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¾ length painting of a young man in a gray 3-piece formal suit with a long coat.

Felipe Agoncillo (1859–1941)

On August 7, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo entrusted Filipino lawyer Felipe Agoncillo to travel to Washington, D.C., and secure a role in the peace negotiations on behalf of the Philippine Republic. However, President William McKinley’s office refused to welcome Agoncillo on the grounds that he did not represent a legitimate government. 

Agoncillo then sailed to Paris, where he hoped to meet with the commissioners negotiating the terms of the peace treaty, but he was rejected again. On December 12, 1898, Agoncillo issued the Republic’s official protest to the treaty, writing: 

I claim... the fulfillment of the of the solemn declaration made by the illustrious William McKinley... that, on going to war, he was not guided by any intention of territorial expansion, but only... the duty of liberating tyrannized people, and the desire to proclaim the unalienable rights of sovereignty of the countries released from the yoke of Spain.

Félix Resurrección Hidalgo (1855–1913)
Oil on canvas
86. 4 x 55.9 cm (34 x 22 in.)
National Fine Arts Collections of the National Museum of the Philippines
Audio file
Audio commentary by Ana Maria Theresa Labrador, University of Melbourne

Audio Transcription: When I look at this portrait I see actually a portrait of dignity, but behind it is a lot of heartbreak. Agoncillo really worked so very hard to seek independence for the Philippines. He negotiated with so many people, he went back and forth, Hong Kong, Washington DC, and then Paris. He sacrificed financially. He nearly drowned at one point when his boat capsized in Scotland, but he seemed to be unflappable. As a person who comes from a privileged background, and with this education, he couldn't quite sort out why he was being rebuffed from both sides of the Atlantic. But with the U.S. co-opting the Philippine independence after their war against Spain, the U.S. turned the Philippines into another colony. He was so disappointed. In the course of studying this portrait, I learned so much about the quality of his character. You can see a man who's quite well dressed, and that Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, the artist, wanted to really portray that kind of dignity that remained intact-- his valor, his integrity, as a Filipino and a human being.