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Well known Filipino Masons
Masonry in the History of the Philippines

By Bro. Nicolas G. Ricafrente, GM

Masonry has existed in the Philippines since 1856, when the first Masonic Lodge was established in the country. This lodge was called “Primera Luz Filipina” established by a Spanish naval officer, Jose Malcampo in the province of Cavite. Although organized under a Portuguese Grand Orient and exclusively for Spaniards, its formation marked the introduction of Masonry in Philippine soil.

Philippine history is rich in the contributions and role of Masonry and Masons in the country. The propagation of the ideals of democracy is perhaps their biggest contribution. Our heroes Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Emilio Aguinaldo, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini and many other Filipino patriots were all masons.

It may be ironic, but significant that it was in Spain itself where Jose Rizal and his fellow Filipino expatriates internalized the idea of democracy. They joined Masonry and realized for the first time that they were treated as equals by their Spanish brothers. Rizal, del Pilar, Mariano Ponce and others saw the liberalism pervading in the very seat of colonial power, in stark contrast to the manner in which the Philippine colonial government was being run by the friar-influenced Spanish governors. They formed a propaganda movement and published a newspaper, La Solidaridad that exposed the anomalies in the Philippines and advocated reforms.

Jose Rizal wrote the novel Noli Me Tangere that exposed the abuses and avarice of the friars in the Philippines. In 1892 he and other ilustrados organized the La Liga Filipina to actively work for reforms. Rizal was arrested and exiled in Dapitan in Mindanao. The call for reforms repeatedly rejected and violently suppressed, later transformed into more militant actions. The Katipunan was organized; highly Masonic in structure and in its system of admission of members. It advocated total independence from Spain. It plotted a revolution.

Katipunan founders Andrés Bonifacio, Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata were all members of La Liga Filipina and were influenced by the nationalistic ideals of the Propaganda Movement in Spain. In the last week of August 1896, shortly after its discovery by the Spanish authorities, the Philippine revolution broke out.

The influence of Masons and Masonry on nationalism was not confined in Spain. Once the Filipinos were allowed access to lodges established under the Grand Spanish Orients, Masonry flourished and nationalistic fervor grew. Filipino Masons found support and protection even from colonial governors and Spanish government officials.

The history of Masonry in the Philippines tells us of the liberal regime of a Mason, Governor General Carlos Maria dela Torre, who was sent to the country in 1869 during the age of liberalism in Spain. It was after Queen Isabela II was deposed and King Amadeus of Savoy, a fellow Mason was installed. Dela Torre became a friend of the Filipinos; encouraged free speech, abolished censorship of the press and fostered free discussion of political problems. He displayed benevolence by pardoning rebels who spearheaded an agrarian uprising in Cavite. He supported the Filipinization of the parishes.

Governor General Carlos dela Torre implemented the educational decrees of another Mason, Minister of the Colonies Segismundo Moret, providing for the secularization of education and government control over certain educational institutions in the Philippines. Fearing that his attitude would promote nationalist tendencies among the Filipinos, and encourage the duplication of the Masonically led revolt in Spain, the friars conspired to remove him in 1871.

In 1885 Emilio Terrero y Perinat a 33rd degree Mason, was appointed Governor General to the Philippines. He revived the liberal measures started by Governor General dela Torre and together with fellow Masons Jose Centeno, acting Civil Governor of Manila and Benigno Quiroga, Director General for Civil Administration, tried to cleanse the government of friar dictates and influence.

When Rizal returned to the country on August 5, 1887, after his five-year stay in Spain, copies of his explosive novel Noli Me Tangere were already being circulated. The Archbishop of Manila had asked Terrero to ban the book immediately but the Governor General instead summoned Rizal for interview. After two meetings, Rizal earned the admiration of Governor General Terrero who, believing that he was in extreme danger assigned a lieutenant of the Civil Guards, Jose Taviel de Andrade as his bodyguard.

The novel continued to circulate and even enjoyed immense popularity especially after Terrero ignored the recommendation of the Permanent Commission on Censorship that it be absolutely prohibited. Governor General Emilio Terrero’s three year term ended in 1888 and was not renewed.

The impact and influence of Masons and Masonry in the struggle for freedom can not be denied. This is probably even more evident in the fact that our heroes were descendants of Continental Grand Orients; nurtured in the same brand of Masonry that inspired the Masonically led 1789–1799 French Revolution and the Spanish uprising of 1868. Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio and General Emilio Aguinaldo were said to have studied the history of the French Revolution. Aguinaldo’s revolutionary theme, Equality, Fraternity and Liberty was definitely inspired by the French revolution.

General Emilio Aguinaldo rose to become the principal rallying personality of the revolution; united the erstwhile divided forces and succeeded in liberating the key provinces and cities in the Archipelago. Independence was declared on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite, followed by the creation the first republican form of government in Asia. The national flag was unfurled and the national anthem, the Marcha Nacional was first played by a brass band. The first Philippine Constitution was subsequently drafted by an assembly largely composed of Masons in Malolos, Bulacan.

Filipinos were however, denied the fruits of freedom when the United States which had declared war against Spain on April 21, 1898 signed the Treaty of Paris with Spain on December 10, 1898 which was ratified on February 6, 1899. In this treaty, Spain ceded the Philippines for $20,000,000.

The Philippine-American war erupted on February 4, 1899. Aguinaldo was captured in 1901; the Americans declared total victory, and the Philippines became a colony of the United States.

Emilio Aguinaldo, made a Mason at Pilar Lodge in Imus; founder of Magdalo Lodge in Kawit, and first president of the Philippine Republic, looking back at the revolution said:

“The successful Revolution of 1896 was Masonically inspired, Masonically led, and Masonically executed. And I venture to say that the first Philippine Republic, of which I was its humble president, was an achievement we owe largely, to Masonry and the Masons.”