He was born in Baliwag, Bulacan where he completed his primary education. He later enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran and took up medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. In 1881, he left for Europe to continue his medical studies at the Unversidad Central de Madrid.
While he was studying in Spain, he joined Marcelo del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena and Jose Rizal in the Propaganda Movement which espoused Filipino representation in the Spanish Cortes and reforms in the Spanish colonial administration of the Philippines. He wrote in the propaganda publication La Solidaridad under several pseudonyms, including Naning, Kalipulako and Tigbalang.
He was briefly imprisoned when the revolution broke out in August 1896 but was later released. Fearing another arrest, he fled to France and later went to Hong Kong where he joined a group of Filipinos who served as the international front of the ongoing revolution.
In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo chose him to represent the First Philippine Republic in Japan to seek aid and purchase arms. He went to Yokohama on June 29, 1898. During his stay, he met and befriended Sun Yat Sen, first president of the Republic of China (Sun Yat Sen also suppoted Philippine Independence by supplying him with arms). Mariano married a Japanese woman named Okiyo Udanwara.
With the help of a Filipino-Japanese named Jose Ramos Ishikawa he purchased weapons and munition for the revolution. But the shipment did not reach the country due to a typhoon off the coast of Formosa.
When he returned to the Philippines, he was made director of El Renacimiento in 1909. He also joined the Nacionalista Party and established El Ideal, the party's official organ. He later ran for a seat in the Philippine Assembly and was elected assemblyman for the second district of Bulacan. Ponce wrote his memoirs, Cartas Sobre La Revolucion, before he died in Hong Kong.
- National Historical Institute, Filipinos in History 5 vols. (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1995)
- Kalaw, Maximo M. The Deveelopment of Philippine Politics (Manila, Oriental Commercial Co. Inc., 1922)