Jose Cortes Altavas, great politician, statesman, a man of letters and an illustrious son of the province of Capiz, was born on September 11, 1877 at Balete, Capiz (now Balete, Aklan). His parents were Jose Aguilar Altavas from Aragon, Spain, who settled in Aklan, and Andrea Rafols Cortes of Aklan.
Jose studied at the Ateneo de Manila where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors. He was known as “Emperador” in Ateneo because of his excellence in examinations and in literary contests. He then transferred to the University of Santo Tomas to take up law only to be interrupted by the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Jose came home to be part of the revolution under the leadership of Santiago Bellosillo.