Gliceria Marella-Villavicencio, Enlightened Ilustrada
Gliceria Marella was born in Taal, Batangas on May 13, 1852, the third of seven children of Vicente Marella and Gertrudis Legaspi. The family was affluent. At the age of 12 she entered the Santa Catalina College in Intramuros. The Marcella children were orphaned early and had to live with their grandfather, Gliceria shouldered the responsibility of managing the family estate when her eldest sister died. In October 1871, Gliceria married Eulalio Villavicencio, also from a wealthy family in Taal.
Gliceria and her husband strongly sympathized with the Revolutionary movement. They closely followed the events leading to the Revolution and helped disseminate propaganda literature (including the fiery periodical La Solidaridad) that roused the people to action. They also donated P18,000 to Rizal in 1892 as a spontaneous and personal tribute to the propaganda movement.
The Spaniards perceived the couple’s revolutionary activities and the guardia civil frequently searched their home. Gliceria’s husband was arrested and transported to Manila. His trial for sedition dragged along and in the end he was thrown into Bilibid Prison. Gliceria worked hard in Manila for her husband’s release. A tempting offer was dangled before her by wily Spaniards. They said that if she would tell them any secrets she knew about the Katipunan in her province, they would set her husband free. She answered, “I love my husband very much as few wives do but I would consider it insanity to carry his surname if I should obtain his liberty by betraying him and his cause.” (Paz Mendes thesis). Her husband was finally released in 1898 but his health had broken down. He died three months later.
Gliceria donated her ship, Bulusan, to General Emilio Aguinaldo. It became the first warship of the Revolutionaries. Completely provisioned by her, the ship was used in the Bicol and Visayan regions and transported Spanish war prisoners for confinement in Romblon. She converted her residence into an army headquarters. With her initiative as well as moral and financial support, the “Batalion Malaya” was formed which reached as far as Tayabas, Capiz and Iloilo.
When the Americans grabbed the inevitable victory of the Philippine Revolution against Spain from the Filipino insurgents, Gliceria remained active in the struggle against the new conquerors. She supported General Miguel Malvar, who under overwhelming odds stubbornly continued the war against the Americans forcibly transferred her whole family to Manila under heavy guard. They confiscated her pro9perties and turned her home into an army hospital. Later, however, realizing the family’s prestige and the respect which the towns-people of Taal had for her, the American army were forced to return her family to Taal.
Gliceria continued to care for her children although her life was destined to have more than its share of burdens. She was loving and solicitous to her offsprings throughout her life. She taught them how to row, ride horseback, swim and handle the sword and the revolver.
Gliceria was a tireless, conscientious and dauntless woman. The Revolutionary government named her Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios (Matriarch-General of the Revolutionary Forces) on the same day that the Philippine Republic was proclaimed on June 12, 1898 “in recognition of the valuable services and her effective monetary aid to the Revolutionist army.”
Gliceria’s patriotism is best appreciated by remembering that she was of the ilustrado class, prone to acts of cowardice and collaboration with enemies of national freedom. As an ilustrado however, Gliceria was an enlightened one. Knowing she had everything to lose in supporting and joining the revolutionaries, she still embarked on her patriotic task with quiet enthusiasm, courage and fortitude.
(Originally published by Salidumay. Source: Tales of Courage and Compassion Stories of Women in the Philippine Revolution by Lilia Quindoza Santiago. Apublication of DIWATA Foundation and HASIK, Inc. with the assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency-CIDA)
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