GRACIANO LOPEZ JAENA, was born in Jaro, Iloilo, on December 17, 1856, the son of Placido Lopez and Maria Jacobo Jaena. He studied at the Seminary of Jaro operated by the Paulist, but it seemed that his study of religion and the atmosphere of the seminary did not in the least affect his inborn qualities as a rebel.
Even as a boy, he was thinking independently of his teacher. Endowed with the power of keen observation, he saw the sad state of his country. Lively and highly intelligent, he took to writing early in life, producing a tale entitled Fray Batod. This work, which deals with the ignorance, abuses, and immorality of a certain friar named Botod, circulated in manuscript form.
It's existence, however, could not be hidden for long, and Lopez Jaena found himself the object of manhunt. Why so? Because he delineated the average friar of the period - fat (botod is a hiligaynon word for big-bellied man, the equivalent of the tagalog slang botyok), ignorant abusive and immoral. The Friars saw in his Fray Botod their own picture, and nothing excites the anger of man than to be ridiculed in public. There was one way out of the tight fix Lopez Jaena was in: to leave the Philippines. In 1880, he secretly left for Spain, and enrolled in medicine at the University of Valencia. He later transferred to Madrid, where he found atmosphere congenial, for he loved light and shadows, the clubs and the cafes, and the journalists of the capital.
In social and political clubs, he distinguished himself as a great orator. His speeches and orations were, however, almost always about the condition of the Philippines or a defense of the Filipinos against the malignant charges of Spanish hacks.
One of his greatest oratorical triumphs occurred in Madrid in 1882 during the celebration of the International Congress of Commercial Geography. On that occasion, a friar Fr. Ramon Martinez Vigil, who had been to the Philippines and had written an article on the ancient Tagalog script, was praising the friars for their "benevolent" role in the Philippines when all of a sudden Lopez Jaena stood up and delivered a defense of the Filipinos. At the same time, he denounced vigorously the role of the friars in introducing and maintaining obscurantism in the Philippines and in obstructing the progress of the people. Somewhat like Lord Byron, Lopez Jaena woke up the next morning to find himself famous.
The following year, 1883, at the Teatro de Madrid, on 391st anniversary of the "discovery" of America, Lopez Jaena, in the presence of diplomatic corps, prominent men in politics, arts, and letters and distinguished ladies, delivered an impassioned speech in which he called America the brains of the commercial world and the Philippines the heart of in which "all the arteries, all the veins of the industrial and commercial wealth converge...