On this day, March 22

By | March 22, 2021
march 22
On this day, March 22 | Photo: Mariano Ponce’s portrait, by Rafael Amorsolo, @NHCPOfficial collection

On this day, March 22, in 1863, Mariano Ponce, physician, writer, campaigner, Rizal’s close friend, and the First Philippine Republic’s ambassador to Japan, was born in Baliwag, Bulacan

Born to Mariano Ponce Sr. and Maria Collantes de Los Santos, he was the eldest of the couple’s 7 children. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Letran in 1885, & shifted to the University of Santo Tomas to study Medicine. In 1887, he continued his medical studies at Universidad Complutense in Madrid.

Passionate for reforms, Ponce joined several groups, like the Propaganda Movement, composed of Filipino intellectuals in Spain. He helped establish the newspaper La Solidaridad w/ Graciano Lopez Jaena on 12 Feb 1889. He also joined the Asociacion Hispano-Filipina, a liberal group leading its literary section. His pcs in Soli were very prolific, drawing from history, politics, sociology, & using several pen-names such as Naning, Kalipulako (Lapulapu), & Tigbalang (Tikbalang, mythical half-man, half-horse), showing his grasp of Philippine culture & history.

When Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896, he was in Spain but was incarcerated for 2 days for his connections to Rizal & the reformists. After the grueling episode, he moved to France, & then to Hong Kong, where he got connected with the Filipino community.

In 1898, upon the Malolos gov’s call to establish its diplomatic corp in Hong Kong to campaign for the republic’s recognition in the intl community, Ponce answered the call, & became the Philippines ambassador to Japan.

On 29 June 1898, Ponce moved to Yokohama, Japan, & from there began befriending members of Japan’s Imperial Diet, to seek Japan’s recognition of the 1st Philippine Republic’s sovereignty. When the Philippine-American War broke out in 1899. Ponce was able to secure secret support from the Diet (secret becauseJapan did not want to be involved in a diplomatic quagmire). Japan sent the ship Nunobiki Maru with weapons to support the Philippines in the war, but the ship sunk on 21 July 1899 off the coast of Taiwan.

He became friends with PM Ōkuma Shigenobu who gathered representatives from Korea, India, & Siam, nations fighting for their own independence. Ponce’s house in Yokohama became a meeting place for Asian nationalists. He became close to Sun Yat-sen, China’s future 1st president.

After the capitulation, Ponce traveled across East & Southeast Asia before coming home to the Philippines in 1907. He established the newspaper El Ideal, & did Today In History segments entitled “Efemerides Filipinas.” He was elected assemblyman of Bulacan, and after, head librarian of the Philippine  Assembly.

He also wrote “Cartas Sobre La Revolución,” his memoirs of the years leading to the revolution & during the Phil-Am War. Ponce died in a hospital in Hong Kong, while intending to meet with his friend Sun Yat-sen, in 1918. (@indiohistorian (Kristoffer Pasion)

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