brave beauty forever enshrined in history as the "Maker of the Filipino
Flag," Doņa Marcela Agoncillo was born in Taal,
Batangas on June 24, 1860 to Francisco Mariņo and Eugenia Coronel. Her
parents were said to have been as rich as they were religious.
As a young girl, she was reputedly the
prettiest in Batangas. Tall nd stately, she was fondly referred to as
"Roselang Hubog," a virgin
enthroned in the town church. Stories are told of people waiting patiently by the church patio for her
appearance in the morning, in variably accompanied by a maid or an elderly
relative, to hear Mass. Her natural
beauty was enhanced by the exquisite pearly tinted piņa blouse and the long, full skirt that she
Her parents were known to be
disciplinarians. When time came to finish her education in Manila, they chose a
convent noted for its rigid rules. This
was the Sta. Catalina College of the Dominican nuns, established in the Walled
City of Intramuros. While in Sta. Catalina, she learned Spanish, music, the
feminine crafts and social graces. She was also a noted singer and occasionally
appeared in zarzuelas in Batangas.
It was natural for a girl of Marcela's
beauty and social standing to have many
eligible young men seeking her hand in marriage, but they only met her
indifference and her parents' disapproval.
Don Felipe Agoncillo who was also of a prominent family from Taal was
handsome, wealthy and a lawyer of great promise. He was deemed a fair match.
Nevertheless, the young Agoncillo had to wait
for a long time to win her hand and to obtain her parents' consent.
Don Felipe was already a judge when
they were finally wed. Both were
nearing 30 then and already orphans. Six daughters were born to them: Lorenza,
Gregoria, Eugenia, Marcela, Adela, who died at 3, and Maria. She raised the
daughters to be fine ladies. One of her favorite pieces of advice to them was
to "live honestly and well, and to work hard and not depend on family
property." The Agoncillos formed a happy and harmonious family.
Like her husband, she was a patriot
whose heart bled to see her People suffer under the often brutal Spanish
authorities. She stood bravely and loyally by the side of her husband who
valiantly defied the corrupt Spanish authorities and defended the rights of the
people. She stood by him even as he was denounced by his enemies as a
As a true Filipina of the Spanish era,
she was taught early to obey her father's every wish. As a wife, she let her
husband make important decisions. Thus, she calmly accepted her husband's
decision to go into self-exile in Hongkong to escape a deportation order
sending him to Jolo.
When that decision was made in Apri1
1895, Don Felipe had but one hour left before his ship was to set sail for
Japan. Not daring to go home to say goodbye to his family, he stopped at
Estrella del Norte to purchase a token to be delivered later to his wife, a
true "queen of the home." His gift, her most treasured gem,was a gold
bracelet bearing diamonds representing each of their living daughters.
As a result of the signing of the Truce
of Biak-na-bato in December 1897, General Aguinaldo and his party of 40
revolutionary leaders, went on voluntary exile to Hongkong. Once in Hongkong,
General Aguinaldo proceeded to visit the
Agoncillo residence. He requested Doņa
Marcela to make a Filipino flag. She immediately acceded to the request, seeing
in it a big chance to serve her counts). In this she was assisted by her eldest
daughter Lorenza, and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, Rizal's niece by his
Of the first flag made in accordance
with the new design, General Aguinaldo said, "The first Filipino national
flag, was made by the hands of the Agoncillos at Hongkong. It was the flag I
took with me to Cavite when I returned from my exile which was slowly unfurled
at the balcony of the Aguinaldo residence at Kawit, Cavite on June 12,
1898." Interviewed on this matter, Mrs. Agoncillo made the following
written statement. "In the house at No. 535, Morison Hill, where I lived
with my family, exiled from our country on account of the national cause, I had
the good fortune to make the first Philippine flag under the direction of an
illustrious leader Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy ... It took me five days to
make that National Flag, and when completed, I myself delivered it to General
Aguinaldo before boarding the transport McCulloch ... General Aguinaldo is the
best witness who can give the information whether or not that flag was the
first to be displayed in Cavite at the beginning of the revolutionary
government against the government of Spain in these islands."
General Aguinaldo was delighted with
the flag and congratulated Marcela and her assistants for it. "It was a
big play made of beautiful satin,"
related Don Felipe who witnessed the sewing of the "beautifully embroidered in gold and it contained the
present of blue and red and in white triangle with the sun and the 3 stars.
From 1895-1906, Mrs. Agoncillo remained
in Hongkong with her daughters. She took care of their home in Hongkong which
had practically become an asylum for Filipino leaders. Even Josephine Bracken
sought refuge there when the Spanish authorities threatened to torture her.
After the fall of the first Philippine
Republic and the establishment of the American regime, Doņa Marcela and her
family ended their exile in Hongkong.
Her funds had run out because of the heavy expenses incurred by Don Felipe's
diplomatic activities in France and the
United States. She sold her jewels not only to finance their voyage home to
Manila but also to help boost the revolutionary funds.
Back in Manila, the Agoncillos settled
in their family house in Malate. Don Felipe
returned to his law practice. Her association with the rich and privileged
people did not, however, make her forget the poor. It was her practice to
distribute alms every Saturday to the beggars who came to her regularly. On one
occasion, Don Felipe saw through the window of his studyroom a healthy man receiving alms from one of his
daughters. After the man had left, he summoned her and asked. "Did you
give alms to that man?" "Yes, Father," she replied. "He
said that he has heard that we are kind
and charitable," she added. "He has heard that we are
fools," her father rejoined.
Doņa Marcela and her daughters deeply
mourned the passing away of Don Felipe. She was his constant and devoted
companion throughout the turbulent
years of the Revolution.
During the Japanese occupation, the
Agoncillo family (the widow and five
surviving daughters) suffered like all the others from lack of essential
commodities and the rampant cruelty of the Japanese conquerors. Although the
supply of food was meager, Dona Marcela gave part of it to the starving. When
her daughters complained she remarked,
"If it is hard to give, it is harder to ask."
Doņa Marcela, who lived through the
most hazardous and significant periods of our country was continually a source
of inspiration. She took all sufferings
in stride. She was also a pragmatic
person. When their house burned down, all she said was "We will then have
to go to Taal."
Although she survived the Battle of
Manila, Mrs. Agoncillo's health consistently declined. She continued to be
disconsolate over the death of her husband and lived the remaining years in
obvious loneliness. On Ascension Day,
30 May 1946, Do;ia Marcela passed away
quietly, at the age of 86. In accordance with her last wish, her
body was brought from Taal to Manila
and interred alongside her husband in
the Catholic cemetery of La Loma.
And there in a family mausoleum now
rest a great couple, Don Felipe and his
beloved wife Doņa Marcela.
To Doņa Marcela, the nation owes an
everlasting legacy in the national
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