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Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Day I Met A Freemason

Disclaimer: These are just my personal speculations (and opinion) on how I view Freemasonry. This should not be considered as facts.

RAB, Freemason

freemasonry logo

The symbol of Freemasonry -- the Square and Compasses with the letter "G" in the center. "The square, to square our actions; The compasses, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind". Wikipedia

My coworker often calls me as "a person in the dark” – someone who hasn’t seen “the light” in Freemasonry. He's a Freemason and the first of its kind that I encountered in person. He was just recently accepted in the Oldest Fraternity in the World, Quezon City branch. Let's call him "RAB". During our Language Training week, he told us that it's one of his greatest achievements to date.

The first time I've encountered the term Freemason was with the movie "National Treasure" starring Nicholas Cage. It also has a sequel which continued the tale of Solomon's treasures -- how it travelled from the Biblical Israel to Rome (during the sack of Jerusalem) up to modern-day USA. It's an excellent movie -- one that incorporates legends, myths and facts.

The Da Vinci Code also added some interests to the subject of The Lost Gospels of Jesus Christ. Even before the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, I've already heard a similar story -- on how Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and ended up with a Bloodline that is being protected by a secret society. The Holy Grail is Mary Magdalene herself, according to this book (that I can't remember the title). So Dan Brown's idea for his book is not new to me.

Going back to my Freemason coworker, I asked him the question: "If photography club members aims to improve their photography skills, and members of a bloggers' club aims to improve their blogging skills, what does a member of Freemasonry aims to achieve? Certainly not their masonry skills, right?"

He responded by saying that his ultimate goal, as a Freemason, is for improvement of Human Morality through symbolism (something to that effect). I just uttered the word "oww-kei" (okay). The next question would have been "Is it the best way to improve a person's view of human morality?" I asked him that question by writing it down on my notebook. He wrote his reply on the same notebook but after a few minutes, he decided to tear it from my notebook. I guess he doesn’t want to be quoted for that.

One of his lines is: "It's beyond your comprehension to understand" whenever I ask him some questions regarding Freemasonry. I don’t know if it’s just part of the secretive nature of a Mason or he really thinks that I’m not open to new ideas. He always refers to me as "a person in the dark ". On my understanding, it somehow equates to the idea that "he's in the light" and that being a Mason, he knows a lot of things better than I am. I would then reply "ikaw na [ang] nasa light. Ikaw na ang may full understanding ng mga bagay-bagay". [You're the enlightened one. You already have a full understanding of things].

During our previous conversations, he already mentioned that most of our heroes are Freemasons, including Jose Rizal. That's a little known fact about our National Hero but if you read the Wikipedia article on the List of Freemasons, Jose Rizal is listed there.

Another thing that he mentioned is that our national flag is somehow influenced by the Freemasons. I asked what particular aspect of the flag and I remember him saying about the 3 stars, which we all know stands for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. He hinted that it means something else (something to that effect). I told him that the stars have been incorporated in almost all cultures on Earth as a symbol for something. How can they (Freemasons) claim that it means something else and that they're the only ones who know it? [Edit: I later found out, through the report of Jeff Canoy, that it was the Triangle that they’re claiming to be of Masonic symbol.]

Whenever I ask something about his Club, he sometimes gives me the line "If I tell you, I have to kill you". I learned from Discovery Channel's feature on Freemasonry that it's a common joke coming from a Freemason. I find it creepy. Anyway, I manage to find 2 videos and 1 PowerPoint presentation that give an overview about Freemasonry. This is my way of being open to the idea of Freemasonry.

Discovery Channel: Secret History of the Freemasons

A magnificent video about Freemasonry

The Discovery Channel’s episode on the Freemasonry is an interesting one. It tells the history of the Freemasons and even showed the initiation ritual involving the myth of Hiram Abiff. The video also showed the interiors of some of the Lodges in Europe, which is very impressive in its extravagance and design. These Lodges are really work of art and truly showed the craft of skillful masons.

The video of Discovery Channel pretty much gives a non-Mason like me a general idea on what Freemasonry is all about. Honestly, I see it as an Elite Club for guys – straight guys. Although on the video, it was shown that Freemasonry already opened certain Lodges to accept woman as members. RAB mentioned that sexual preference is not being asked during the interview. However, he doesn’t give me a straight answer to the question whether an openly-gay guy could be accepted as a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.

The motto (or marketing slogan) of Freemasonry is “Making Good Men Better”. Since I don’t consider myself a good guy, I don’t meet the minimum requirement for being a Freemason. The other requirement (thankfully I qualify) is a belief in a Supreme Being – The Great Architect of the Universe as the Freemasons (in the video) calls Him.

Another thing that fascinates me with the Freemason is the long-standing ban by the Roman Catholic Church to join such fraternity. Not to mention that publicly-known Masons are denied Catholic funeral rites, as mentioned in the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 2335). The most recent case regarding this is issue involves the late Brig. Gen. Josefino Manayao of Nueva Ecija who died in an ambush. Although he’s a Catholic and his wife already requested Cabanatuan Bishop Sofio Balce's for a funeral rite, she was denied, quoting the Canon Law. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 6, 2000, p.1 and p.4)

Inquirer on Freemasons

As of today, the Roman Catholic Church still bans its members to join the Freemasonry and other “secret societies” or societies with secrets.

As a Roman Catholic, I really find it hard to accept that the Freemasons views Jesus as a mere mortal, similar on how the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo view Him (based on the novel The Hiram Key). Since I’m reciting the Apostles Creed, I firmly believe in the Divinity of Christ. I believe that’s the main reason why the Catholic Church bans Freemasonry. Here’s an interesting article from the website of Society of St. Pius X District of Asia regarding this issue.

On matters of annual fees, I was surprised to learn that some Lodges have an annual fee of P3,000, which is the same amount I pay as a member of our photography club. I was under the impression that being a Freemason means breaking the bank. Probably it’s true to other Lodges – and it’s the reason most of its members belong to the Upper Class.

My Freemason coworker RAB also mentioned that Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista was denied membership to one of the Lodges since he needs to learn what humility is. He told us the story behind Mayor Bautista’s denial, which is an interesting story. It only means that the Freemasons are not pressured by a person’s status in society or influenced by a person’s wealth and power. Another story that RAB shared is that President Noynoy Aquino was also denied membership to the Freemasonry because he is “a high profile personality”. RAB hinted that before being a member, a candidate is required to perform some “deeds” or task and it’s a bit awkward for the Masons to ask the President to do some of these “deeds”.

When I was 18, I was introduced to the Knights of Columbus (K of C). I became a member for about 2-3 months and then I suddenly became inactive. I only remembered the K of C when I watched the video about the Freemasons. There’s a similar blind-folded initiation rite in the K of C, which I assumed is inspired by the Freemason’s initiation rites. When I mentioned to RAB that I was a former K of C member, he thought that my negative idea of the Freemasons was because of K of C. In fairness to K of C, I never heard them mentioned the word Mason or Freemasons during my stay with them.

I asked RAB about the perks of being a Freemason or why I should prefer it over Rotary Club or Lions Club. These organizations are all International and have charity works. I guess RAB mentioned that since Freemasons have been around for ages (although the first Grand Lodges was founded in 1717), they have secrets (and books) that are not known to the public. According to RAB, this information would probably shake the foundations of my faith (or not). It’s probably similar information or books that are only found in the Vatican Library.

Well, I’ve already learned the most important rule or knowledge in the world – The Golden Rule. I just have to practice it. Besides, I haven’t read the New American Bible from cover to cover, so why should I bother myself reading other books? I already have enough on my plate. Everything I have to learn in life, I’ve learned in Kindergarten.

Jeff Canoy on Freemasonry

Mga Lihim ni Dimasalang

The Freemasons in the Philippines was featured in a report by Jeff Canoy on ABS-CBN. He interviewed some of officials at their Ermita Lodge regarding Freemasonry. The interview tackled 3 things: the general information about Freemasonry in the Philippines, Masonry symbolism in the Philippine Flag and Jose Rizal as the foremost Filipino Freemason.

In the first part of the interview, Teddy Locsin Jr. also gave some general information about Freemasonry – that the main goals are Brotherly Love, Relief (Charity) and Truth. They also frequently mentioned Mutual Support as one of the objectives of Freemasonry, which is also a common goal of the different fraternities in the country. Other things that can be gained from membership to the Freemasonry are Organization Techniques and how to operate in secret.

Regarding the Masonic symbols in the Philippine Flag, which RAB discussed to me as well, it was actually the Triangle in the Flag and the Number 3 that they are claiming to have Masonic symbolism. After all, the Triangle is related to the Pyramid, which is also present in the US 1 Dollar. They often associate the Pyramid to Freemasonry thus they’re claiming that the Craft is as old as the Pyramids of Giza.

The Philippine Flag evolved from different flags including the Pirate Flag (a skull and 2 cross-bones) and the one that has a Sun with a Face. It was the Sun with a Face that they are claiming to be Masonic in origin. After all, Emilio Aguinaldo, who commissioned the creation of the present-day Philippine Flag, is also a Mason. Although the modern day flag no longer has the Face, the Triangle remained. I really can’t understand how a symbol like the Triangle (which is as old as Geometry itself) can be equated to Masonry. I’m equally fascinated how the Masons also adopted the Eye of Horus (an Egyptian symbol) as Masonic.

The last part of the interview is about Jose Rizal as a Mason. According to the Masons that were interviewed by Jeff Canoy, Jose Rizal became a member during his stay in Spain and reached the status of an 18th Degree Mason and Master Mason. He used the name Dimasalang as his alleged Masonic name and according to the Masons, he never retracted his Masonic status as opposed to what the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is saying. This retraction controversy is open to debate. In college, we have a subject about Jose Rizal and I can’t remember if it was even mentioned in class that he was a Mason. I also can’t remember that Jose Rizal mentioned his Masonic membership to his best friend Ferdinand Blumentritt in all those letters. The Masons that were interviewed by Jeff Canoy presented documents related to Rizal’s membership to the Spanish Lodge (his speech to the Lodge, certificates, etc.) but they never presented any letter of Rizal that mentions his membership. Nevertheless, the interview was very informative.

History of Freemasonry in the Philippines

freemasons philippines

The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons Philippines celebrated their 100th Year Anniversary in 2012. This momentous event was also commemorated in the P100 peso bill.

The 3rd material about Freemasonry that I read was a PowerPoint presentation made by Norberto C. Bautista, a Mason from LuzViMinda Lodge No. 317 (Washington, USA). His presentation entitledFilipino Freemasonry in Washingtongives a history on how Freemasonry started in the Philippines and some of famous Filipino Freemasons (including most of our heroes). To summarize the PPT presentation:

  • September 22, 1762 – an English fleet anchored in Manila Bay carrying on board the English Masons who did the first Masonic work on Philippine soil, labor was conducted inside the Manila Cathedral.
  • 1855* -- the PM of Spain, III. Bro. Sagasta, sent three 33rd degree Masons to the Philippines. He was then the Sovereign Grand Commander (of the Scottish Rite) and the GM of the Gran Oriente de Espana.
  • 1856 Lodge Primera Luz Filipino – first Masonic lodge established in the Philippines. Spanish Navy ensign, Bro. Jose Malcampo, is credited. No pure blooded Filipino was accepted for membership.
  • 1886 – Filipinos participated in the organization of Lodge Solidaridad No. 53 in Barcelona, Spain. Years later, they established Lodge Revolucion also in Barcelona.
  • In 1890, Filipinos started a lodge in Madrid also named Solidaridad, composed exclusively of Filipinos.
  • 1892 (January 6). Nilad Lodge No. 144 was the first all-Filipino lodge chartered and constituted by the Gran Oriente de Espana (Grand Orient of Spain).
  • Filipino “Clandestine” Masons Cited in Mainstream Masonry: Dr. Jose Rizal, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Andres Bonifacio, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Gen. Antonio Luna, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Apolinario Mabini, and Juan Luna.
  • Bro. Rizal was made a Master Mason on November 15, 1890 at Logia Solidaridad 53 in Madrid, Spain. He affiliated with a lodge under the jurisdiction of Grand Orient of France on October 14, 1891, and was made honorary Worshipful Master of Nilad Lodge No. 144 in 1892.
  • Publicly executed by Imperial Spain for advocating Philippine independence from Spain and exposing tyranny of the colonial government. 10 of these men are Freemasons.
  • “Worshipful” or “Worship” is the old English for “respected”

Conclusion

One of the things that I find odd about the Freemasonry in general is that “no Masonic historian has been able to establish the exact date as to when non-operative members were accepted into the Craft” (Bro. B.J. Torres, The River Delta, Issue No. 2, June 2006). Why would I join an organization that claims to know a lot of secrets about our history and yet they don’t know their own history?

Bottom-line, the Freemasonry is a good organization that promotes the improvement of men from being good to better and promotes belief in God. Given the opportunity to be invited to be a Mason, I would still decline the offer though since the Roman Catholic Church discourages it and also because I don’t want to get involved in an organization that has so many secrets. Besides, I don’t think I can handle another clubs since I’m already a member of two organizations in photography.

It’s good to know though that because of a close encounter with a Freemason, I was able to know a little about the oldest fraternity in the world.

Disclaimer: Again, these are just my personal speculations on how I view Freemasonry. I let my Freemason coworker RAB read the draft of this blog post but he refused to comment on the contents. He strongly advised me not to publish this blog post.

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