Masons in Philippine History
|Philippine Center for Masonic Studies||
As a young man Marcelo H Del Pilar saw the abuses of the friars and felt the injustices done to him and his family. He was imprisoned in 1869 at the age of 19 when he questioned the excessive baptismal fee charged by a priest in San Miguel, Manila. Three years later, his older brother Father Toribio was implicated by the friars in the Cavite Mutiny and deported to the Mariana Islands. His mother Blasa was devastated over the fate of her oldest son and heart broken, died shortly thereafter.
In 1885, the country was under the liberal administration of a 33° Mason, Governor General Emilio Terrero y Perinat. With two other 33° Masons Benigno Quiroga, Director General of Civil Administration and Jose Centeno, Civil Governor of Manila he re-implemented the 1869 liberal policies of another Mason, past Governor General Carlos Maria de la Torre.
The liberal policies of Terrero and company went head-to-head against the friars and encouraged Filipino activism. Filipino intellectuals and principales started to openly question the role and power of the friars. In most cases, under Terrero and company, they received sympathetic response from the government. They cheered the continuing resistance of the government to the dictates of the religious orders like in the case of Rizal and the Noli Me Tangere.
When Rizal returned to the country in August 1887 after his five-year stay in Spain, copies of his explosive novel Noli Me Tangere were already being circulated. The Archbishop of Manila had asked Terrero to ban the book immediately but the Governor
General instead summoned Rizal from Calamba, Laguna for interview. Rizal was at that time also embroiled in a land tenancy dispute against the Dominicans in his hometown. After two meetings, Rizal earned the admiration of Governor General Terrero who, believing that he was in extreme danger assigned a lieutenant of the Civil Guards, Jose Taviel de Andrade as his bodyguard.
The novel continued to circulate and enjoyed immense popularity especially after Terrero ignored the recommendation of the Permanent Commission on Censorship that it be absolutely prohibited. Naturally, this emboldened the Filipino activists more.
Del Pilar wrote “Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas” (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines). In defense of Rizal against Augustinian priest Jose Rodriguez who issued a pamphlet entitled “Caiiñgat Cayó” denouncing the Noli Me Tangere, he issued the look alike “Caiigat Cayó” (Be Like the Eel).
Marcelo del Pilar stood at the forefront of Filipino activism of the period, both in Malolos and in Manila. He relentlessly fought the abuses of the friars. He was said to be the principal author of a manifesto signed by about 800 individuals, entitled "Viva España! Viva el Rey! Viva el Ejército! Fuera los Frailes!" (Long live Spain! Long live the King! Long live the Army! Throw the friars out!)
Addressed to the Queen Regent of Spain, it exposed the abuses and crimes of the friars and demanded that the friars including the Archbishop, Pedro Payo be expelled. On March 1, 1888 a public “manifestation” to the office of the civil governor of Manila led by Doroteo Cortes was held to deliver the manifesto. Cortes was a Filipino lawyer and the gobernadorcillo of Santa Cruz.
The friars alleged that Manila Civil Governor Jose Centeno and Civil Administration Director General Benigno Quiroga encouraged and even engineered this event. Centeno was forced to resign a week after. This event also ended the career of Quiroga and the term of Governor General Emilio Terrero.
For Filipino intellectuals and Masons, this was a great blow to their cause.
Del Pilar’s alleged authorship of the manifesto and his defense of the leaders of the protest march made him a prime target of the friars. The incident was investigated under acting Governor Antonio Molto and later under the new Governor General Valeriano Weyler. Del Pilar was advised by his friends to flee the country and reluctantly, he left his family for Spain in October 1888. In early 1889 he reached Barcelona where he joined the propaganda movement.
“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” Del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain.
“La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas” (Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers for the purpose of agitating for colonial reforms. Miguel Morayta, a professor in the Universidad Central de Madrid and Grand Master of the Grande Oriente Español was its president.
Marcelo del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper first edited by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy.
He became a Mason in 1889; then joined the revival of Logia Solidaridad No 53 in 1890 which was formerly, Logia Solidaridad No 359 of the Grande Oriente de España. He succeeded Julio Llorente as its Worshipful Master in 1891. He became a close friend of Miguel Morayta. Morayta became so involved with the Filipino cause that part of the preamble of the constitution of the Grande Oriente Español which he founded and led as Grand Master read:
“In the Philippines, where clericalism controls all powers and is terrorizing the inhabitants, we must organize a Council of the Masonic Order that will free the people there from the crushing yoke imposed upon them. A Masonic body that will be the advance guard of civilization and progress, prepared to give battle to those grim spectres from out of the medieval past who walk side by side with ignorance, fanaticism and superstition.”
Del Pilar used his influence with Grand Master Morayta to authorize the establishment of Filipino lodges in the Philippines and later the approval for the establishment of the Gran Consejo Regional de Filipinas in 1893; hence he is considered as the father of true Filipino Masonry. His establishment of Masonic Lodges for Filipinos was to raise the level of pride and nationalistic consciousness of the Filipino indio.
Marcelo del Pilar suffered the pain of seeing the injustice done to his brother priest; of losing his mother Blasa as a result; and the death of all but two of his seven children before they reached adulthood. His remaining children were Sofía who was just nine years old at the time of his escape and Anita, one year and four months. From his letters home he expressed his belief that one day he could return to the Philippines and reunite with his family.
When the funds of the paper La Solidaridad were exhausted he continued to publish it until he ran out of his personal funds. He printed the last issue of La Solidaridad in November 1895. Despondent, he found himself alone in abject poverty. At 46 years old, he died of tuberculosis on July 4, 1896, less than two months before the Philippine revolution. He was buried in a pauper’s grave at the Cementerio del Oeste in Barcelona.
Marcelo del Pilar's view of the role of Philippine Masonry to the nation’s struggle for identity is reflected in his passionate speech more than a hundred years ago before Masonic initiates of his Lodge:
“Masonry is not a way of life for pleasure; it is a life of sacrifice. To belong to Masonry, to embrace it with faith, is a sign of a stout heart, ready to face the greatest adversities for the sake of a fellow being. Masonry is not a society of mutual aid; mutual protection is a part of its rule and every Mason has a duty of assisting his brethren, but this is not its sole and final objective. Its ideal is very much higher, much more sacred, much more thorny; it is to uphold the principle of universal brotherhood and consequently…to uphold the principle of democracy, the real and effective autonomy of human individuality, as opposed to the enslaving ambition of those persons who nurture their greed by trampling upon the rights of others and who build their happiness at the expense of the tears of the needy.” (“Object of Masonry”, as cited in Kalaw, “Philippine Masonry”, p. 27-8)