Masons in Philippine Masonry
|Philippine Center for Masonic Studies||
The classic pose struck by Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and Mariano Ponce is perhaps the most iconic representation of the propaganda movement in Spain. Teodoro M. Kalaw, as director of the National Library, in his prologue to the book “Cartas Sobre La Revolucion” (Letters on the Revolution, 1932) by Mariano Ponce described them as the three principal minds in which the direction of the propaganda movement reposed.
While Rizal was the soul of nationalism and Del Pilar the political analyst, Kalaw described Ponce as the quiet, reserved and patient administrator who took care of all the laborious details of the campaign. He complemented Rizal with his love of history and local folklore and Del Pilar with his Bulaqueño passion and combative temper.
Born in Baliuag, Bulacan, on March 22, 1863, Mariano Ponce was the oldest among the seven children of Mariano Ponce and Maria Collantes de los Santos.
He took up Bachelor of Arts at Letran College then pursued a course in Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas until 1887.
Ponce went to Spain to finish his studies where he obtained his medical degree in 1889 from the Universidad Central de Madrid.
He joined Masonry and served as secretary of Logia Revolución No 65 until it was dissolved in favor of Logia Solidaridad No 53 where he also became secretary when Marcelo del Pilar was its Venerable Master in 1891.
With Graciano Lopez-Jaena, Mariano Ponce co-founded the periodical La Solidaridad in February 1889; served as its administrator and headed its literary section. He wrote about travel, politics and history under the pseudonyms Kalipulako, Naning and Tikbalang. He also served as secretary of the Asociacion Hispano-Filipino.
The propaganda movement was overtaken by the revolution in 1896 and Ponce was arrested and briefly imprisoned in Barcelona. He was released after forty-eight hours but, fearing another arrest, he fled to Hong Kong.
With the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in effect, he joined the Filipino revolutionaries in exile and was made secretary of the “Junta Revolucionaria” with Felipe Agoncillo as its president. He was also made private secretary of General Aguinaldo.
Upon the resumption of the revolution with Aguinaldo’s return to the Philippines in May 1898 the revolutionary government made three important diplomatic appointments: Felipe Agoncillo as representative to the United States, Galicano Apacible as president of the Central Committee in Hong Kong and Mariano Ponce as diplomatic agent to Japan.
Before he left for Japan with companion Faustino Lichauco, he made a ten point set of instructions as guide to their negotiations dated June 17, 1898. Their delicate mission entailed an assessment of imperial Japan’s view and stand regarding the Philippine revolution, possible help in protecting Philippine independence and Japan’s possible assistance should the United States tried to annex the country (instructions VI - VII).
From Japan, Ponce was able to procure weapons and ammunition but the shipment failed to arrive in the country because the ship was wrecked by a typhoon off the coast of Formosa (now called Taiwan).
After the Philippine-American war, Mariano Ponce sadly packed his belongings and library and returned to the Philippines. He became the director of the newspaper “El Renacimiento” (The Renaissance); a historical researcher for the National Library and Museum, and Bulacan representative to the Philippine Assembly.
Ponce’s “Cartas Sobre La Revolucion” was a collection of intimate and official correspondence with his friends, colleagues and foreign contacts from 1897 to 1900. They were sometimes signed with different pseudonyms like R. Sampere and P. Mario. They were first written as a member of the Hong Kong junta and then in the performance of his duty as diplomatic agent to Japan.
The letters reveal the internal workings of the revolution much of which still unknown or little known. They record the intense external activities during the most difficult phase of proving to the world the capability of the Filipinos for self rule and the legitimacy of their independence.
In a letter to Grand Master Miguel Morayta from Yokohama, Japan dated July 31, 1899 Mariano Ponce lamented the loss of the Philippines and blamed Spain for not heeding the counsel of patriotic Masons— “Quitad los frailes y está país sera español.” - (Remove the friars and this country will be Spanish.) He put the blame for the failure of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato to Fernando Primo de Rivera who reneged on the conditions regarding colonial reforms.
He was starting to work again on the history of the country and contemporary politics in the orient when he died in Hong Kong on May 23, 1918. Mariano Ponce, (like Marcelo del Pilar) has the distinction of attaining the 33° of Masonry and becoming a member of the Supreme Council of the Grande Oriente Español.