The main reason I have stuck it out with PinoyMasons is that you will never know what surprises the posts hold for the avid reader of Masonic lore. I thank Bert Guiang and Dong Abaya for their recent posts, they are allegorical nuggets to an old gold-panner in the wilds of Colorado and the hillsides of Mount Diwalwal in Davao. Occasions like this inspire me to share those little memories during my travels.
When you have the occasion to be in Cebu City, try to find time and visit YMCA Cebu along Osmena Boulevard during an early Sunday morning. During the three years (2008-2011) that I served as OIC General Secretary of YMCA Iloilo, I had occasions to visit YMCA Cebu during our periodic YMCA Visayas Council meetings held there. YMCA Cebu is run by a Freemason, Bro. Cris Caparoso of Maktan Lodge No. 30. Cris was a YMCA scholar who earned his technical education degree from the Cebu School of Arts and Trades. In gratitude, Cris has devoted his life to the YMCA movement and continues to serve the youth even if he is already in his mid-70s.
Among the many remarkable long standing programs he has instituted is the LILY. Lugaw Init Libre sa YMCA is a weekly feeding program for Cebu City's indigent, homeless and other street people. The fare is just a bowl of simple Lugaw. Near YMCA Cebu are several churches of various congregations with their early Sunday worship. At about 6:30 AM, Cris would start serving Lugaw, then disappears to catch up with his sleep. When the Lugaw ran out, that is the end of the LILY for that weekend. If you stay and watch the scene until its conclusion you would see the beneficiaries wash their bowls and spoons, clean up the place and leave. During those fleeting moments, a Mason's unheralded charity surfaces, then the world of realities again claims the day.
LILY was initially funded by a seed money of =P= 1,000 given by a small circle of Freemasons. Later, other non-Mason donors gave their share. It keeps growing, albeit in seeming trickles. Although I found the occasional sharing of simple nourishment with street people refreshing, they did not move me to report this to the world - until one extra-ordinary Sunday morning late last year.
I rose from bed at the YMCA Cebu hostel at sunrise to have coffee. I saw only three persons sitting by the tables. When Cris arrived to prepare the Lugaw, they greeted each other. But the greetings seemed perfunctory. When the other beneficiaries arrived, Cris left. The three strangers sat down with the street people and started to share steaming fish balls that they brought. When I joined them, a young man greeted me by my old rank and alias when I was still in the active military service. I was startled. I retired in 2004 and was never assigned in Cebu during my whole career.
The young man was Yusah (Arabic for Joshua), the son of my long departed friend Sheik Jabiri Sali Al Haj. Hadji Jabiri lived in Mangsee Island along the boundary of the Philipines and Sabah, Malaysia. I was then a lieutenant in the Pinoy Marines and was the detachment commander at Mangsee Island. The Jabiris were traders who brought to Cebu City marine products consigned to them by the islanders in the different islands along the boundary with Malaysia and Indonesia. In Cebu City, they would scour the famous Cebu fabrication shops (from paltik guns to kihad-kihad rubber fittings to chemical concoctions for fish preserves, etc). They would place orders for replacement parts for the islanders' old equipment with spare parts no longer available in the trading centers in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia. While they waited for the completion of their orders, they would continue ordering other merchandise unique only in Cebu (guitars, local inventions of special fishing gear, etc) they would return to their kumpits anchored in some shelter area where they were protected by loyal old contacts.
The three Mangsee seafarers made good living by their trade but they were often subjects of suspicion by government functionaries as shady characters who skirted trading laws. Maybe they were shady, but by my experience with them, they were just following the ancient norms that governed humanity, whithersoever they may be found. The three Mangsee seafarers made good living, and they prayed to their God, thankful of their good fortune. They also practiced the prescriptions of charity taught by their Volume of Sacred Law, the Quran. And they chose to share their good fortune, albeit in a symbolic manner, through the LILY program of a Mason, a Christian who served the YMCA.
My first impulse was to tell Cris about it but I soon checked myself. Did Cris already know of the three Mangsee seafarers? Maybe, maybe not. But let that be his own secret. Were the three Mangsee seafarers Masons? Maybe, maybe not. The practice of charity is not exclusive to Masons after all. If those three were Masons, they did not tell me, not even Yusah. Let that be their own secret if they indeed were.
Several discernments were apparent though. Cris and the seafarers were born in different lands, hundreds of miles apart. They spoke with different tongues. They worshipped the Creator by different names. The human needs of the Cebu street people brought them together and had brought out from them their inate virtue of charity, the kind that Freemasonry also teaches. That only side of that equation is a proven Freemason is already meaningful to me, the Tongue of Good Report indeed works.
Labong Lodge No. 59, GLP