ILOILO City – The Dr. Graciano Lopez Jaena Foundation, Inc. is financially struggling to complete a center in Jaro district it envisions to preserve the memory of the only Ilonggo national hero.
As it marks today the 162nd birth anniversary of Lopez Jaena – considered the “first Filipino propagandist” in the struggle for freedom from Spain – the foundation counts on the benevolence of the Ilonggos, especially the city government, to complete the center.
Construction of the P2.5-million center, located on Fajardo Street, Jaro where the hero was born, started in 2016 yet.
Lack of funds slowed down the work until it was completely halted, according to Iloilo Provincial Board member Demetrio Sonza, historian and foundation chairperson.
Only 30 percent of the center had been constructed, he lamented.
When completed, the center would house Lopez Jaena’s memorabilia.
In June this year, the foundation and city government signed a deed of usufruct for the center.
The center would house the city government library, too. Resource materials on Lopez Jaena could be accessed there.
Lopez Jaena was born on Dec. 18, 1856 in Jaro. Historians regard him, along with Dr. Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar, as the triumvirate of propagandists that challenged Spanish rule in the Philippines.
Lopez Jaena 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.”
He reaped the friars’ fury and thus left Jaro for Spain in 1879.
In Spain, Lopez Jaena founded and edited La Solidaridad, a newspaper that aimed to galvanize Filipinos to into demanding independence. He also gave fiery, nationalistic speeches. There he met Rizal and del Pilar.
Sonza said Lopez Jaena was a truly fearless hero. He did not use pseudonyms in his published writings against Spain but bravely bylined them.
“Isog gid sia. Kalabanan sa ila (heros) nga nagasulat ang naggamit sang alyas or pen name. Sia ‘ya indi…Graciano gid ang ginasulat ‘ya,” said Sonza.
Believing that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” Lopez Jaena personally conveyed his demand for freedom in a speech before the Spanish officials in Madrid, Spain on April 27, 1883.
He died of tuberculosis at age 39 on Jan. 20, 1896 in Barcelona, Spain and was buried by the Sisters of Charity in an unmarked grave at the Cementerio Sud-Oeste.
He did not live long enough to see the fruition of his efforts aimed at freeing the Motherland from colonial Spain.
Today is a public holiday in Iloilo city and province to mark the hero’s birth anniversary.
A 7 a.m. parade from Fajardo Street, Jaro would end at the Jaro public plaza that was renamed Dr. Graciano Lopez Jaena Park and where the hero had a statue.
According to city tourism officer Junel Ann Divinagracia, Sonza, Mayor Jose Espinosa III and Sen. Juan Miguel Zuburi would be delivering messages.
The three and relatives of the hero would lay wreaths at the statue, too./PN