LIVING INTO MASONRY: ANSWER TO DISUNITY
This is a high moment of honor for every Filipino Mason in every Fillpino Lodge, and a significant milestone in the history of Free and Accepted Masons in the Philippines. Every Brother who comes to office this year enters into the centennial of one of Filipino Masonry's greatest accomplishments, -- the creafion, under its principles and from the sweat and blood of its own men, of a new nation and the first republic in Asia.
This year (1998) marks the 100th anniversary of our country's declaration of indepependence. This is the year that we recall the nation to the ideals of Masonry that gave it birth and to the Brothers whose sacrifces brought that nation to life.
The high officers of the Grand Lodge have spoken on several occasions about the significance of Masonry to Philippine histoty.
Without Masonry, a subjected race could not have united for a national struggle to achieve a national identity. Without Masonry, a subjected race could not have achieved the awareness that it was the equal of its masters.
The dominant religion, the Spanish Catholicism, taught that slavery was justifiable, that some races were less than the others -- even if they were spiritually equal Catholics in the eyes of God. The dominant religion instilled from childhood unswerving obedience even to bad authority, so long as it was Catholic in faith, Spanish in composition, and protective of the Church.
A native was born into a condition of total mental and physical servitude. All he knew, as an article of faith, was that he was less than his Spanish masters, and that his redemption could come only in the next life, as a reward for his willing services to them in this one.
How could he revolt since he had no ideals in whose name he could rise? He had no idea of dignity, he had no idea of injustice. All he knew was that he suffered but not that it was wrong, and that he deserved better.
Then, from the land of his masters, no less, came Masonry. Not a body of professed beliefs that no one practiced-like Roman Catholicism. But a set of practices and silent beliefs. The practices of the Craft. Practices of mutual consultation and mutual help. Practices that demonstrated -- not merely proclaimed -- the equal respect in which its members held each other, and all people in the outside world.
Here was -- well, a religion if you will -- that couldn't preach because the exact doctrines of Masonry must be kept secret. I think even many of us don't know what they all are. Deeds you shall know them.
Masonry could only preach by practicing -- practicing the equality of men, in which Masonry believes; practicing the brotherhood of all men, for which the lodges were organized; and practicing that sweet reason by which men of different capacities and needs are alone able to live together in cooperation fruitfully.
Of the color of a man's skin, Masonry had nothing to say, because color did not enter into the fraternal equation. Your brother can be darker or lighter than you, taller or shorter. None of that affects the fraternal relationship for duties and satisfactions created by a common Father. So it is in Masonry that also taught that all men had the duty to build -- the temple in the deep past; free, equal and fraternal societies at the time. As Masons like George Washington created the United States and Simon Bolivar independent Latin America.
Imagine the impact of these teachings.
So, after all, a native was not less than a Spaniard, but his equal in the lodge. And not just in the lodges in Manila, but in the Mother Country as well.
So, after all, the ignorance that justified one man's subjection to another was suffered not only by Filipinos, but by everyone -- Filipino, Spanish or whoever -- who turned his back on reason, and refused to behave toward his fellowmen with the honor and charity we owe our natural brothers.
So, after all, it is possible for all men to live and work together, regardless of the diversity of their races, creeds and colors, if they would only subscribe to three universal beliefs consistent with any faith or lack of it: that all men were created equal by God, that all men are brothers under His Fatherhood, and that all men should guide their actions by that raason of which He put in each of us, an equal capacity that is a reflection of His infinite own. This is best expressed in the perfect proportions of the Temple of Solomon.
With these principles, the Filipino identity was born. With that identity the struggle was borne to find a home of its own.
No one can dispute the central role of Masonry in the birth of the nation. As we celebrate the centennial of that birth, it is our obligation to remind our countrymen of the ideals that created their country, and might yet inspire its renewal.
The importance of Masonry trascends the duty of truth with regard to its place in our history. Masonry's ideals contain the answer to the problem of our lack of cooperation and unity, which stands to obstruct the improvment of our state.
The central story of Masonry is the building of the temple of Solomon. The story is that Solomon called the skilled men in his vast dominions, as well as all skilled men outside, to build a temple to the One God in whom every religion ultimately subscribes.
Masons, carpenters, wood and stonecutters -- men of all colors and creeds -- came, each bringing his special skill in building.
As we who have been initiated into the Craft all know, the building did not go smoothly. There was jealousy and conflict. There was a heinous crime. We also know that by the use of deductive reasoning, the perpetrators of that crime were exposed and brought to justice, and that the building of the temple resumed and was completed.
The lesson is clear: in order to build rather than destroy, we need a common plan, we need men of learning and skill, and we need to develop that reasoning capacity, whicb alone can show us how to make the different parts join and hold together. This lesson applies to our country as well.
As we try to create a common community out of the rich diversity of our country, particularly in the South**, I think of no principles more universal than Masonry's by which to organize that diversity into a workmg and progressive unity.
With its belief in One God, the Architect of the Universe -- a belief shared by all Filipinos, Christian and Muslim -- surely they can unite to honor their Maker by building the only temple still possible in this secular age. The temple of a free, just and progressive country. This is the temple that Filipinos must build to honor the God who gave them their country 100 years ago.
It is not surprising that Masonry should be so prevalent in those places where conflict is widespread and where so many brothers have paid the ultimate price of disagreement and disunity. We know how widely Masonry is practiced by our Brothers in the army of the south, who have fought and died to keep the unity of the Republic and the territorial integrity of our country intact. But as they wage war, they long for peace; as they combat for secession, they long for unity.
Masonry created the Philippines 100 years ago. It is our duty to remind the nation of that. It is still the principles of Masonry that best assure its healing and final unity.
But the last thing we want to do is just preach Masonry. For one, we are bound by the oath of secrecy not to speak out and Masons don't really care if they get the credit or not, or if more men become Masons. Our only interest is that more men behave according to the tenets of Masonry.
Our duty is to show by our example that Masonry -- the answer of the past -- is still the most vibrant answer for the future. It is a dynamic answer which consists of building rather than talking, of showing rather than proclaiming mutual respect and help.
We think that through distinctly Masonic activities we can achieve than final unity and peace which will complete the circle of felicity in which our fine and beautiful country has entered, with its established freedom and growing prosperity.
**South refers to Southern Philippines, specifically the Mindanao island where armed conflict between Christians and Muslim separatists still persist.