GRACIANO LOPEZ y JAENA
Great Orator and Propagandist
Graciano Lopez Jaena is known in history as the “great orator” of the propaganda
movement, for which he spent most of his time and resources together with Jose Rizal and Marcelo
H. del Pilar.
He was born in Jaro, Iloilo on December 18, 1856 to Placido Lopez and Maria Jacob Jaena.
His parents were poor but were instrumental to his religious upbringing. They enrolled him in the
school of the Filipino priest Fr. Francisco Jayme in the Colegio Provincial and in the Seminario de
San Vicente Ferrer in Jaro in 1869 to study Theology. Graciano, however, had no desire of
becoming a priest; he wanted to become a physician, which his relative Claudio Lopez, an honorary
vice-consul of Portugal, financially supported. Graciano sailed to Manila for this dream but was not
admitted immediately in the School of Medicine of the University of Santo Tomas because he
lacked the preparatory course. In lieu of the preparatory academic requirement, he was advised to
work as apprentice at the San Juan de Dios Hospital.
Graciano’s chronic financial difficulty prevented him, however, to finish his apprenticeship
at the hospital. After two years as apprentice, he returned to Iloilo where his scanty medical
training was valued by his town mates who could not afford to seek professional medical help. His
medical service was accompanied with a new purpose when he realized the miserable social and
economic condition of many Filipinos under the Spanish authorities. He started his own crusade
by exhorting the people to embrace freedom and equality. In 1874, he circulated the satire he wrote
“Fray Butod” (Big Bellied Friar) during his seminary days. It exposed the greed, laziness, cruelty,
and lust of the Friars represented by the fiction character Fray Butod, the thin Spanish friar
fattened by the delicious foods supplied by his parishioners. His crusades enraged the Spanish
To evade arrest, Graciano transferred to Silay, Negros Occidental where he wrote La
Oceania Española that was published in Manila. In 1880, he sailed to Valencia, Spain and lived in
the house of Colonel Enrique Fajardo, who was once a Spanish officer in Iloilo. He studied
Medicine in the University of Valencia but his passion for reforms in the Philippines drove him to
journalism. He transferred to Madrid where he became known for his speeches and writings in
defense of the Filipinos. He contributed write-ups advocating liberal measures for the Philippines
to several newspapers like the following: El Liberal, El Progreso, Bandera Social de Madrid, La
Publicidad, El Pueblo Soberano, and El Deluvio of Barcelona, España en Filipinas, Revista del
Circulo Hispano Filipino, and Revista Economica de la Camara de Comercio de España en
Graciano’s propaganda became a professional entity after Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del
Pilar joined him. Rizal arrived in Spain in 1882 and Marcelo H. del Pilar in 1888. In 1889, they
launched the propaganda newspaper La Solidaridad with Graciano Lopez Jaena as editor. His
membership in the freemasonry in 1882 under the symbolic name “Bolivar” brought him closer to
other Filipinos in Europe and made the works of the propaganda movement easier. He founded
Logia Revolucion, a lodge for Filipinos, which received its charter from Gran Oriente Español on
April 1, 1889.
On February 15, 1889, the first issue of the La Solidaridad was published through the
financial support of Pablo Rianzares Bautista. He started using his mother’s surname Jaena after
the Lopez to distinguish him as Filipino and different from the Lopezes in Spain as this was a
popular surname. Jaena, like any individual who dared to fight against giants, suffered the
consequence. His uncle Eustaquio Lopez and other members of his family in the Philippines who
were sending him pensions in Europe were threatened, thus, his pension was cut off. Because of
this, he had to live in utter poverty in Spain but this did not stop his propaganda works.
In 1891, he returned to the Philippines under the name Diego Laura in order to solicit
more support from other Filipinos. The La Junta de la Propaganda, a group of patriots in Manila
headed by Deodato Arellano pledged regular support to his newspaper. When Spanish authorities
discovered his presence in Manila, the Filipino patriots smuggled him to the boat Don Juan that
brought him to Hong Kong. There he met Jose Ma. Basa and other Filipino reformists. On July 22,
1891, Jaena sailed back to Barcelona and founded the newspaper El Latigo Nacional.
He persevered with the difficulty of keeping the Propaganda alive until his culosis took him
on January 20, 1896. The great propagandist died in Barcelona, the foreign land that welcomed
and nurtured his crusade for reforms.
Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People. 8th ed., Quezon City: Garotech, 1990.
Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde, 1970.