Twitter and Graciano Lopez-Jaena

By Alex P. Vidal

“You have to go where the story is to report on it. As a journalist, you’re essentially running to things that other people are running away from.”

—Lester Holt

TWITTER more than any other social media platform shapes the stories that dominate our lives. In particular, one very powerful group of Twitter users is responsible for this—journalists.

That’s according to Michael Tauberg of Medium, who quoted X (formerly Twitter) boss Elon Musk as saying, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated.”

News writers and other media figures were among the first to widely adopt the platform and they are the ones who take twitter information wars to the masses, according to Tauber.

As renowned tech analyst Ben Thompson put it: “Most people don’t get their news off of Twitter; the places they get their news, though, are driven by Twitter”.

Had Graciano Lopez Jaena lived in this generation, he and many other post-colonial journalism heroes surely would have adopted the platforms of many contemporary journalists in the age of the social media.

It would be a delight to “follow” a regular Lopez-Jaena tweet lambasting government graft and corruption, inefficiencies and incompetence, exposing the dolts in the military and police ranks, and blasting China’s misadventures in the West Philippine Sea.

But the son of Jaro, Iloilo City belonged in a different epoch where patriotism and the vow of poverty while performing a public service towered over subservience to colonial rule and material gains.


More than a hundred years after his death of tuberculosis, many contemporary journalists lived a privileged life and in affluence, opposite to his sacrifices and heroism in a foreign land, where he wallowed in poverty before his 40th birthday.

Born on December 18, 1856 and died on January 20, 1896, Lopez Jaena was not only an outstanding journalist, but was also an orator at par with the country’s and even Asia’s best.

As the first Ilustrado to arrive in Spain where he started the Propaganda Movement against our Spanish colonizers, Lopez Jaena became revolutionary when he formed a triumvirate with Dr. Jose Rizal and Marcel H. del Pilar.

But he became well known for his newspaper, La Solidarid.

Before he became an icon in the propaganda movement, Lopez Jaena was first sent by his parents to study at St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary in Jaro which had been opened under the administration of Governor-General Carlos María de la Torre y Nava Cerrada.

In the seminary, he served as a secretary to Claudio Lopez, his uncle who was the honorary vice-consul of Portugal in Iloilo.

But he had ambition to become a physician. Lopez Jaena convinced his parents that he needed to enroll in a university in Manila.

He was denied admission at the University of Santo Tomas because he did not have a Bachelor of Arts degree when he was at the seminary in Jaro.


Lopez Jaena was appointed to the San Juan de Dios Hospital as an apprentice. He eventually dropped out due to financial difficulties and returned to Iloilo.

His assimilation with the poor ignited his feelings about the injustices common in that era.

Lopez Jaena’s potentials as a reformer and writer became apparent at the age of 18 when he wrote the satirical story “Fray Botod” which depicted a fat and lecherous priest. Lopez Jaena ribbed Fray Botod’s false piety which “always had the Virgin and God on his lips no matter how unjust and underhanded his acts were.”

The story was not published, but a copy circulated widely in Iloilo. The infuriated friars could not prove that Lopez Jaena was the author, thus he came off the hook, so to speak, temporarily.

The son of Jaro refused 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 town, thus he was pilloried.

He continued to agitate for justice. When he received threats on his life, he sailed to Spain in 1879, where he pursued the Propaganda Movement.


In the land of our colonizers, Lopez Jaena became a leading writer, propagandist, and speaker for reform of the homeland.

He finally pursued his medical studies at the University of Valencia but did not finish, thus incurring the ire of Rizal.

Lopez Jaena defended why he did not finish his medical studies by saying, “On the shoulders of slaves should not rest a doctor’s cape.”

“The shoulders do not honor the doctor’s cape, but the doctor’s cape honors the shoulders,” Rizal intoned.

The national hero died of tuberculosis in poverty on January 20, 1896, 11 months short of his 40th birthday.

He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Cementerio del Sub-Oeste of Barcelona the following day.

Marcelo H. del Pilar’s death followed on July 4. Rizal was killed on December 30 by firing squad in Bagumbayan.

Their deaths ended the great triumvirate of Filipino propagandists, but their works contributed to the liberation of their compatriots from the Spanish colony.

Lopez Jaena’s remains have not been brought back to the Philippines.

We commemorate Lopez Jaena’s 167th anniversary on December 18, 2023, an official holiday in the entire island of Panay.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)