Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Celebrating Philippine Independence in memory of Graciano Lopez Jaena from Jaro, Iloilo City

Today is our 123rd independence day of the Republic of the Philippines—a country colonized by Spain for 300 years and the United States for 45 years. We gained the nation’s freedom from the Spanish rule on June 12, 1898. This is the bigger picture.

I have the smaller picture which I can share today. It is a landmark that tells so many bigger picture behind it.  It is just right where I live two houses away from it in Calle Arguelles and Fajardo in Jaro, Iloilo City. Everyday, I pass by it. It is a shrine. It says Graciano Lopez Jaena. A shrine that many folks from Jaro may not notice driving and walking it through  everyday. ( PICTURES AND CAPTIONS OF THE SHRINE, BELOW).

Lopez is always associated a family name with Iloilo. The wealthy Ilonggo family we associate with ABS-CBN empire or the past Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. The magnificent mansions in Jaro are owned by the Lopezes. Jaena is another Jaro family name. My Jaro landlord is a Jaen. It is interesting in Iloilo because  during the Spanish period, the first letter of one’s town, say Jaro, should have the same letter in one’s family name. Jaro   with letter “J”, ex., Jalandoni, Javelosa, Javellana or Jaena. ( Sta. Barbara town with Santillan, Sucaldito, Sobrepeña, etc.) My great grandfather helped construct the ancient Jaro belfry but his family name was not “J” so it was changed to Jutare.  

Yet many Ilonggos may only know Jaro main street artery as Graciano Lopez Jaena Street. Or perhaps our town plaza is called the same name. Still many, I assume, the young ones may have bleak idea who was Graciano Lopez Jaena.

 I reckon,  the bigger picture from the small picture of an  almost 60 sq meter space of the miniscule shrine is--  Graciano Lopez Jaena was already global during the 19th century. ( It was in  1879 which was written then as MDCCCLXXXVIII or  19th century as the first two digits, in case 18, is always one year ahead). It was a period in time that there was no concept of such word “global” existed as we define it today. Somehow global today in Filipino context  means work abroad.

What is interesting is this, according to Wikepedia:” Of these three ilustrados Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar, López Jaena was the first to arrive in Spain and may have founded the genesis of the Propaganda Movement.I was blown away. To land first in Spain from Iloilo was amazing.  I remember this was taught to us in high school. But now, the meaning for me became bigger than life itself. While Iloilo is host to many “firsts” in the Philippines, this one dates as far back as the turn of the century.

Because  the shrine has meaning greater than what we see, today, we may have to reflect how we can preserve the sense of pride for Jaro and Iloilo through our own home-grown hero.

Sadly,  the shrine today has no sense of place. It is home to dump trucks and is just an empty lot. Perhaps forgotten by time. But yet history will not forsake itself. Some historical lapses in dates or details may fall into the cracks, but the bigger picture of our memory and sense of connection will linger and should remain nourished.This is when a smaller picture will have meaning to create the whole big picture in our society.

Our fast lane generation today is sometimes lost within  the bigger picture which can be polarized with the smaller pictures around us. What we see everyday is no longer novel to most of us. As a designer, my former Italian mentor always reminded me to look at our sorrounding pictures with our fresh eyes. Memory and inspiration is not too far-fetched, it can just be in one’s neighborhood. In my case, it is just two houses away where I live and I thought I must do something---even just writing it today to celebrate the independence of our dear country, the Philippines.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graciano López Jaena(December 18, 1856-January 20, 1896) was a journalist, orator, revolutionary, and national hero from Iloilo, the Philippines,  who is well known for his written newspaper, La Solidaridad .
Philippine historians regard López Jaena, along with Marcelo H. del Pilar and José Rizal, as the triumvirate of Filipino propagandists. Of these three ilustrados, López Jaena was the first to arrive in Spain and may have founded the genesis of the Propaganda Movement.

His parents sent López Jaena to Jaro which had been opened under the administration of Governor General Carlos María de la Torre y Nava Cerrada. While studying at St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary in Jaro, 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. Instead he was appointed to the San Juan de Dios Hospital as an apprentice. Unfortunately, due to financial problems, he dropped out and returned to Iloilo to practice medicine.

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 incurred the fury of the friars. Although the story was not published, a copy circulated in Iloilo but the friars could not prove that López Jaena was the author.

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 Philippine reform.

López Jaena pursued his medical studies at the University of Valencia but did not finish the course. Once Rizal reproached 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."

La Solidaridad
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. A student will discover his talent in the publication Discursos y Artículos Varios(Speeches and Various Articles).

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 Sub-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 byEmilio Aguinaldo. His remains were never brought back to the Philippines.
In his honor, the Jaro Plaza has been renamed the Graciano López Jaena Park, where there is also a statue of him.
The Graciano Lopez Jaena Foundation Inc works to continue his legacy and supports various public recognition of his life and works, such as the Dr. Graciano Lopez Jaena Poetry Contest.

An Order of DeMolay Chapter, a youth fraternal group for young men originating in freemasonry, was founded around 1965 in Jaro, and named Graciano Lopez-Jaena Chapter because Lopez Jaena was the first and foremost Freemason from Jaro.


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