Nilad Lodge

Once the authority was secured, Pedro Serrano Laktaw was commissioned to establish Filipino lodges in the Philippines. After receiving his certificate of Maestro Superior from the university where he was studying he sailed for home and arrived in Manila sometime in December 1891. He got in touch with Anacleto Ramos, Timoteo Paez and Moises Salvador, who were all Masons. Ramos was initiated into Masonry in England, Paez was made a Mason "under the celestial canopy" by Lopez-Jaena during the latter's visit to the country in 1890, while Salvador joined Solidaridad Lodge during his stay in Madrid. The four initiated three new members, and with the participation of the initiates founded Nilad Lodge on January 6, 1892. They at once applied for affiliation with the Gran Oriente Espaņol in Madrid. In March a charter was issued and Nilad became Lodge No. 144.

In the following months Nilad Lodge was kept busy initiating new members. Filipinos flocked to Masonry with great enthusiasm, "beyond what had been expected," as Rizal put it. The most eager joiners were those who were indoctrinated with liberal ideas by the Spanish Masons during the progressive regime of Governor- General Terrero. Among the first initiates were the "gobernadorcillos" and "principales" who figured in the "Manifestation of 1888", those who supported Quiroga's decree on burials, the partisans of del Pilar in Malolos, and the officers and members of the "Comite de Propaganda" which was organized just before del Pilar departed for Spain in 1888.

The First Filipino National Organization

In barely fourteen months the Masons were able to establish a truly national organization which stretched from the Ilocos in the North to Zamboanga in the South, bringing together under one umbrella people who belonged to different regions, had dissimilar customs and spoke diverse dialects. What is more, these people - Tagalogs, Pampangos, Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Visayans, etc. - learned to embrace each other as brothers. It was the first time in the history of the country that such a feat was achieved. Never before had a nationwide organization composed of Filipinos been set up. The Masons proved beyond cavil that national unity was within reach. But it was not only the spirit of brotherhood that the Masons propagated. Masonry was nothing less at that time than a campaign for liberty. In every community where Masonry was introduced, the people were indoctrinated in the "new liberties." It was graphically demonstrated to them that their country was a land where "justice is mocked, legal rule is ignored, any semblance of equality contemptuously refused." The campaign had a telling effect. In March 1893, Jesuit Superior Father Juan Ricart complained: "The religious orders have lost much of their prestige. And as religion loses, so does Spain and "filibusterismo" grows together with impiety. The lodges are being organized. May God help us and have mercy on these people once so simple."

Masonry as an institution did not advocate the violent overthrow of the established order, but its teachings of religious tolerance, of man's right to freedom of speech, of the press, etc., fanned the flames of discontent and engendered a craving for change, a desire for liberty. Because Masonry was fast spreading throughout the country, the yearning for the "modern liberties" was soon becoming a universal clamor of a united people. It was ominous. In one of his essays, Rizal had spelled eloquently what universal discontent could lead to:

"All the little insurrections that have hitherto occurred in the Philippines have been the work of a few fanatics or mutinous officers who have had to deceive or cajole or exploit their followers to achieve their ends. And so they failed; all of them. Not one of these insurrections had the people behind it; not one sprang from a whole race's need; not one was fought for the rights of man or the claims of justice. This being so, they left no lasting impression on the memory of the people. On the contrary, once the people's wounds had healed and it recognized itself to have been the victim of deceit, it applauded the fall of those who had perturbed its peaceful existence. But suppose a movement were to arise from the people itself, with the miseries of the people as its motive power? What then?"

Program of Action

The propagation of Masonry in the Philippines was no doubt hastened by a well- planned program of action which Nilad Lodge observed. Every candidate was required to read and subscribe to a Masonic Program and Code. It was a document which was clear and explicit and demonstrated that Masonry was not what it was depicted to be by its enemies. It showed that Masonry is a Fraternity which considers all men as equals, all men as brothers, children of one God, a Fraternity which erases all differences of race, nationality or color; protects and defends freedom of thought and religion; fosters charity, condemns selfishness and the exploitation of people oppressed by obscurantism. The Filipinos saw in the Masonic Program and Code an eloquent expression of all their libertarian aspirations for their country.

The Liga Filipina

Masonry was growing by leaps and bounds when Rizal arrived in Manila on the 26th of June 1892. He was bringing with him the Constitution and By-Laws of the Liga Filipina, a society which he intended to establish and which he hoped would unify the Filipinos and eventually lead to their emancipation from Spanish rule. At the time Rizal drafted the rules of the Liga in Hong Kong he knew that Masonry was succeeding exceptionally well in bonding the Filipinos, but then he was also aware the Fraternity has its limitations. Under the ancient landmarks of the Order Masons are prohibited from using the Fraternity as a political organization to bring down an existing government. He felt therefore that a new and different organization was needed to supplement the work of Masonry.

In framing the structure of the Liga, Rizal followed the example set by the secret conspiratorial societies that mushroomed in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries. These societies owed much of their success to their adoption of Masonic structures, rituals, procedures and rules of secrecy. He had many models to choose from, among which were the Carbonari, Illuminati, Sublimes Maitres Parfaits or Sublime Perfect Masters, Raggi, Lega Nera, Centri and Guelfi. Indeed the Masonic initiatory rituals, the use of secret recognition, signs and passwords, the oaths of secrecy, the binding pledges of mutual assistance, and the adoption by the members of symbolic or secret names fit nicely into the needs of secret societies. Along these lines, therefore, Rizal molded the framework of the Liga.

The local Masons got in touch with Rizal the moment he arrived. Timoteo Paci and Pedro Serrano Laktaw accompanied him in his trips to the provinces where he met the local Masonic leaders. Back in Manila they arranged several banquets tendered by the lodges in his honor. On July 3, upon his request, they organized a meeting of Masons and non- Masons during which he founded the Liga.

The Katipunan

Rizal enjoyed only a few days of freedom. On July 7 the local papers published an order of the Governor-General deporting him to Dapitan in Mindanao. Shock and bewilderment spread through the ranks of the Fraternity. Upon reading the newspapers, six Masons who were present at the founding of the Liga met in Binondo and agreed it was time to found a new and more radical organization, one with separatist aims. They called it "Katipunan". These Masons were Deodato Arellano of "Luzong Lodge", Jose Dizon, the Master of "Triangulo Taliba", Valentin Diaz, Teodoro Plata, Andres Bonifacio and Ladislao Diwa. Profiting from the example of the Liga, the founders of the "Katipunan" also carried over into their new organization the symbols, ceremonies and organizational structures of Masonry, but made a few innovations to suit their needs. For example, they devised three degrees for the Katipunan just like in symbolic Masonry, but instead of calling them "Aprendiz Mason", "Companiero Mason" and "Maestro Mason", they called them "Katipon", "Kawal" and "Bayani". Similarly, in Masonry the degrees were distinguished through the aprons worn by the members; in the Katipunan the distinction was through the hoods worn over the heads of the members. In Masonry the candidate was brought to the lodge blindfolded and was conducted to the Chamber of Reflections where he was obliged to answer questions concerning his concept of man's duty to God, to himself and to his fellowmen and thereafter he was conducted through the ceremonies of initiation by a brother called the Terrible. In the Katipunan the "candidate" was also brought to the ritual room blindfolded, but the questions asked of him before initiation were about the conditions of the country in the past, at present, and in the future. The candidate was also guided through the ceremonies by a brother who was called the "Mabalasik", which is but the Tagalog translation of the Spanish word Terrible. The most important innovation in the ritual was the introduction of the so-called "Pacto de Sangre" where neophytes were required to make incisions on their arms and sign their names in their own blood. This was not a Masonic practice; it was a ritual copied from the Carbonari.

Despite the changes adopted by the "Katipuneros", the similarities in the initiatory rituals of Masonry and the Katipunan were so great that Masons who joined the Katipunan were often confused. Santiago Alvarez tells us that when Emilio Aguinaldo was initiated into the Katipunan he kept responding to questions in "the Masonic manner," because of which "his cross- examination was prolonged."

In subsequent years, the resultant structural similarities between the Liga, the Katipunan and Masonry, plus the subsequent discovery that all these organizations were led by the same group of people would fortify the conviction of the authorities that they were in fact essentially united and make the government feel perfectly justified in considering Masons ipso facto subversives.

A Crackdown on Masonry

Unknown to most Masons, the authorities were closely monitoring every move of Rizal from the time of his arrival. On July 5, they struck. Simultaneous raids and thorough searches of the houses of those visited by Rizal in Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac were conducted. In Manila the houses of leading Masons were also searched. Numerous arrests were made and many were deported. Some officeholders were fired. The severe measures taken by the authorities forced the closure of some lodges and brought Masonic activities to a halt. On November 14, Moises Salvador wrote to del Pilar: "As regards Masonry, no lodge is working at present, because we are so closely watched."

Masonic Labors Resumed

The surveillance of Masons continued up to the end of the year. In 1893, however, the authorities relaxed their watch, believing that the danger had passed after the deportations. Moreover around the middle of 1893 Ramon Blanco took over as the new Governor General. He was a 32nd degree Mason and was not inclined to make life hard for his Brothers. The Masons, therefore, were able to resume their labors. More initiations took place and new lodges were founded. In April the Masons organized a grand body, the Gran Concejo Regional, which assumed supervision over the lodges and took over the direction of Masonic affairs. Much Masonic progress was recorded.

The Liga Revived

In the same month of April, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Domingo Franco and other Masons took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere and reactivated the Liga which had withered away after the rustication of Rizal in Dapitan. As reorganized, the Liga was governed by a Supreme Council and had under it Popular Councils which were established in each of the different districts of Manila. The Supreme Council and all its subordinate Popular Councils were headed by Masons. The council in Binondo was headed by Estanislao Legaspi of "Lusong Lodge", that in Quiapo had Francisco Nakpil of "Balagtas Lodge" as its president, the one in Tondo was led by Timoteo Paez of "Luzong Lodge", that in Ermita and Malate was under the presidency of Grand Master Ambrocio Flores, the one on Sta. Cruz was under Isias Toribio of Nilad Lodge, and finally the one in Trozo was headed by Andres Bonifacio of "Taliba Lodge".

The most active of the popular councils was the one in Trozo headed by Bonifacio. It was so successful in recruiting members from the masses it was felt that if an election were held, Bonifacio could have easily wrested control of the association.

The reorganized Liga lasted for only six months. Two factions emerged, one which still nurtured the conviction that political reforms could be wrested from Spain through peaceful means, and the other, led by Bonifacio, which argued that the time for revolutionary radicalism had come. In October 1893, the two groups parted ways and was dissolved. The moderates organized the "Cuerpo de Compromisarios" under Domingo Franco, Apolinario Mabini, Timoteo Paez, Jose A. Ramos, Moises Salvador, Faustino Villaruel and Ambrocio Rianzares Bautista, all Masons. These men pledged to raise funds for the support of the propaganda organ, "La Solidaridad", and for the reform crusade. The radicals, on the other hand, who were convinced that an armed uprising was the only solution to the political ills of the country grouped themselves under the banner of the "Katipunan" led by Taliba Lodge members Bonifacio, Teodoro Plata, Jose Dizon, Alvaro Nepomuceno, Jose Turiano Santiago, Jose Reyes Tolentino, Eustaquio Javier and Valentin Diaz.

Persecutions Resumed

In March 1894 the persecution of Masons was resumed, but this time with greater severity. As the days passed the repressive measures grew in harshness. The conduct of Masonic affairs became a cat and mouse game. The Guardia Civil in the provinces and the Veterana in Manila were ever on the lookout for Masonic gatherings. The Masons therefore had to adopt ingenuous schemes to masquerade their meetings. The same house was seldom used more than once as a meeting place and while a Masonic meeting was taking place, a purely social affair was usually held in another part of the house to divert attention and lull suspicion.

In 1895 a real reign of terror for Philippine Masonry began. The abuses of the authorities grew in magnitude. Arrests and deportations of Masons were a daily occurrence. By the end of the year the lodges had to suspend their labors. But the losses of Masonry were translated into gains for the Katipunan. The ranks of the Katipunan began to swell dramatically. Even Masons shifted their attention to it. Antonio Salazar declared that in 1896 Taliba Lodge "was dormant because its Worshipful Master Jose Dizon and Andres Bonifacio were engaged together with Pio Valenzuela in the affairs of the Katipunan."

The spectacular growth of the Katipunan made it vulnerable to discovery and eventually the authorities found it out. Bonifacio was forced to take to the battlefield prematurely. The Revolution had its ups and downs, but in the end the Filipino rebels were victorious. Independence was won.

heroes.gif (66274 bytes)

During the entire period of the revolution, the Masonic fraternity was moribund, the lodges were closed and all Masonic activities suspended. Nonetheless, the leaders of the Revolution came from the ranks of the Brotherhood. Emilio Aguinaldo, Baldomero Aguinaldo, Crispulo Aguinaldo, Santiago Alvarez, Ambrocio Rianzares Bautista, Andres Bonifacio, Juan Castaneda, Edilberto Evangelista, Ambrocio Flores, Pantaleon Garcia, Mariano Hanera, Vicente Lukban, Antonio Luna, Apolinario Mabini, Julio Nakpil, Artemio Ricarte, Teodoro Sandiko, Trinidad Tecson, Manuel Tinio, Mariano Trias and a host of others belonged to the Craft.

An Assessment

What precisely was the contribution of Masonry to the Revolution? Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of that heroic campaign, provides the following answer:

"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."

* * *

Reprinted from The Cabletow, Vol. 73, No. 2.
Webdesign by Bro. Rommel L. Cardinoza

The Author

MW Bro. Reynold Smith Fajardo was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the Philippines for masonic year 1986-1987. He is a 33rd Degree, SGIG, Orient of Malate, Supreme Council 33o, A. & A.S.R. He served as Editor-in-Chief of "The Cable Tow" and the "Far Eastern Freemason". He is recognized as the foremost Masonic Historian of the Philippine grand jurisdiction, thus appointed as Grand Masonic Historian of the Philippine Grand Lodge. His other masonic cum historical books include "Historic Perceptions: Freemasonry and the Development of Filipino Nationalism", "Dimasalang: The Masonic Life of Dr. Jose Rizal", and "The Brethren". He also served as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of F&AM of the Philippines for several masonic years.