Marcela M. Agoncillo

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Marcela Mariño Agoncillo (24 June 1860 - 30 May 1946) was one of the makers of the first Philippine Flag, finished in Hong Kong, with the aid of Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, a niece of Jose Rizal. She is called the "Mother of the Philippine Flag."

A native of Taal, Batangas, she was married to Felipe Agoncillo, who was the Filipino representative to the negotiations in Paris that led to the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish-American War.

Childhood and education

Marcela was born in Taal, Batangas to Francisco Mariño and Eugenia Coronel. Her parents were said to be rich and religious. As a child, she was considered the prettiest in Batangas. She is referred to as "Roselang Hubog," a virgin enthroned in the town church. According to some stories, people used to wait for her at the church patio in the morning as she went out with a maid or a relative to hear mass.

Known for being disciplinarians, her parents brought her to a convent noted for its rigid rules. In Sta. Catalina College of the Dominican nuns in Intramuros, Manila, she finished her primary and secondary education. In college, she learned Spanish, music, crafts and social graces. She was also a good singer and appeared in some zarzuelas in Batangas.

Marriage and family

Marcela was married to a judge, Don Felipe Agoncillo, a rich Filipino revolutionist and the first Filipino diplomat, who also came from a prominent family in Taal. Both were near 30 when they got married. After marriage, Marcela moved from Taal to Manila, where they lived together in Malate. Six daughters were born to them: Lorenza, Gregoria, Eugenia, Marcela, Adela (died at 3), and Maria. Gregoria was the first Filipina to graduate from Oxford University. Most of her daughters took the career path of teaching and not one of them got married. Marcela cared for all her daughters until they reached maturity.

Every Thursday, the family is observing a charity day, when needy people would assemble in their driveway to ask for alms. The family would give a bag of rice and money, and no one went home empty-handed.

Exile in Hong Kong

When Don Felipe learned of the governor-general's plan to deport him, he sailed to Yokohama, Japan, and later went to Hong Kong where he joined the other Filipino exiles. After twenty-two months, Marcela and her daughters followed him into exile. His rented house in Hong Kong became a sanctuary for other Filipino revolutionary exiles. They conducted meetings in his place, especially during the critical months of March and April 1898. These people included General Antonio Luna and General Emilio Aguinaldo. Josephine Bracken, Jose Rizal's fiancée, also went to Agoncillo's house to hide after being threatened by the Spanish authorities.

Making of the Philippine flag

After their voluntary exile, General Emilio Aguinaldo visited the Agoncillo residence in Hong Kong after signing the Pact of Biak-na-Bato on 14 December 1897. Aguinaldo requested Marcela to hand-sew a flag according to his design. For Aguinaldo, this design would embody the national aspirations of all Filipinos. Marcela immediately called her eldest daughter Lorenza, and Jose Rizal's niece Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, to help her.

The flag was made from fine silk which Marcela bought in Hong Kong. It was embroidered in gold and contained stripes of blue and red and a white triangle with the sun and three stars. It became known as "the sun and the stars flag". It was finished in a period of five days, through a difficult process. Marcela, Lorenza and Delfina worked manually with the aid of a sewing machine. They had redo the flag when the rays of the sun were not placed in the proper direction. Their eyes and hands suffered due to the prolonged work.

The flag was personally delivered by Marcela to Aguinaldo, which he brought back to Manila. It was hoisted from the window of Aguinaldo's house in Kawit, Cavite during the proclamation of Philippine Independence on 12 June 1898. Marcela was not able to witness the first public display of the flag because she had to stay with her husband, who was still in exile.


The Agoncillo family went back to Manila after Don Felipe's return from diplomatic activities abroad. This was after the fall of the first Philippine Republic and the establishment of the American regime. They family stayed in their house in Malate. When Don Felipe died, Marcela and her daughters suffered from starvation because of insufficient supply of food, water, and other needs. Their situation got even worse during the time of the Japanese occupation. They had to move from Manila to Taal because their house was incinerated. After enduring the 1945 Battle of Manila, Marcela's health continued to deteriorate. She still mourned for her deceased husband, causing her daughters to hide everything that reminded her of him. On 30 May 1946, she died at the age of 86. Her remains were brought from Taal to Manila and placed beside her husband in the Catholic Cemetery of La Loma.


Three Women Weaving the Filipino Flag monument by Napoleon V. Abueva

Several commemorative figures were created in remembrance of Agoncillo's constribution to Philippine history:


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