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National Flag Day relives HK role as patriots’ refuge

02 June 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

Officials and staff of the Consulate laid a wreath on May 26 at the Morrison Hill Road Playground site where three Filipina women sewed the first Philippine flag 118 years ago.
The National Flag Day ceremony was led by Deputy Consul General Christian de Jesus, who was accompanied by Consul Charles Macaspac, Labor Attache Jalilo de la Torre, Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, Assistant Labatt Ma Nena German and a handful of Consulate staff.
Also at the remembrance were a contingent from Lakbay Dangal led by Marites Mapa, as well as members of the organization Damayan.
The wreath was laid at the foot of the historical marker the Hong Kong government installed several years ago indicating the spot at 535 Morrison Hill where once stood a house rented by exiled lawyer Felipe Agoncillo and his family.
Agoncillo, together with Galicano Apacible, set up the Hong Kong Junta, a de facto government-in-exile of the revolutionaries, and held meetings in the house with other rebels as they continued to support the revolution from exile.
It was in a junta meeting on May 7, 1898,  at the Agoncillo home that Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo requested Marcela to sew a flag that would be unfurled at the declaration of Philippine independence from Spain.
Marcela went looking for the finest silk at a textile market nearby and began sewing the flag manually with needle and thread, as well as with a sewing machine.
She was assisted by her daughter Lorenza, who some historians said was just 5 years old at the time;   and Delfina Herbosa Natividad, a niece of Jose Rizal and wife of one of Aguinaldo’s generals.
Sometimes the two women and the girl missed meals as they worked overtime on the flag, and finished the job after five days. On May 17, 1898, the flag was packed along with other things that Aguinaldo carried when he returned to Manila.
The flag was first unfurled on May 28, 1898, after the Battle of Alapan in Cavite Nuevo, where the revolutionaries were victorious. Fifteen days later, it was formally unfurled in Kawit when Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence.
Hong Kong became a haven for Filipino exiles like Agoncillo when the revolution broke out in 1896. His family followed him into exile 22 months later.
According to historical accounts, the Morrison Hill house became a sanctuary for other revolutionaries, including Generals Antonio Luna and Aguinaldo, because Agoncillo welcomed anyone who arrived at the house.
 Josephine Bracken, the fiancée of Rizal, also sought refuge in that house when she fled to Hong Kong amid a Spanish threat to torture her after the execution of the national hero.

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