(Published in The Far Eastern Freemason - 4th Quarter 2012)
Editor's Note: VW Rudy L. Ong is an incumbent Junior Grand Lecturer, NCR. His mother lodge is Labong Lodge No. 59. Bro. Ong, MRS has been re-nominated for the KCCH during the last semi-annual session. His Masonic Education piece on the Autumnal Equinox was delivered during his October 2012 visitations with the Blue Lodges meeting at the Scottish Rite Temple.
May I introduce myself. I am your Brother RUDY LIM ONG. My ancestors came from Fujian Province in China. They arrived in these islands sometime in the early 1900s & settled in the Island of Catanduanes in the Bicol Region. They decided that it was better to seek a new life in another land rather than live in a regime of oppression then prevailing in their native land. However, they found that the situation in their new home was also frightening. Bicol had many different races, strange cultures & also in a condition of unrest - they were struggling to cope with a change in the political regime from Spanish to American rule. Despite everything, my ancestors had to stay. They had burned their bridges to their native land & they could no longer return to China. They must assimilate themselves in their new homeland.
In Bicol, there were Spaniards, Indians, native Filipinos, Chinese & other Europeans. These people had different beliefs but they all shared a common commitment. They had all become part of this new land & they wanted to forge a nation of their own, difference among their races with their inherent social norms notwithstanding. My ancestors labored to find & join an institution that was common among all. They truly wanted to become a part of this new land. It took almost a hundred years before one of their descendants found that institution.
I, your Brother RUDY LIM ONG, became a Freemason in 1992. From my raising, I endeavored to learn the tenets of the fraternity that freely accepted men of different races & beliefs, who knocked at her doors of their own free will & accord. My ancestors were awed by the advanced philosophies that Freemasonry taught. My father was especially touched by the Masonic tradition of the Lodge of Remembrance. My mother was especially touched by the Masonic obligation never to violate that chastity of a Brother's mother, widow, daughter & sister - or the women of a Mason's bloodline. The re-affirmations of our Masonic obligation come during the month of October.
In China, October is part of the Autumnal Equinox month, a time when communities prepare for the coming of the darkness & cold of the Winter season. Many died
during these months of deprivation. The days preceding the cold Winter months reminded them of their ancestors who enabled their descendants to survive depredations of the freezing landscape in
their ancestral land. In remembrance & gratitude, they would honor their memory. As a young, newly raised Master Mason, I made it my lifelong commitment to study the mysteries of the
different aspects of Freemasonry. Years later, I found out that the Philippine Masonic landscape is an aberration in our world-wide fraternity.
The usages of the Philippine Blue Lodges were transplants from the American Masonic tradition that is the York Rite. In the first three degrees in Philippine Masonry, discussion of politics & religion are prohibited. This prohibition is still in effect up to this time. However, a study of the brand of Masonry that educated our revolutionary heroes will reveal that the Spanish lodges in the late 1800s practiced the French traditions that made the Masonic lodges virtual schools in statecraft - politics & religion included. Rizal, Lopez-Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, etc were students in those Spanish Masonic lodges. Those Spanish lodges practiced the rituals of the Scottish Rite that emanated from France. Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founder of modern republican China was an early Asian collaborator of our revolutionary heroes in the Asian nationhood movements. It was also the events of that era that directed my interest to the lasting role of women in our Fraternity. This role is not extensively explained in the American York Rite that governs the Philippine symbolic lodges. In the Scottish Rite, glimpses of the role of women & the Autumnal Lodge of Remembrance explain their significance. Not all of us in this meeting are Scottish Rite Masons. What I will just explain are the basic differences.
In the symbolic lodges, the first to the third degrees, the story of Hiram Abiff is completed. In the Scottish Rite, the story of the days of King Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre & the Grand Architect Hiram Abiff are elaborated from the fourth to fourteenth degrees. These degrees are styled as the Lodge of Perfection. Simply explained, the story of Hiram Abiff, perfected. The bases of these degrees come from the works of ALBERT PIKE. Brother Pike is considered as the founding philosopher of the modern day Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction that counts the Philippines as one of its affiliated sovereign councils.
Hiram Abiff was a half-breed. His mother came from the Hebrew tribe of Naphtali that lived on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake located adjacent to the Phoenician kingdom of Tyre. Tyre is located along the Lebanese coast of the Mediterranean Sea. His father was a craftsman from Tyre - an artificer in metals & brass. King Hiram of Tyre was a patron of the temple builders of his kingdom who were often contracted in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Hiram's father was often away from his family. Hiram Abiff's mother prevailed upon her husband to pass on to her the moral tenets of his craftsman's guild that she may indoctrinate their son to follow his footsteps. There were no known obligations about fraternal secrets during those times - only a practical husbanding of valued skills among the temple builders, the operative proto-Masons of those times. While Hiram Abiff learned the craft as an apprentice, adherence to the ancient moral laws of his father's guild came mostly from his mother, not from his often absent father. As fate would have it, Hiram Abiff's father did not return from one of his contracts in foreign countries. But King Hiram of Tyre was already aware of the existence, character & skills of the orphan, Hiram Abiff. Hiram Abiff was nurtured by his monarch to become a trusted master temple builder.
Hiram Abiff, half Phoenician & half Hebrew, recognizing the fleetingness of life, nurtured his would-be-successor from similarly inclined skilled young temple builders. GAREB, a Hebrew from Gebal (told in the Bible's Book of Joshua), Chief of the Workers in gold, silver & tapestries; ZELEK, a half-breed also from the town of Gebal, Chief of the Stone Masons; SATOLKIN, a Philistine, Chief of the Carpenters; YEHU-ABER, the Phoenician, Chief of the Artificers in metals & brass & ADONAIRAM, the Hebrew, the Superintendant of the Works. Scottish Rite bibliography does not elaborate on the particulars of their nationalities, hence the continuing mystery. But a glimpse of the make-up of the inner circle of Hiram Abiff would show that they were temple builders - "THEY WHO WORK BEST AS THEY BEST AGREE." They were of different nations & cultures but they had fundamental commonalities - belief in an all-powerful Deity & the Immortality of the Soul. Had it been otherwise, they would not have been contracted by King Solomon to build for the temple for the God of Israel.
ALAS, the frailties of human nature surfaced & the tragedy at the temple occurred. HIRAM ABIFF was left alone in the work place at high twelve or the hour at which the sun rises to meridian height. The three ruffians, men of Tyre, conspired to extract from HIRAM ABIFF the secret word, a secret that they did not yet deserve to possess. HIRAM ABIFF would rather die than reveal the secrets. In his dying moments, the mortally injured HIRAM ABIFF's first appeal was to his Creator: "OH LORD, MY GOD", his second appeal was to any fellow orphan who may have heard his plea: "IS THERE NO HELP FOR A WIDOW'S SON?" There was NONE. And thus the Architect died & the circumstances of his death were remembered for the next 3,500 years & became the enduring symbol of the Masonic world's belief system. Have you ever wondered why a Brother Mason always refers to a mother when asking you questions on your Masonic identity?
HIRAM ABIFF in that moment of distress, remembered his mother who bequeathed to him the moral code of his father, the artificer in metals & brass. The mothers, widows, daughters & sisters of Mason possess his secrets. It is our obligation to accord them respect, protection & assistance; that the secrets to our survival are kept sacrosanct. These women belong to the bloodline of a brother Mason, hence also our own. For every year that we, the living Brethren, experience the seasonal warnings of the AUTUMNAL EQUINOX of the coming cold, darkness of the spectre of death hovering during Winter, we pay homage to our Brethren who have since crossed to that unknown land from whose bourne no Mason ever returns. We invite to these memorials, the women of our brethren's bloodline & assure them that when we meet them again when our time for that crossing comes, we will rejoice in that reunion.
Race origins, religion, culture & ethnic traditions among Filipinos are reminders of our differences. Freemasonry reminds us that we all belong to this land that has since become our nation.
Freemasonry is not a social club, it is a Fraternity that has an ancient belief system made alive by the continuing observance of the traditions of the Order & in the practice of her tenets. Freemasonry makes us all common in our belief system.
May the spirits of our departed Brethren remain alive in us all. May we always be in remembrance to accord the women of our Masonic bloodlines, the respect, protection & assistance that we have obligated ourselves.