Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Secret Life of Houdini

(By William Kalush and Larry Sloman, from  The Far Eastern Freemason, 1st Quarter 2007, p 32-35)

      Harry Houdini, 32°, famous as a magician and escape artist, taught soldiers how to escape from restraints and sold $2 million in Liberty Bonds.

     "The reason people drown on a sinking vessel is because they lose all sense of direction."  The instructor said.
     Houdini looked out at the fresh faces of the young recruits and, for a fleeting second, reflected on what it was like when he was their age.  Life seemed so much simpler then, he thought, and for another fleeting second he envied their ability to be in a position to make the ultimate sacrifice - to give their lives for their country.  He would do everything in his power to make sure that eventually would never transpire.
     For their part, the Sammies, the appreciative name that the French gave the American soldiers, felt a mixture of apprehension and awe.  In weeks, they would be crossing the ocean to fight in France alongside their counterparts in the English and French armed services.  Basic training had been rigorous, but who could believe that it would have included a course on how to escape from a sinking torpedoed vessel given in a small room on the promenade floor of the enormous Hippodrome theater by none other than Harry Houdini?  They all wondered if they would be able to get his autograph at the end of the session.
     "The first rule when you find yourself underwater is; do not succumb to panic.  I can't stress that enough,"  Houdini lectured.  "Stay calm.  Use your eyes.  If visibility is clouded, slowly allow your body to rise up in the water until your hands come in cont(r)act with a deck, side, or the floor of the craft."
     Houdini picked up a length of rope.  "Now, I want to teach you the basic principles of extrication from entanglements of all kinds - whether from ropes, broken pipes, beams, or wreckages.  Can I have a volunteer, please?"
     Every arm in the room immediately shot up.
     When Houdini got through tying up the young soldier, he looked like a trussed turkey.
     "Now, I have restrained this young man in the same manner that I would use if I were to tie a medium to prevent him from being able to produce any physical manifestations in a seance room.  I would venture to say that he's not going anywhere."
     The Sammies all laughed.
     "The odds are that your captors will not go to such lengths," Houdini lectured.  "They might simply tie your hands beyond your back, but even such a simple restraint would be effective if you don't perform a subtle maneuver, which I shall show you, that will allow you to obtain some slack in the rope, and ultimately to free yourself from the bondage."
     Houdini walked over to the table and picked up a pair of handcuffs.
     "If your captors are particularly well equipped, they might have a pair of these German handcuffs as standard issue, in which case, your escape from their restraints would be harder, but not impossible," Houdini said.  "After I show you the rope escape, we will learn a few simple, effective techniques of defeating these German irons.  And then. . . ."
     He strolled over to the other side of the room, where a large iron cage had been set up.
     "This is a prison cage that has been fitted with typical German locks.  As you see, this particular one can accommodate up to three prisoners in the field, but there are variations that go twenty-two feet long and can haul a dozen or more men, each securely chained to the other.  As a measure of last resort, I will teach you a method to defeat the lock on the cage, so you can free yourself under cover of night."
     "Any questions so far?"
     Houdini looked out at his audience.  They seemed intimidated by the master magician.
     "I think our friend here has a question," Houdini said, glancing at the soldier that he had tied up so expertly.  "But he can't raise his hand."

     When the United States declared war against Germany on his birthday in 1917, Houdini immediately went into action.  For most of 1916, while on his vaudeville tour, Houdini, at his own expense, had been recruiting local magic clubs to join the SAM [Society of American Magicians] in an effort to revitalize what he felt was a moribund organization.  Working with Oscar Teale, an eccentric old ex-magician and Spiritualist exposer, another in a succession of father figures in Houdini's life, Houdini persuaded groups in Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City to come aboard.  Now, a day after was was declared, Houdini introduced a resolution at the Society of American Magician's meeting that was unanimously passed that "its members collectively and individually do hereby tender their loyalty to the President of the United States of America and express a desire to render such service to the country as may be within their province."  Teale dispatched the resolution via letter to President Wilson.
     Fellow magicians took up Houdini's call.  Archie Engel, a Washington D.C. magician, became a secret agent for the Treasury Department during the war.  Dr. Maximillian Toch, a chemist and New York City SAM member, was put in charge of the military's camouflage division and, working with other magicians, he developed the battleship gray formula used by the U.S. Navy.  Toch's chemical expertise was also used in devising ways to transmit secret messages.  Eventually a camouflage section of the Regular U.S. Army Engineers was formed and the SAM members from all over the country enlisted in it and shared their expertise for the war effort.  An amateur magician named Dr. Charles Mendelsohn, who was an expert cryptographer, was put in charge of deciphering German codes for the U.S. Military Intelligence Division.  Even before we entered the war, the Department of Justice hired a magician named Wilbur Weber to do counterintelligence on German spies who were operating in the Northwest.  He used his magic tour as a cover for his spying activities.

     In July [Houdini] embarked on a series of fund-raising benefits for the Red Cross, and then dashed from Camp to camp entertaining the troops.  And when Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo began to finance the U.S. war effort by issuing "Liberty Bonds," Houdini became one of his most determined fundraisers, in one case by literally selling the shirt of his back.  During a Hippodrome appearance, a man in the audience offered to buy $1,000 in bonds if the magician could get out of his shirt in thirty seconds.  By the time the audience countered six, Houdini was waving his torn shirt above his head.  "I'll buy another $1,000 bond if you will give me that shirt," the audience member screamed, and went home with his prize.  Within a year, Houdini had sold a million dollars' worth of bonds.  By some accounts, by war's end, the total reached two million dollars' worth.

     When Houdini performed at military camps, he made sure to include his "Money for Nothing" routine, where he seemingly materialized a succession of $5 gold pieces out of thin air.  Each coin produced was presented to a boy heading overseas.  In this manner, over time, Houdini personally gave away more than $7,000 (which today would be about $250,000).  The same year, he also contributed money to build a hospital ward that he dedicated to his mother.

     By June of 1918, a mere fourteen months after war was declared, Houdini had sacrificed more than $50,000 between lost salary and his own out-of-pocket expenditures in his ongoing war efforts.  In a letter to R.H. Burnside, the manager of the Hippodrome, he recounted his efforts that helped "buy ambulances" and raised funds for the Liberty Bond campaign.  "My heart is in this work, for it is not a question of 'Will we win' or 'Will we lose.'  We must win, and that is all there is to it." 

SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL.  JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2007 (The Far Eastern Freemason. 1st Quarter 2007. p32-35)
- - - - - -
"It is only with the heart one can see rightly.  What is essential is invisible to the eye." - Antoine De Saint-Exupery


Friday, November 26, 2010

17th Western Mindanao Masonic Convention @ Zamboanga City

November 12, 13 and 14, 2010, the brethren of Masonic District RDX-D and ARMM (Lanao) sojourned to Asia's Latin City, Zamboanga, to participate in the 17th Western Mindanao Masonic Convention.  The group was participated in by our very active Worshipful Master, WB Oscar V. Badelles accompanied by his 2 wardens, Senior Warden, Bro. Jaime P. Magnetico and Junior Warder, Bro. Hilario Abel Gomez.
The group was privileged to use the service van provided by VW Vice-Mayor Henry C. Dy, which ferried them from Iligan City and back.  Thank you VW Henry Dy for your continued support in our lodge undertakings.

Likewise, some of the sisters joined their respective husbands in the journey to enjoy the scenery and tour which was very much educational to everyone.

Well, to relieve everyone from reading boring text...the pictures that follow will surely paint a thousand words!


 - - - - - -
"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." - John Burroughs


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Message from the Worshipful Master - November 20, 2010

Message from the Worshipful Master WB Oscar V. Badelles

From "Reflections On Masonic Values" by VW Mabini G. Hernandez

Before the sunset curtains the day's play
I ask myself, "what have I done for the day?"
If the blessings showered I have shared?
And the wounded I have cared?

If I had not,
Then let me share,
Let me care,
Not tomorrow, but today
Before the sunset curtains the day's play.

     Frankly, the message of this verse resonated so strongly that it made me ponder, at the twilight of my term, if I have shared, cared and done enough during my tour in the east.  Only you, my brother, knows the answer to that question.  I am nevertheless sharing its message that before you say adios and good bye amigo, make sure that you have made your peace, specially with the GAOTU.  That one should never give up even if it appears to be already late in the day - there is enough time to do that which is just and right.

     Along this line, I urge the brethren to continue your support for the remaining activities of our lodge.  And the one area where your cooperation is most needed is in the attendance during our lodge meetings and activities.  This Saturday morning, we will be hosting again the Walk For Your Health.  And needless to remind you, we shall have our annual elections next month and your presence thereat is indispensable.  Also next month, we are expecting a visit from the brethren of our sister lodge, Leonardo T. PaƱares Lodge.  Let us reciprocate the warm welcome and fellowship they extended to us during our visit to their lodge.  The will be followed by our joint Christmas Party with the brethren of Judge Valerio V. Rovira Lodge No. 259.

     In closing, I would like to greet our Muslim brothers and sisters on the occasion of the festival of sacrificial offering known as Eid al-Adha.  Congratulations also to all Hajjis for carrying out one of the five pillars of their Islamic duty.

- - - - - -

Bro. Camar A. Umpa - Nov. 3
Bro. Aurelio A. Dacalos, Jr. - Nov. 11
WB Victor G. Mariano - Nov. 11
VW Henry C. Dy - Nov. 14
Bro. Cristito Dinopol, Jr. - Nov. 27

- - - - - -
Felicitations also to WB Alvin & Sis Jackie Bacolod on their WEDDING ANNIVERSARY on November 17th.

- - - - - -
"The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it." - Carl Jung



(Article is taken from THE FAR EASTERN FREEMASON, October - December 1992 Issue, p37)

1948 saw a four cornered contest for the Presidency of the United States. The candidates were: Thomas E. Dewey, 32°, Governor of New York; Harry S. Truman, 33°, Past Grand Master of Missouri; J. Strom Thurmond, 32°, Governor of South Carolina; and Henry A. Wallace, 32°, former U.S. Vice-President. All the pollsters predicted a landslide win for Dewey, buy they were proven wrong. Truman, the only 33° Mason among the candidates, won.

President Harry S. Truman

In the Philippines, it was a three cornered race in 1935. All the candidates for President - Manuel L. Quezon, Emilio Aguinaldo and Gregorio Aglipay - were Scottish Rite Masons, but Quezon was the only 33° elect. Quezon won handily.

President Manuel L. Quezon

It seems 33° masons enjoy an edge in political contests.
- - - - - -
"They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel." - Carl Buehner


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meeting Brother Masons in Zamboanga City

Last October 28, 2010, I had the privilege to travel to Zamboanga City with my beautiful wife, Revilla, Sister "Binky" to our masonic family, to attend the 4th Mindanao Bloggers Summit.  This travel to Zamboanga City was my second, and first for my wife.  My first travel was to attend the Mindanao Business Conference which Zamboanga, "Asia's Latin City" hosted.  I was then with businessmen and some City Councilors to promote business in Iligan and look for prospective investors.  There were 3 of us travelers then.

This time, except for my wife, I am alone.

But though alone, it is in this trip that I met fellow travelers.  Not that they are "glad to meet me thus alone", but they are glad I'm sure to have met me, as much that I am really glad to have met them.  The first brother I met was Bro. Amin who is a member of Mt. Apo Lodge No. 45.  He too, like me was a participant in the 4th Mindanao Bloggers Summit.  Bloggers by the way is the term used to identify people who writes on the internet on any topic under the sun.  Bro. Amin is a Food Critic and writes about FOOD!  My favorite subject (to eat!).  Visit his blog at

Bro. Romar Amin of Mt. Apo Lodge No. 45

And while we were savoring the beauty of Zamboanga, specifically strolling along Paseo del Mar, then deciding to eat at Pinokyo (Pinoy and Tokyo food combined), I stumbled upon two great brothers in the person of WB Ed and Bro. Arellano.  WB Ed is a Past Master and Bro. Arellano's mother lodge is Maranaw Lodge 111.  I was surprised to have met a brother almost at the edge of the country whose mother lodge is the mother of our lodge.

Worshipful Brother Ed Ferrer and Bro. Arellano who I'm surprise to
learn that Brother Arellano's mother lodge is Maranaw Lodge No. 111.

One proud comment made by my companions to my wife (while WB Ferrer and Bro. Arellano were talking) was that I have many friends in Zamboanga.  My wife said no, they've just met.  And our companion asked how come they seemed like they've known each other for quite some time?  My wife said that they are brothers in Masonry and she explained that it is always the case with Masons,  every time a Mason meet another Mason, they'll greet each other and talk like they've been friends for a long time.  

I have not told my wife yet why I feel at ease every time I meet a seems that I have met a brother whom I have not seen for a long time.  So for me, I feel happy and proud to have met a Brother Mason.

I now know why.  But I would also like to know from you why?  Write your views and let's start sharing our experiences with Brothers whom we've met on our sojourn.

- - - - - -
"Be courteous to all, but intimate with few; and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence." - George Washington


Saturday, November 6, 2010


(From the book "My Dear Son" by VW Mabini G. Hernandez, Courtesy of WB Victor G. Mariano, PM, PGLI)

My Dear Son,

Do you know what MASONITIS is?  It is a very peculiar disease which only Masons are susceptible to acquiring.  However, non-Masons may have symptoms only of this illness.  But to have symptoms of and/or afflicted with MASONITIS, the subject-person must have goodness in his heart.

Those whose hearts are not in the right place and those whose moral values are ethically below normal are totally immune from MASONITIS.  This disease is highly communicable to those who believe more in godliness and less in religiosity.

MASONITIS is also habituating.  But unlike addiction to drugs, which is harmful to one's health, those who are psychologically addicted to it are healthy, open-minded, happy, and contented.  They are very active.  They never have a dull moment in life.  Those who die with, but not of, MASONITIS, die happy in the thought they have served God and their fellowmen.  They are contented and fulfilled that if given a chance to live again, they would want to be afflicted with MASONITIS early in life.

Prognosis of MASONITIS shows an abundant desire to learn and to improve one's self, feeling of joy in being of help and service to his fellowmen, more devotion to family and friends; unqualified dedication to duty; optimism and humility are highly developed; lack of appetite for worldly things; weakening desire for sensualities; sharpened memory; slow to anger, quick to forgive; addiction to truth, right and justice very manifest, steadfast and unwavering belief in God evident in thoughts and in deeds.

There is no cure or treatment for MASONITIS.  Even death which many non-Masons usually believe ends all, is only the start of another chapter in the lives of those afflicted with MASONITIS.  It is incurable.  It is so pleasurable that those afflicted with this malady do not wish to be rid of it.  It is so edifying that those with MASONITIS purposely "expose" themselves in their neighborhood, in their offices, in society, and even in government, in the hope that other might be contaminated with the virus of this very gratifying ailment.

How is your MASONITIS, Sonny?  I hope you will release yourself from shyness and continue your share in a silent but eloquent crusade to contaminate good men with this badly needed ailment MASONITIS.

God bless and regards to the family.

With love,

* * * * * *
This is one ailment were every true Mason wants to keep and wants other men to be contaminated with.  To those Masons who plans to influence people of this disease, I sincerely hope that nobody finds a cure for it.  And to those Masons who are susceptible to a cure because they are exposed to uncontaminated environment, my brotherly advice would be to always remember that our first and foremost belief is that Masons are Good Men trying their very best to become Better Men, if not the Best Men!

- - - - - -
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." - Sir Winston Churchill

- - - - - -