Thank you for inviting me. I would like to present your WM 3 commemorative centennial t-shirts. I would like to believe that I was invited not because of the t-shirts which I usually give when I visit lodges as JGL of NCR but because of my good looks I mean good words to impart. The topic assigned for this month based on the Uniform Masonic Education as provided by the Grand Lodge is entitled “The Foundation for Our Tomorrow.” We have just celebrated our first centennial anniversary and now we should ask ourselves how we can sustain our momentum going to the 2nd century or answer the question what… comes…next?
All lodges had their election for the new set of officers last December and one step to lay a good foundation is to guarantee that those elected will be well equipped in the discharge of their respective duties in the ensuing year, they are required to undergo proficiency examinations before they occupy their positions in their lodge. This is being done to ensure the sustainable development of the lodge in particular and of our fraternity in general. As officers they should serve as role models that their conduct and actions be emulated by their members. They should endeavor to avert the shadow of any scandal or reproach against the fraternity. Especially in places like the Philippines, where there are allegations that our fraternity is a sinister group and an anti-Christ organization, we the members should strive hard to practice out of the lodge those great moral duties which we have been taught in it and to convince mankind of the goodness of our institution and that its members are God-fearing and morally upright individuals. Last month, there was an episode in the History Channel in cable TV featuring Freemasons. It alleged that there is a conspiracy to form a “new world order” by individuals who are Masons or sympathetic to Freemasonry. Among the persistent popular beliefs concerning the power or influence of Freemasonry in America is that the Great Seal of the United States and the street plan and designs of the federal government buildings in Washington, D.C. were laid out on the basis of Masonic beliefs. They even said the U.S. one-dollar note contains Masonic symbols. For example, the largest symbol on the bill is the portrait of President George Washington, who is a Mason. There is also the All Seeing Eye inside a radiant triangle that rests on top of the uncompleted pyramid, a mass of stones whose wide base represents the membership of the fraternity. There is also the Latin motto “Novus Ordo Seclorum” written under the seal, translated as New Order of the Ages and is synonymous with “new world order.” There is also an image of an eagle , symbol of St. John the Evangelist, who is the great patron of Freemasonry. The eagle on it has 32 feathers, symbolic of the 32 degrees in Scottish Rite. And would you believe that one third of the presidents of the USA have been members of the Craft. The last was Pres. Gerald Ford. Even Pres Ronald Reagan, a non-mason, was awarded Honorary Scottish Rite Mason. Masons are said to be influential in politics, in business, in the judiciary or in every sector of society that they are perceived planning to rule the world. Masons are also suspected of showing favouritism to fellow Masons. But of course, what are brothers for? I remember a story about an accused man who was sentenced to death and who is about to be executed. The executioner after blindfolding the accused, asked him if he has any last words. The accused shouted, “I hate Masons.” The executioner asked him why and he replied, the one who accused me is a mason, the policeman who arrested me is a mason, the prosecutor who tried me is a mason, and worst of all the judge who sentenced me to death by firing squad is a mason, I hate masons. The executioner responded, “OK I understand. We will now proceed. Advance one step with your left foot and bring the heel of your right…”
Let us bear in mind that being a Freemason per se should not be perceived as a cloak of invincibility or impenetrability which renders us untouchable. To whom much is given, much is expected. Being a mason does not provide us with superpowers. It only enables us or gives us the opportunity to keep true to the words, making good men better. Let us work hard to earn others respect. Di lang tayo dapat makikilala na yung may mga sasakyan na may ibat ibang stickers, o yung mga may singsing na hindi naman wedding ring o college ring, o yung mga di naman nagluluto pero may mga apron, o yung mga nagsasalita nang magisa sa sasasakyan o C.R. na wala namang kausap dahil sa kakamemorize o yung mga madudungis na nagbubuhat ng isang malaking tali sa Roxas Blvd. (We should not be recognize only as those w/ a variety of car stickers; or those who wear rings other than our wedding or college rings; or who wear aprons but don't necessarily cook; or those who talk to themselves in their cars & toilets just to memorize; or those who carry a very large rope along Roxas Blvd.)
But seriously amidst all these negative allegations and insinuations, how should masons respond? May kasabihan, kapag binato ka ng bato, batuhin mo ng tinapay. (There is a saying when someone throws a rock at you, throw them bread.) In our first degree lecture we are taught that in order for us to reach heaven, we will be aided by that theological ladder, the three principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope, and Charity, which admonish us to have faith in God, hope of immortality or life after death and charity for all mankind. (Expound further) But the greatest of these is Charity, for our faith may be lost in sight, hope ends in fruition, but charity extends beyond the grave, through the boundless realms of immortality. We will be remembered for all the good things we have done even after we pass away. The best legacy is to have a good name or reputation. And for our institution, having a good impression of who we really are is the best foundation for a better tomorrow. We are witnesses to the various community outreach projects of the thousands of lodges around the world that build the integrity of the Fraternity in the eyes of the profane. Likewise we attest to the various charity institutions that Freemasonry has built such as the shriner hospitals, Masonic charities for crippled children, the retirement homes, the hospices for the terminally ill, etc. But all these dimensions of Masonic Charity are not generally known, they are hidden and are known only to us, Masons. And if all these practice of charity are only discussed in our fellowships after our stated meetings, then our relevance and impact to society is somehow diminished. We need to showcase them outside our institution so that the world may know we are one to whom the burdened heart may pour out its sorrow, one to whom the distressed may prefer its suit or one whose hand is guided by justice and whose heart is expanded by benevolence or simply put one who practices charity. Recently, our Centennial Grand Master issued a circular instructing all lodges in our jurisdiction to submit all charity works done in recent years to be showcased and compiled in a documented report. This for me is a highly effective way to counter all the negative innuendos hurled against our fraternity.
But I would like to stress that we are not a civic club nor a social club, but a fraternity with a belief system that seeks to benefit mankind. And charity is its main symbolic gesture of its intentions. That we have accomplished much for the Filipino nation during the last one hundred years of sovereign existence is already a given. The Philippine Jurisdiction opens its 2nd Century during the Iloilo ANCOM next April. By that time, our main focus should be answers to the question, “So… What comes… Next?”