|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.”