In memory of Graciano Lopez Jaena

By Herbert Vego

YESTERDAY, I drove around the historical Jaro Plaza, which is now on its second phase of restoration in accordance with the Heritage Law (Republic Act 10555) under the direct supervision of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas who, incidentally, had authored it when he was congressman in 2013.

I imagined myself traveling back in time and seeing Graciano Lopez Jaena walking around the plaza, as the Ilonggo hero used to do in the 1890s. If he were alive, he would turn 166 years on Sunday, December 18.

Born to poor parents in Jaro, Iloilo City on December 18, 1856, Graciano Lopez y Jaena occupies a place in Philippine history and journalism for his pioneering work as founder and editor of the fortnightly La Solidaridad, the cornerstone of the Propaganda Movement that sparked the armed revolution against the colonial Spanish government in 1896.

It is not generally known that the name Graciano Lopez Jaena originated as the hero’s pen name, combining his parents’ surnames. His father, Placido López, worked as a repairman; his mother, Maria Jacoba Jaena, a seamstress. Poverty, however, did not deter the couple from sending him to study at St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary, which still remains “as it was” on Seminario St.

While he would like to be a physician, having actually pursued medical studies, he ran short of earning an MD degree. But he went as far as filling the position of an apprentice at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in what is now Pasay City and later came home to Jaro to practice medicine.

It was not for the money, since most of his patients were poor and unhappy with the subhuman life that they had to endure. Some patients complained of having been beaten and injured by local Spanish officials. Jaena’s immersion with them somehow kindled his desire to speak and write on their behalf.

His first attempt at addressing problems in local society erupted through a story entitled “Fray Botod,” which was printed as a leaflet and surreptitiously circulated. It made reference to the less-than-kind ways of the local priests. Although no one could prove that Jaena wrote the story, the Spanish authorities suspected him as the author.

There was no turning back. The young Graciano had found his niche in oration and journalism. In a triumvirate with Jose Rizal and Marcelo del Pilar, he spoke and wrote to motivate the masses to demand independence from Spain.

Ironically, he had to sail to Spain to evade potential harm in his own country. It was there where the three met and laid the foundation of the Propaganda Movement through the La Solidaridad, which first broke into print on Feb. 12, 1889.  Its mission was to galvanize the pliant Filipino masses into fighting for independence from Spain.

Believing that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” he personally conveyed his demand for freedom in a speech before the Spanish officials in Madrid, Spain.

Fewer written of Lopez Jaena was his love for the woman named Elena, to whom he had promised marriage. Unfortunately for her, Lopez Jaena had to indefinitely postpone it “sa tamang panahon.” That opportunity was not to materialize. He got very sick and died at the age of 39 on Jan. 20, 1896 in Barcelona, Spain.

A few descendants of the hero and their rich friends organized the Dr. Graciano Lopez Jaena Foundation in 1983 to perpetuate his memory, and to promote his ideals.

Incidentally, historian and former Iloilo provincial board member Demy P. Sonza has written a book on Graciano Lopez Jaena, Mightier than the Sword. It has survived five editions since 1964.



AS this corner was saying in a previous issue, the arrival of MORE Power’s high-tech 30/36 MVA mobile substation from Turkey would facilitate complete overhaul of all obsolete facilities in the distribution utilities five substations.

The new substation is now on the job as a temporary substation in Molo. It will also be available to substitute for the other substations during the 8-month period allotted for the rehabilitation or replacement of old substations.

Complete modernization has a five-year timetable.

MORE Power now has two mobile substations.  The first one now augments the Mandurriao substation to fill the ever-growing demand of Megaworld.

Meanwhile, the management of MORE Power has posted the following Facebook message in answer to the frequently asked question on why its power rates have gone up.

“The increase in rates is due to higher generation charges. To clarify, MORE Power’s distribution, supply and metering charges have remained unchanged.

“The pass-through charges from generation and transmission are paid to the power suppliers and the grid operator, respectively, while taxes and universal charges are all remitted to the government.

“As Iloilo City’s electric power distribution utility, we continue to find alternative generation sources to be able to bring down the total electricity rate in the coming months.”