death was followed on July 4 by Marcelo H. del Pilar and on December 30 of José Rizal by firing squad, thus ending the great triumvirate of propagandists. He died in poverty just shy of two and a half years before the declaration of independence from Spain by Emilio Aguinaldo. His remains was never brought back to the Philippines.

Date of Issue: May 1, 1952