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