Felipe Agoncillo
Felipe Agoncillo was the Filipino
Filipino people
The Filipino people or Filipinos are an Austronesian ethnic group native to the islands of the Philippines. There are about 92 million Filipinos in the Philippines, and about 11 million living outside the Philippines ....

A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 representative to the negotiations in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 that led to the Treaty of Paris (1898)
Treaty of Paris (1898)
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

, ending the Spanish–American War and achieving him the title of "outstanding first Filipino diplomat."

As a family friend and adviser of General Emilio Aguinaldo
Emilio Aguinaldo
Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy was a Filipino general, politician, and independence leader. He played an instrumental role during the Philippines' revolution against Spain, and the subsequent Philippine-American War or War of Philippine Independence that resisted American occupation...

 and General Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna
Antonio Luna y Novicio was a Filipino pharmacist and general who fought in the Philippine-American War. He was also the founder of the Philippines's first military academy.- Family background :...

 during the critical times of the revolution, Agoncillo has been active in participating during that era especially when he presided the Hong Kong Junta—a group of Filipino exiles who met to plan for future steps in achieving independence. His greatest contribution of the Philippine history was when he was assigned to negotiate foreign countries to secure the independence of the country considered as the most important assignment given by a General.

Outstanding student

Agoncillo was born on May 26, 1859 in Taal, Batangas
Taal, Batangas
Taal is a 4th class municipality in the province of Batangas, Philippines. According to the latest census, it has a population of 51,459 people in 8,451 households.It is the Balisong and Barong Tagalog Capital of the Philippines...

 to Ramon Agoncillo and Gregoria Encarnacion.

At an early age, his parents already noticed his brilliant mind. He enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila
Ateneo de Manila University
The Ateneo de Manila University is a private teaching and research university run by the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. It began in 1859 when the City of Manila handed control of the Escuela Municipal de Manila in Intramuros, Manila, to the Jesuits...

 where he was a consistent honor high school student and later transferred to the Universidad de Santo Tomás
University of Santo Tomas
The Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines , is a private Roman Catholic university run by the Order of Preachers in Manila. Founded on April 28, 1611 by archbishop of Manila Miguel de Benavides, it has the oldest extant university charter in the...

 where he obtained his law degree in 1879 with an excellent grade. He was granted a Licentiate in Jurisprudence with the highest honors.

He returned to Taal to manage his family's properties after a year studying in Manila
Manila is the capital of the Philippines. It is one of the sixteen cities forming Metro Manila.Manila is located on the eastern shores of Manila Bay and is bordered by Navotas and Caloocan to the north, Quezon City to the northeast, San Juan and Mandaluyong to the east, Makati on the southeast,...

 because his parents had both died.


Agoncillo was already a judge and at the age of 30 when he was married to Marcela Mariño, a daughter of a reputed family in the same town. Six daughters were born to them: Lorenza (Enchang), Gregoria (Goring), Eugenia (Nene), Marcela (Celing)—named after her mother because they thought she will be their last child, Adela, who died at the age of three and the youngest Maria (Maring), who was their last child to survive and died on July 6, 1995.


While in Taal, Agoncillo continued his legal services and gave charity to poor and oppressed Filipinos. He was so generous that he posted an inscription outside his office: "Free legal services to the poor anytime."

Having heard by the parish priest of his activities and for preaching patriotic ideas, he was accused as anti patriotic, anti religious and was described as filibustero or subversive. He was later recommended to the governor-general for deportation.

Exile to Hong Kong

Forewarned by the plans of the governor-general, he sailed directly to Yokohama, Japan but briefly stayed and went to Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 where he joined other Filipino exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

s who found asylum when the revolution broke out in 1896. They temporarily sojourned at Morrison Hill Road in Wanchai and later became a refuge for exiled Filipino patriots.

When the signing of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato
Pact of Biak-na-Bato
The Pact of Biak-na-Bato, signed on December 14, 1897, created a truce between Spanish Colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera and Emilio Aguinaldo to end the Philippine Revolution...

 concluded, Gen. Aguinaldo joined to them. They initiated meetings in the Agoncillo residence on the months of April and March 1898 and Gen. Luna was one in the attendance.


After the signing of the truce, Agoncillo spearheaded the Central Revolutionary Committee and organized the propaganda office for General Aguinaldo's revolutionary government.

The Philippine Revolutionary Government commissioned Agoncillo as Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate treaties with foreign governments. Agoncillo and Jose "Sixto" Lopez was sent to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to lobby foreign entities that Filipinos are well civilized people and capable of maintaining stable government and to secure recognition of Philippine independence but US President William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

 did not receive them. To gather sympathy to the Philippine cause, they addressed the American Episcopalian bishops.

After being ignored by the US president, Agoncillo proceeded to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to present the Philippine cause at the peace conference convened between Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 and the US, where a meeting was to be held to discuss Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 and the Philippines. Agoncillo tried to submit a memorandum but again failed. The people behind the meeting did not want to have any official dealings with him. On December 10, 1898, the treaty was successfully signed.

Subsequently, Agoncillo's diplomatic activity incurred sum of money that he had used up all his savings going from one country to another presenting the case of the Philippines that he had even sacrificed his wife's jewelry.

Agoncillo's protest

Two days after the signing of the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1898)
The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

, Agoncillo returned to the United States and endeavored to block ratification of the treaty by the US. Although this was signed by the commissioners, it was not yet approved by the Senate of the United States. He filed a State memorandum to express that Filipinos must be recognized by the United States. He presented a formal protest which was called Memorial to the Senate to the president and delegates of the Spanish-American Commission saying:

If the Spaniards have not been able to transfer to the Americans the rights which they did not possess; if the latter have not militarily conquered positions in the Philippines; if the occupation of Manila was a resultant fact, prepared by the Filipinos; if the international officials and representatives of the Republic of the United States of America offered to recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Philippines, solicited and accepted their alliance, how can they now constitute themselves as arbiters of the control, administration and future government of the Philippine Islands?

If the Treaty of Paris there had simply been declared the withdrawal and abandonment by the Spaniards of their domination --if they had such --over Filipino territory, if America, on accepting peace, had signed the Treaty, without prejudice to the rights of the Philippines, and with a view to coming to a subsequent settlement with the existing Filipino National Government, thus recognizing the sovereignty of the latter, their alliance and the carrying out of their promises of honor to the said Filipinos, no protest against their action would have been made. But in view of the terms of the Article III of the Protocol, the attitude of the American Commissioners, and the imperative necessity of safeguarding the national rights of my country, I take this protest, for the before-mentioned reasons but with the proper legal reservations, against the action taken and the resolutions passed by the Peace Commissioners at Paris and in the Treaty signed by them.

Agoncillo's conclusion about the treaty was that it was not binding on the Philippine government. In the memorandum, he clearly stated the reasons why Spain had no right to transfer the Philippines to the United States and that when the treaty was signed, Spain no longer held the Filipinos.

At that time, many Americans were also against the treaty, so they established the Anti-Imperialist League which opposed making the Philippines a colony of the United States. Afterwards, on February 4, 1899, the Philippine–American War began; this turned on approval of the treaty of Paris.

Post Philippine–American War

On August 29, 1900, he met with Gustave Moynier
Gustave Moynier
Gustave Moynier was a Swiss Jurist who was active in many charitable organizations in Geneva.He was a co-founder of the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded", which became the International Committee of the Red Cross after 1876...

, an original member of the Committee of Five
Committee of Five
The Committee of Five of the Second Continental Congress drafted and presented to the Congress what became known as America's Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776...

 and ICRC
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 President. Agoncillo sought recognition of the Filipino Red Cross Society
Philippine National Red Cross
Born officially in 1947, Philippine Red Cross , a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has roots that trace back to the revolutionary days...

 as well as the application of the First Geneva Convention
First Geneva Convention
The First Geneva Convention, for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, is one of four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It defines "the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts." It was first adopted...

 during the Philippine–American War.

Return to Manila

When hostilities ended between Filipinos and Americans, he returned to Hong Kong and rejoined the exiled junta. Later, on July 15, 1901, after American rule was firmly established in Manila, he went back to the Philippines as a poor man and lived in his house in Malate, Manila
Malate, Manila
Malate is an old district of the city of Manila in Metro Manila, the Philippines. The district is located at the southern end of the city of Manila, bordered by Pasay City to the south, by Manila Bay to the west, by the district of Ermita to the north and by the districts of Paco and San Andres to...

 together with his family.

Continuing service

While in Manila, he resumed his law practice and other business. He took the bar exam
Bar examination
A bar examination is an examination conducted at regular intervals to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.-Brazil:...

 in 1905 and passed with a perfect score of 100 percent, an achievement which has remained unmatched until today. His examination papers have been preserved in the Filipiniana section of the Philippine Library and Museum.

In 1907, he was elected as the Batangas representative and represented that town, among others, in the Philippine Assembly. He was once a defense of El Renacimiento whose editors were charged with libel by Dean C. Worcester. De Agoncillo was appointed as Secretary of Interior in 1923 during the administration of Governor General Leonard Wood and fought for the Filipinazation of the government service.

Words of wisdom

Agoncillo shared the following words of wisdom:
  • Kailangan ang katapatan upang magkaunawaan. (Truth is needed to attain understanding.)

  • Kailangan ng mga sawimpalad ang pagkalinga ng mga higit na mapalad. (The less fortunate need care from the more fortunate.)

  • Kayamanan, oras, at kahit na buhay ay maiaalay ng taong nagmamahal sa bayan. (A person who loves his or her country can offer to it wealth, time or even life itself.

See also

  • Philippine–American War
  • Treaty of Paris (1898)
    Treaty of Paris (1898)
    The Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed on December 10, 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, and came into effect on April 11, 1899, when the ratifications were exchanged....

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