Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Revisiting the Glorious Past of Philippine History

by : Ill. Fernando V. Pascua, Jr., 33° PGSG

We Freemasons in this jurisdiction are justifiably proud of the fact that, as declared by WB and Gen. Emilio Famy Aguinaldo during the 1955 Annual communication of our Grand Lodge, "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."

WB and Gen. Aguinaldo was a 33rd Degree Freemason, Past Master of Magdalo Lodge in Kawit, Cavite, the same Magdalo Lodge which, under the leadership of Bro. Emilio Aguinaldo, knew no fear of the enemy, the Spaniards, led by the friars.

WB Aguinaldo's declaration was neither an idle boast nor the ranting of an 86-year old man desiring desperately for recognition; for, indeed, most, if not all, of the great Filipino leaders in our nation's movement for independence were Freemasons.

Most prominent among them was, of course, Bro. Jose Rizal, whose writings, particularly his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, provided the spark that was to ignite the flames of the revolution.  It is a credit to Freemasonry that, in the words of the European savant, Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt, "the greatest man that the Malayan race has produced" was a brother Mason.

There was also the Sublime Paralytic, Bro. Apolinario Mabini, known in history as the "Brains of the Philippine Revolution", who contributed much to the cause of constitutional government.

Among the other notable patriots and propagandists in the fight for independence were Brothers Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Graciano Lopez Jaena , Juan and Antonio Luna, and Jose Ma. Panganiban.  These Masons, together with Bro. Jose Rizal, labored and sacrificed to publish the fortnightly newspaper, La Solidaridad, first in Barcelona and later on in Madrid, Spain.  It was from the inspired pens of these zealous brethren that articles and essays flowed to convey to the peoples of Europe and to the world the oppression taking place in our country, and answered the calumnies heaped upon our countrymen by our colonial rulers.  They pleaded for reforms in the oppressive government run by abusive officials, governing and ruling under the union of Church and State.

And then there was fiery Bro. Andres Bonifacio, who, together with other brother Masons, founded the Katipunan, which actually started and waged the Revolution against Spain.  As a revolutionary leader of the Sons of the People, Bro. Andres Bonifacio impressed upon the people  that true love of God is love of country, and that this love is also the true love for our fellowmen, and to engrave in their hearts that the height of honor and happiness is to die in order to save one's country.

The declaration of the independence of our nation from colonial rule on June 12, 1898 marked the emancipation of the Filipino from the tyranny of colonialism and his transformation into a citizen of an independent and proud nation, the growth and development of which would enable him to eventually develop himself into a citizen of the world or a cosmopolite.  It was the Masonic Brotherhood that inspired, led and executed that successful Revolution.

Nor was the Philippine Revolution of 1896 the only historical event where Masons played significant roles.  In 1776, the original 13 English colonies which revolted against England started the American Revolution.  We are told that not only George Washington but nearly all his generals were Masons, such as Generals Greene, Lee, Marion, Sullivan, Rufuns and Israel Putnam, Edwards, Jackson, Gift, Baron Steuben, Baron de Kalb, and the Marquis de Lafayette, who was made a Mason in one of the military Lodges in the Continental Army.

It is a fact that many of the liberation movements in South America which had led to the birth of many South American nations, such as Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Argentina, not to mention many other Central American nations, such as Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador, were led by Masons.

In recalling these events of history, I would like to focus on what I perceive to be the main reason for their success while other similar movements had previously failed.  These successful events came to pass because of the leadership, commitment and heroism of Masons.  Throughout history, we see examples of the Mason's ability to organize and to hold an unwavering commitment to a common cause.  It is precisely this facile ability to band together for the common cause of liberty, equality and fraternity that has struck fear in the hearts of tyrants and dictators who know that they would soon lose their foothold in their territories and in the minds of their subjects.

When the Philippine Revolution of 1896 broke out, the Masons became the natural targets of the Spanish  authorities as being responsible for the civil disorder.  Many Masons were arrested and sent to jail.  All Masonic Lodges were, moreover, closed.

Since the grant of Philippine independence by the Americans on July 4, 1946, Masonry in this jurisdiction has had the chance to grow peacefully into a vibrant way of life.  The animosities of the past against the Fraternity have seemingly been forgotten , although every now and then intolerant and hostile attitude against Freemasonry rears its ugly head.

At those times, it is well for us to remember that our Order had, in the past, won to its fellowship men of the first order of intellect, men of thought and action, in many countries, and in every walk and work of life : soldiers like Garibaldi, Wellington, MacArthur, and Aguinaldo;  philosophers like Krause and John Locke;  patriots like Washington and Bonifacio; writers like Voltaire, Walter Scott, Rizal and Lessing; poets like Goethe, Burns, Kipling and Pike;  musicians like Haydon and Mozart;  statesmen, philanthropists, educators, jurists, men of science - Masons whose names shine like stars in the firmament of intellectual and spiritual glory.

Despite the prevalent misconceptions about the nature of Freemasonry, misunderstanding of its precepts and practices, particularly its rituals and ceremonies, and the mistrust generated by such ignorance of the true nature of the Fraternity that has, on occasion, led to violence being committed Masons, Freemasonry is still around and, I like to think, more solid and stronger than ever.

We Masons are a part of this glorious past.  We are a part of this great movement called Freemasonry.  We are shapers of destiny, cradle of noble heroes, progenitors of great nations, molders of great men and heroes.

Our Institution is not an ordinary gathering of men.  It is not a mere club nor is it just another fraternity.  Ours is an august and honorable brotherhood, bound together, not by blood, but by the strongest chains of brotherly love - a mystic tie so strong as to cause true friendship to exist among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

We are about to end the first decade of the 21st century.  At this period of human history the world is still in ferment, and there seems to be nothing certain but uncertainty.  Hatred is still on the rampage in eastern Europe, in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East, in the Far East, and in our country, particularly Mindanao.  Any observer who follows the course of human events in the world today cannot fail to see that war and discord prevail in many places of our planet and in our country where peace and harmony should reign supreme because, in the words of Bro. Jose "Dimasalang" Rizal, "the very purpose of humanity dictated by God is the universal peace and harmony among his creatures.

In these times of stress and storm, let us renew our faith in the final triumph of Freemasonry, particularly the principles of right, of equality, of liberty, and of justice.  Let us, like our forebears, repeat the old refrain, "In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,/ with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.// As He died to make men holy,/ Let us die to make men free.// His truth is marching on."

(reprinted from The Far Eastern Freemason, 2nd Quarter 2009, p 12-14)

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"To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe." - Anatole France

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