What Is a Summary of “Fray Botod?”

Graciano Lopez Jaena’s “Fray Botod” portrays a bloated, hypocritical priest as a metaphor for the abuses of the Catholic Church as part of Spanish rule in the Philippines. Jaena is, to this day, a beloved figure in the Philippines and considered a father of the revolution against Spanish rule.

The priest in “Fray Botod” uses religion to exploit and oppress his subjects. A man of vast and morally questionable appetites, he takes advantage of his position to pursue everything from drunkenness and gluttony to exploitative relationships with young girls. The titular character neglects his parish duties, pursues gambling, threatens and punishes college students arbitrarily, treats workers barbarously, and generally conducts business in a wholly corrupt fashion.

Written when Graciano Lopez Jaena was 18, “Fray Botod” can be loosely translated as pot-bellied friar. Jaena left the Philippines in 1880, shortly after the publication of “Fray Botod,” to study medicine in Spain under pressure from Spanish authorities. As a caricature and satire on Spanish rule in the Philippines, and the oppressive influence of the Roman Catholic Church, the story was symbolic and became an irritant to the Spanish authorities and an inspiration to the Philippine Propaganda movement. This was a cause Jaena became closely associated with even in exile from his home country.