Whenever I hear the word or the place Iloilo, there are two (2) things that linger in my mind. These two beings had been key persons in the history of the Philippines. One of them had been born and died during the establishment of Philippines independence. The other person had literally made ‘revolutions’ for the benefit of the Filipino people. Though they were born in different timelines in the course of Philippine history, yet they had some commonality or parallelism in a way or two.
The Prince of Filipino Orators: Graciano Lopez-Jaena (1856-1896)
This guy never let his family’s poverty had its way for him to learn and be a keystone for the Filipino Propagandistas during the Spanish Revolt. At a young age, he was under the care of a friar since his parents had been financially challenged. He entered the seminary at a young age and had become the secretary of his uncle (an honorary vice consul of Portugal in Iloilo). Nonetheless, his priestly formation had been halted after his parents were convinced of his ambition of being a doctor. Because of some technicalities in his qualification, he was denied enrollment and was instead assigned or appointed in a hospital as an apprentice or a novice. Unfortunately, due to his parent’s lack of fund, he was forced to return to Iloilo and practiced medicine in local communities instead.
The Exposure and Revolutionary Spirit
As Lopez-Jaena practiced medicine in his hometown, he was made aware of the injustices of the Spanish regime during those days. His awareness led him to write ‘Fray Botod’-a satirical account of ill-mannered friar that made use of religious approach though his acts were contradictory to what he was preaching. This angered religious leaders during those days and had threatened his very existence. This publication had been a turning point of his revolutionary life and was forced to sail for Spain in 1879. In Spain, he met Jose P. Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar and founded the Propaganda movement. This triumvirate had produced the ‘La Solidaridad’-a sort of a newspaper trying to uplift and consolidate the Filipino passion of having a sort of sovereignty and a sense of equality as humans. His talents in literature and politics were manifested through his speeches especially when he was at Spain. He died in Spain and was buried in an unmarked grave. His remains, unfortunately, was never brought back to the Philippines. His legacy would be remembered as a literary contributor to the propaganda movement through La Solidaridad and as its editor.
The Greatest Sin of All: Jaime Cardinal Lachica Sin (1928-2005)
Jaime Lachica Sin or for the devout Catholics in the Philippines, he was the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. His Chinese lineage was from his father Juan Sin. His mother Maxima Lachica was of Aklanon descent. As a young boy, like Graciano Lopez-Jaena, he entered the same seminary, St.Vincent Ferrer Seminary and unlike Lopez-Jaena, he eventually finished his studies and was ordained priest.
The peaceful revolution: People Power Movement
The life of Cardinal Sin had been an exemplar of what a real Christ should be. As the appointed Archbishop of Manila, he was aware of the abuses of the present government. Being a spiritual leader and a citizen of the Philippines he was compelled to act against the fraud and corruption that had been going on during those days. He played a major role of ousting the Philippines’ then head of the state by encouraging Filipinos not to be afraid by going out in the streets to end the dictatorship of the present administration in a peaceful and prayerful manner. This historical event had caught the world by surprised since it was a series of nonviolent demonstrations in the Philippines main road EDSA (or Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) until the present leader then vacated the seat of power and installed a new state leader (Corazon Cojuangco Aquino) in 1986.
A Staunch Moral Leader: Just doing his part as a Christian and a Filipino
Since then, Cardinal Sin had been actively voicing out his views regarding current or occurring issues that affect the Philippines as a whole. Many of his critics vented out about the separation of the church and state (actually, many of Filipinos have a wrong notion of this ‘separation’. The real essence of this statement is all about pinpointing an official religion of the state). Nonetheless, as a Christian and a Filipino he knew his role to uphold the right and made sure moral decisions were prioritized.
Iloilo must have been much honored to have this ‘heroes’ originated in this blessed place. These personalities had been a symbol of patriotism and instruments of change for the better. Sin and Lopez-Jaena could never have been the champions for Filipino people as simple as it seemed. Rather, it was their choice that made them great making both of them archetypes of selflessness.