On the occassion of its 125th year, I was given the honor to write a short article by WM Rodrigo Fernandez in 'The Mystic Tie', the newsletter of Nilad Lodge No. 12.
Below is the said article mga kuya.
Happy Anniversary Nilad!!!
Nilad 144, the grandmother lodge as it is known today, was the first all-Filipino Lodge in the Philippines.
It was founded on 6 January 1891. It was given the choice by the Gran Oriente Español to either form a Masonic Triangle or a Masonic Lodge. A Triangle was composed of 3 members while a Lodge was composed of 7 members. It opted to form the latter & its first set of officers were:
1. Jose A. Ramos (Socorro) – Venerable Master
2. Moises Salvador (Araw) – First Vigilant
3. Lorenzo Tuazon (Kamuning) – Second Vigilant
4. Tomas Tuazon (Gunting) – Orator
5. Pedro Laktaw Serrano (Panday Pira) – Secretary, Keeper of the Seal & Treasurer
6. Timoteo Paez (Raxa Matanda) – Master of Ceremonies & Expert
7. Romulado Cacnio (Tumawa) – Inner Temple Guard
Lorenzo Tuazon, not from Manila but a Mason from Malabon, was 1 of the 7 original members of Nilad. Within months of Nilad’s founding, Tuazon set up 1 of the first Masonic Triangles & named it Labong.
On 2 May 1892, Labong received its number & became Labong 153. Among the many Masonic Triangles formed by Nilad, it was one of the first to receive its number. The other triangles that received their numbers were:
- Masala 154 (San Fernando, Pampanga)
- Majestad 155 (Bacolor, Pampanga)
- Dampulan 156 (Jaen, Nueva Ecija)
- Bathala 157 (Ermita, Manila)
- Walana 158 (Binondo, Manila)
Later on, when Nilad 144’s authority was being questioned, Labong 153 became its only ally.
Nilad & Labong has a very long history. Probably one of the longest two lodges have, if not the longest. So you see Brethren of Nilad, our lodges are not just “neighbors.” We do not only meet on the same day, the same temple, the same floor. We are bonded by much more than a schedule. What Nilad & Labong has is a rich & colorful history.
The many blessings of serving Labong in the East this year is to have the aid & assist of the other Worshipful Masters of NCR-B. Unknown to everyone, this years’ WMs of NCR-B are in regular communication through Facebook Messenger & texts. We share information, advices & experiences. One of the active members of the group is your Worshipful Master Rod Fernandez. I venture to say that he is the one of the seven Masters closest to me. You are blessed to have him serve you this year.
On behalf of the officers & brethren of Labong Lodge No. 59, we maintain our fraternal grip to the officers & brethren of Nilad Lodge No. 12. 125 years & counting; since 1891.
Bro Ali Espina
Labong Lodge No. 59
(Source: The Brethren. Masons in The Struggle For Philippine Independence)
Today marks the beginning of my journey of possibly being elected to the position of JGW. Even at this very early point of my candidacy allow me to say that I am GRATEFUL. I firmly believe that any form of SUCCESS or VICTORY is not measured by money but by a feeling of contentment and more so again as I said, GRATITUDE. Napakalaking bagay para sa akin na manomina ng aking mga ka Lohiya at kadistrito, my brothers who I equally respect, uphold and look up to. This has brought me more than joy, it has given me a sense of affirmation and a will to live up to certain expectations. It has also taught me extremely valuable lessons and enabled me to channel qualities like patience, tolerance, kindness, humility and perseverance. Iilan pa lang po ito sa mga bagay na dapat kong patuloy na matutunan, dapat maging bahagi ng aking pagkatao para maging isang ,mabuting Kuyang. By the way, you can call me BRO, B-R-O – short for Brother Rudy Ong.
I must confess that at first, I was hesitant to accept the nomination because I was afraid I do not have the chance to win since in the past, winning in the Grand Orient has been equated with Fame, Position and Wealth. All these, I don’t have. However, that fear is now gone. I learned a week after the nomination that there is now an edict about electoral reform in our system. And we are very fortunate that today, we have in our midst the man who initiated this electoral reform, the man whose visionary leadership put our elections on the level and enabled us, ordinary masons, to have a shot at the position of Grandmaster, giving us the opportunity to choose a leader who’s our very own, someone coming from our ranks and from our level. The man I am referring to is Right Worshipful Tomas Rentoy. Let’s give him a warm round of applause.
I believe that with this electoral reform, we will move even faster in the years ahead, because we've got a bigger base to build on, and that's why I say today, that we are progressive Masons who want to go forward and we know the way.
Being elected to lead is more often than not ironic because you end up being of service instead. You are actually elected to SERVE, which is not a bad thing – actually a challenge that I, after 22 years of being a Mason, so wholeheartedly accept. I embrace my candidacy and I appeal to all of you my brothers to HELP ME HELP YOU. My platform, if ever willfully elected, will be focused mainly on the future of Philippine Masons so that every mason in the twilight of his years will continue to lead a productive, comfortable life -- one that matters. It is only after I have been put to office that I may be able to work for this purpose and show you how good and pure my intentions are, that all these shall unfold in front of your very eyes.
With all due humility, allow me to say that I am a SEASONED MASON. If it were a craft I would claim to know it by heart, a little morbid as it may seem but this is how I intend to be remembered after I have long been gone: as FATHER, HUSBAND & aast but not least, a MASON.
Maraming bagay na mabuti at maganda sa Masoneria. Gusto ko itong pagyamanin at gusto kong manatili ito sa ating puso at damdamin sa maraming makabuluhang paraan. Ang pagiging mabuting Mason ay hindi nasusukat sa basta pananalita kung hindi ay nasusubok sa gawa. I ask each and everyone of you to give me a try because I was born to do this. Ako po ay taong matatawag ninyong napaka hands on. We need leaders who are level headed and open minded -- leaders who are meant to put their words into action, leaders who can offer time and commitment to our fraternity. This makes the big difference. I do not ask people to do important things for me; I make sure I do it myself and that I am constantly on top of any situation, on top of my game. In short, you may call me a Game Master or GM. All of us are busy individuals yet despite these, I say that what is necessary to fulfill a Mason's work is to effectively use our 24-inch gauge that is to find time yet maintain that balance in life with very important things like FAMILY, CAREER & FAITH.
To the voting delegates, it is essential that your vote be not made simply on the basis of the labels we wear but that it has to be made on what we stand for, on our track record, on our background. All these sums up who we are - - as for me, a very big part of my life is taking pride in being a MASON. I am in a reasonable way defined by my Masonic Ideals, sa puso, sa isip at sa gawa.
To my co-candidates, it is an honor to be nominated for the 1st time along side with you, I send you a sincere and genuine GOOD LUCK wish. I keep the most to myself because I most definitely will need all the luck I can muster. Yet it doesn't cease from here. This is just the beginning of my Journey and I thank all of you especially the Brethren of Labong Lodge 59 for being with me every step of the way. As a matter of fact, as a show of support, 28 brothers from Labong Lodge 59 have come all the way to this beautiful island paradise, to share with me the joy and excitement of this journey. It is said that the greatest gift of life is friendship and I’m so happy I have just received lots of it from my brethren at Labong Lodge 59 and other lodges as well.
Sometimes, it’s the journey that teaches one a lot about his destination. I hope I can go on and on. Samahan ninyo po ako at hayaan ninyong patunayan ko sa inyo that I was worth the vote that you made in the name of our beloved Fraternity. Please remember your BRO B-R-O Brother Rudy Ong, mula po sa Lohiya Labong, always and will be at your SERVICE! Maraming salamat po at Mabuhay tayong lahat!
There is almost always pain in loss.
The greater the loss the greater the pain.
The greater the sorrow.
You lose a toy.
You lose a game.
You lose money.
You lose a friend.
You lose someone special.
You lose a family member.
You lose a brother.
There is pain. There is sorrow.
I didn’t personally know Worshipful Brother Manuel Rodrigo C. Perez or “Kuya Rody” or “Ka Rody” as what our elders would call him. I didn’t know him & his legendary status in Labong Lodge No. 59 until he was visited 3 years ago by some members of the lodge. He was, at the time, already weak & could not, I believe, communicate properly with his loved ones.
In the photo, who I saw was an old man, a grandfather probably, in his wheelchair, but still with his, although already faint, amiable demeanor. He was just also a name I would come across 3 times as Worshipful Master of Labong when I was just starting to build the website. I didn’t even connect the name to the man to be very honest. But I knew & was sure that the name was great for being in the East 3 times (4 times as others would argue).
“Tell me how he died… No, I will tell you how he lived.”
Does anybody still remember this line from “The Last Samurai”? This was when after the samurai character of Ken Watanabe died, the emperor asked the character of Tom Cruise the manner of the samurai’s death.
The line was true in Kuya Rody’s funeral rites. They were full of stories of how he loved his family, his genuine concern for the lodge & the brethren, & how sharp his memory was even when his sight already failed him.
- VW Ignacio “Asiong” Illenberger in a conversation before going to Arlington Funeral Homes, told a story that Ka Rody, already blind at the time, still volunteered to be the Master of Ceremonies in his would-be installation as Master of Labong. Ka Rody told him that as long as there was no change in the arrangement in the meeting hall then he could still navigate his way & would just be fine.
- VW Antonio “Kuya Tony” Joson said his family became very close to Ka Rody & his family that whatever the latter had, he shared with Kuya Tony: Crabs, Bangus, Pichi-Pichi, Hopia.
- VW Ben Tan recalled how Ka Rody told him that the greatest a man can ever have is “contentment.” That no matter how much one has, if he is not contented, then he has nothing. Kuya Ben shared how Kuya Rody, when he was about to go totally blind, arranged the furniture of the house, the food in the ref in the manner he would remember & therefore would not make him a burden to his family. There were stories of his grandson & how he was a good lolo.
- WB Alex Tojino & VW Rudy Ong recalled how Ka Rody would still support Labong’s projects to the extent that when he was already blind, he still came to watch a movie sponsored by Labong! He even joked that the movie was produced very well.
He was the idol of these idols who spoke of him. He was what they aimed for. He was the one worthy of emulation. Indeed he was the legend what us the younger members would always hear.
Why is there pain?
Why is there pain my brothers? Why, personally, with this particular brother, whom I just heard & just met a few days before he passed on, why is there sorrow?
My one answer may have been that I became a bit “attached” to Kuya Rody probably a direct result of being the Senior Warden & the one who works for the Sunshine Committee.
Since I was elected, I told myself the elder non-attending members were to be my duty, obligation & source of fulfilment. Kuya Rody’s contact information, among others, was my priority. This was hard as the number given to me did not reply or return an answer. I have been in search of him since January. He was to be awarded his 50-year Membership Certificate & Pin.
As we have heard several times, it pays to “await a time with patience.” Soon enough, 1 of the many contact numbers I have received from elder members replied. She was his daughter. We eventually were able to arrange to just deliver Kuya Rody’s pin & certificate; as he gets infected quite easily I was told. But as luck would have it, we were allowed to see him personally and so our Worshipful Master, our Very Worshipful Secretary & myself were able to present the certificate & pin to his wife & daughter while Kuya was also there sleeping in his bed.
That was a happy moment. We were able to see our brother.
Why was there pain? My other answer would be, & forgive me for being romantic, was in a form of a question. “Is the pain real because of this MYSTIC TIE that we talk about? Did I just experience it to be real? I mean, really REAL?” I would like to believe so. Tears wouldn’t have welled last night if it were otherwise.
It has been a privilege & honor to know Ka Rody more through his wife & daughter even for a few days. We were able to present to him & his family his 50-year Membership Certificate & Pin. Last night his daughter, Dra. Ching said, “Papa really loved Labong. He waited for your visit before he passed.”
Farewell Kuya Rody, farewell my brother. We pray for your journey to that undiscovered country where whose bourne no traveler returns; that temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
We hope that when we are clothed with the habiliments of death, when we make that journey to meet our Supreme Grand Master, you will be with Him to greet us.
The will of the Lord is accomplished. So Mote It Be.
Bro. Ali C. Espina
Exploring the teenage roots of Graciano Lopez y Jaena’s heroism, The Ghost of Friar Botod makes for an entertaining companion for historical detectives
A Book Review by:
WB EDMUND CORONEL
Associate Editor, THE CABLETOW
(Volume 89, No.6, March-April 2013)
The Ghost of Friar Botod
By: Ignacio V. Illenberger
VW Ignacio Illenberger is a different kind of writer. First, he is a Mason. It is ten times easier for Masons to donate money for a 5-story hospital than to contribute a 5-page readable article to THE CABLETOW. One story I had asked for Christmas was handed to me in Lent the year following.
Second, he finishes what he writes. Most writers will do anything to avoid writing. I don’t know why. But after writing my first paragraph here, I stood up, took my lunch, took a nap, woke up, slept again because it was still siesta, and got up at 4; okay, 5 p.m. Back to my writing desk, I was all fired up and ready to pound on my PC keyboard when it struck me that a hundred million pesos was in the pot for 6/49. So, I rushed out of home, placed my bet at a lotto outlet, and sat down with neighborhood pals celebrating a birthday at the sidewalk. In short, I wrote this paragraph 24 hours after the first. This makes Illenberger a different writer. Moreover, he writes with a crisp language that makes his novel.
“The Ghost of Friar Botod”, an easy and fascinating read. It is about the pre-exile, teenage life, of Graciano Lopez Jaena, one of the most illustrious sons of Iloilo City as much as Philippine Freemasonry. Easily, The Ghost qualifies as a historical novel alright. But Illenberger loaded his work with subtle twists and styles which make the book and interesting and different read.
Illenberger is the current editor of the Far Eastern Freemason, the official publication of the Philippine Scottish Rite. He has been a staff writer for THE CABLETOW a long time ago. No doubt, he is savvy with the language which, actually, is rare among combat officers in the service.
Graduating with an economics degree from the Central Philippine University (CPU) in 1971, he served in the Philippine Marine Corps in the next 32 years. His tour of duty included postings in the faculty of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) and later, as Director of the Philippine Navy Museum at Fort San Felipe in Cavite City.
Known & unknown
The novel opens in June 1996 at the YMCA lobby in Iloilo City where Graciano Lopez Jaena Lodge No. 194 is located. The Bros had just begun its stated meeting when they were surprised by an unexpected guest.
An aged Mason from Hong Kong of Portuguese-Macau origin, one Senhor Claudio Jiao Lopez, was admitted into the lodge while being pushed in a wheelchair. He introduced himself as the grandson of Claudio Lopez, the former Portuguese honorary vice-consul in Iloilo in the mid-1800s and more importantly, the paternal uncle of the hero Graciano Lopez Jaena. He handed a briefcase over to the Worshipful Master containing family heirlooms in the belief that they present better use and benefit for the lodge than to anyone else.
After the turnover, Claudio Jiao Lopez left as quickly as he came. An air of mystery suddenly loomed over the lodge. Baffled, the Master ordered the Lodge Custodian of the Works to go after the ailing guest and find out everything he could learn.
With the Stewards of the lodge, the Custodian caught Claudio Jiao Lopez behind the YMCA building which is actually located along Iloilo River. Lopez was confined in a wheelchair, after all – and boarding a sailboat that had carried him across the South China Sea.
Invited aboard the vessel, the Custodian played detective – snooping around the deck and cabins, asking questions and poring over crisp, aged letters. He pieced together the known historical facts and the untold family stories that Claudio Jiao Lopez told about his grand uncle, Graciano Lopez Jaena, comprising the novel’s actual story.
Fact & Fiction
Readers will immediately spot Illenberger’s distinct styles. The characters were named after real-life Masons like Benjamin Yu and Kalaw. The settings were taken after real events, real places in real-time like YMCA-Iloilo. Actually the author was Past Master of Graciano Lopez Jaena Lodge No. 194.
He didn’t spare even himself from his own literary devices. Except for adjectives of “handsome”, “brilliant”, “sublime” and “great”, you will never discover that Illenberger is the Custodian.
As a fictionist, Illenberger is privileged with literary license – like weaving facts into fiction. But he is not just after fiction. He wanted to save certain old handed down stories that cannot qualify as facts by sheltering them under fiction.
Growing up in Iloilo, Illenberger had heard of many century-old stories from the old folks about this historic city and the people that shaped it. He even had a grand nephew of Lopez Jaena for his pal and neighbor. No wonder why Illenberger was laden with stories – but nowhere to go. Not a professional historian, he took refuge in fiction.
The Ghost played around the biographical facts of Lopez Jaena from ages 12 to 17. History had it that he was born in Jaro, Iloilo City in 1856, with a seamstress for a mother (Maria Jacoba Jeana) and a general repairman for a father (Placido Lopez). But his dad was among the few Ilonggos who had been primary schooled in his time.
Similarly, Graciano went to school at age 6 in the Colegio Provincial in Jaro. But he transferred to nearby Semenario de San Vicente Ferrer which opened in 1869 during the term of liberal Governor-General Carlos de la Torre. Frail and a bad-dresser, yet the boy Graciano had impressed his teachers with his intelligence, independent-mindedness, and public speaking abilities.
Not counted among Iloilo’s swells yet, Graciano’s dad had a better-off cousin who made his career as honorary vice-consul of Portugal in Iloilo, Don Claudio Lopez. The city had increasingly become cosmopolitan since Nicholas Loney, the British vice-consul in Iloilo, regularly shipped Visayan sugar to Australia; hence, opening the local port to international trade. The Americans, Italians and Swiss followed, putting up consulates and buying local sugar for export. Businesses boomed. Imported goods poured in.
Amid this setting, Uncle Claudio employed his kid nephew as his secretary. He frustrated his cousin-in-law’s plan of priesthood for the boy by exposing Graciano early to the ways of the world. But after his minor seminary education – approximating to secondary education only – Lopez Jaena sailed to Manila, backed by relatives, for his bid to earn a degree in medicine.
The Ghost covered this brief 5-year span of Lopez Jaena’s life. And Illenberger interspersed the untold stories between the facts.The novel’s actual story begun at dusk on November 6, 1868. Col. Enrique Fajardo, Iloilo’s guardia civil chief, was visited by his neighbor Placido Lopez with a request – to keep the playing field leveled for his son Graciano, who was beaten up by three Spanish boys.
Fajardo and Placido were close. Discrimination of the natives by the Spanish colonials was common. It was a small favor to grant. Not until when Fajardo had learned of the cause.
Gossip had trailed Graciano from Colegio Provincial to the seminary. But the adults who knew it hushed up the kids. The Spanish bullies demanded Graciano for proof of the rumor. But he rejected them. Until the monicker the kids had attached to Graciano reached Fajardo – caballo de Catalan, of the best breeds of Spanish horses next to the Andalusian. Central to all the gossip was Graciano’s big natural endowment. He was, in short, a “totoy mola” – but still uncircumcised.
From the handed-down family story, Illenberger now goes into possibilities.
Fajardo had Graciano sent next to the Club Cantonese at the Aldeguer Triangle in the city. He headed up to the third floor which was the headquarters of the Cheung Chau Hakka, a Chinese goon squad that the British vice-consul Loney had brought from China to keep the peace in and run the port area efficiently.
Not exactly hoods, the Cheung Chau Hakka was a branch of the Hung Mun fraternity – known widely as the clandestine Chinese “Masons” – a band of trained killers who hired themselves out to bidders. Looking up to runaway Shao Lin monks as their founders, they practiced the Hung Ga Kuen martial arts tradition.
So, Loney’s Chinese enforcers began teaching Graciano a couple of kung-fu tricks to defend himself against bullies.
Not for long, Graciano was sent next to the ground floor pharmacy Farmacia Goa. He was to receive his rite of passage. He had already pulled his pants down to his knees when Leah Solis, the pharmacy’s hot and alluring proprietress, walked in to do the surgery. It turned out, expectedly, to be a painful surgery.
When all was well, a confident Graciano finally set out to get even with his Spanish assailants – and succeeded.
Picturing Graciano throwing kung-fu kicks and punches today, for instance, may be unimaginable – but not impossible. This is exactly what happens when fact meets folklore.
Folklore are stories that have failed to make it to history on time – or simply cannot pass for history so they have been left out to the common people to keep. History is the chronology of facts – names, dates, places, numbers. But folklore have neither facts or chronology – although it never meant that it never happened.
What Illenberger had done was to throw fact and folklore together into one mix. If anything, he was into a conservation job to save folklore from oblivion. But he couldn’t rescue folklore without stringing them together into one probable narrative.
The limits of the probable count importantly for fiction writers. While privileged with a wide imaginative breadth, yet whatever invention they make must stay within the realm of the credible, to tread the line of logic, and keep the readers holding on to the plot.
How he put fact and folklore together into one narrative tells on Illenberger’s storytelling ability – and there are some eyebrow-jerking scenes that test the reader’s credulity.
Unknown even to Graciano, the date April 24, 1869, was to bring him a life-changing event. The body of British vice-consul Loney was delivered by a steamer to Iloilo port. He caught fever that worsened into something else, while hiking up Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island and died.
The city that Loney had put in the world trade map mourned. But nobody had mourned as deeply as Leah Solis.
Originally named Lehiyah Sharavathi, the Farmacia Goa owner came from Mysore in India. Running away for a forced marriage, she deftly manipulated her future in laws into sending her to a Portuguese woman, who ran an Anglican grammar school for the British colonials, to train in pharmacy. She apprenticed next in a clinic under a Spanish surgeon in Goa. After earning her Portuguese citizenship – and freedom from a repressive Hindu tradition – she sailed for Singapore where she met the young Loney.
She fell for Loney – and had become his bimbo since then. She followed the Englishman even to Iloilo where they continued their hot, illicit, affair.
With Loney gone, Graciano felt duty-bound to comfort his, er, circumciser. He found Leah at the third floor balcony – of the same pharmacy and Club Cantonese building – staring out to the sunset. After a couple of hours and a Vermouth bottle, he finally said what he had to say “Come Leah. Let me lead you to your bedroom . . . “ Suddenly the story picked up speed – and ended just as speedily. “And thus, Graciano Lopez Jaena, just a few months beyond his twelfth birthday, lost his boyhood forever”.
I thumped the edge of the book’s binding hard on the table for any misplaced sentences or paragraphs. Nothing fell out. It was disappointing. But a few seconds later, it finally dawned on me that Illenberger has achieved a first in Philippine literature. He wrote the quickest bed scene in a Philippine novel!
That’s the way with writers. Sometimes, they transport personal habits to fiction.
The Ghost contained more than just Graciano Lopez Jaena’s teenage adventures. There are stories woven around the folklore about Iloilo’s vanished landmarks, abandoned quarries, lost villages and origin of local weapons. These may be the stuff of historical novels – to put color or help lead the plot on.
But Illenberger has another purpose behind conserving folklore. He strove to paint a precise setting of the period to highlight here and there the people and events that had sunk in and shaped Graciano’s will to become – what else but – a hero. He wanted to find out the stuff that made Graciano great.
Following Illenberger’s theory, we see that genes and home are very influential in shaping a person. But the news-of-the-day, as much as the first sex in the malleable teenage years count importantly in building an individual’s view of the world as much as his mettle. Hope we investigate our petitioners for Masonic degrees just as deeply. Passing to fiction theories that cannot be proven historically is not new. Dan Brown did it with his “The Da Vinci Code”. But Illenberger made this device work in many levels to pay tribute to Masonry, Iloilo and Graciano all at once. It is fun. Basically a historical novel yet, The Ghost also works as a detective novel where readers – especially Masonic readers – are invited to make their way through familiar names and discover the gist they stand for in the episode they are in.
Illenberger is given to mind plays. Hence, The Ghost is one novel pondered out of the box.
Mind plays also marked Illenberger’s early Masonic years. He was one of the “Treehouse Masons” – the Bros who used to hang out at the old palm-thatched tree-house next to the former GLP canteen (where the Hostel and Obelisk now stand). Gathered around the late MW Reynold Fajardo – a PGM of strong will as much as sharp mind – they held mind-popping Masonic education-type of discussions amid their regular fellowships.
The tree-house fellowships are one of the GLP’s golden moments that are as lost as Graciano and his turn of the century Iloilo. Now, Illenberger passes the Treehouse tradition to Bros with ready ears to listen. Once the Master of “Kambingan Lodge” – a carinderia a block away from the GLP frequented by Masons – he surrendered his title to its “DDGM”, Kuyang Francis Lovero.
Now, he is the Charter Master of “Kuyangs” – another watering hole just a couple of meters from GLP’s General Luna gate.
P.S. The book is sold at the Masonic Supply Store, Grand Lodge of the Philippines; the National Historical Institute bookstore at Luneta; the Student Service Enterprise, Central Philippine University in Iloilo City and the Iloilo Memorial Park sales office at Casa Real Building in front of the Casa Gobierno de Iloilo. The author’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org, he also in Facebook. The book may also be ordered from Amazon Books.
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?”
(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.
"Named in honor of Andres Bonifacio, one of the founders and later Supremo of the Katipunan, Bonifacio was born of poor parents in Tondo, Manila on November 30, 1863. He led the Cry of Pugad Lawin that sparked the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Bonifacio was a member of Taliba Lodge No. 165 under the Gran Oriente Español.
Labong Lodge No. 59 recommended the formation of this lodge. On Septemeber 1, 1973, Grand Master Ruperto S. Demonteverde issued a dispensation authorizing its formation and on October 26, 1973 the formal organizational meeting of the lodge was held. At the annual communication held in April 1974, the Committe on Charters found that the lodge had already initiated, passed and raised four candidates and had a total membership of 44 Master Masons and 1 Entered Apprentice. Accordingly, the lodge was granted a charter and assigned number 199..."