|Philippine Center for Masonic Studies||
For reasons unknown, the Gran Oriente Español was not pro-active in supporting the cause of the Filipino masons under the Grand Regional Lodge. In order to remedy the situation, Kalaw would propose to the Gran Oriente Español the project for the Constitution of the Independent National Grand Lodge of the Philippines, to replace the Grand Regional Lodge. This would address the question of sovereignty being thrown at the Grand Regional Lodge by the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, despite their both being constituted under a foreign grand lodge, and despite the latter’s being composed of majority American members. Desperate of support coming from the Gran Oriente, Kalaw warned in a letter dated 13 December 1916 to the Grand Secretary of the Gran Oriente Español that should “we be disappointed, I sincerely regret to inform you that I decline any and all responsibility as to the consequences” (Kalaw, in Fajardo, 65). The die was cast, so to speak, for the Regional Grand Lodge to take matters into its own hands and deal with the challenge of fusion, union or continued coexistence characterized by animosity. A real turning point happened on 18 January 1917, when Miguel Morayta died in Spain. With Del Pilar long gone, having died in Spain in 1896, Morayta was the last remaining mason of his generation who were conscientiously supporting the Filipino cause. As Kalaw would put it, “after the death of Morayta, the only one who had always shown interest in the Philippines, the only man in Spain for whom Filipino masons felt profound veneration and respect, the lodges considered themselves free to separate from the Spanish obedience.” (Fajardo, 67). Kalaw has decided to give up the fight – not only to confront and challenge the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands, but also to establish the Independent National Grand Lodge of the Philippines as a sovereign jurisdiction.
The movement for the union of the two grand jurisdictions was carried out. On 13 February 1917, after a series of tumultuous and frenzied negotiations, the 27 lodges of the Regional Grand Lodge of the Philippines agreed to join the 10 lodges of the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands, with the latter retaining its nomenclature, the standard practice of its rituals and ceremonies, even the interior design of the lodges. The union of the two grand jurisdiction, was saved. But according to Fajardo, (72-3),
“…The union was saved. But at what price? It was a complete surrender by the Filipinos. All the Grand officers of the Regional Grand lodge lost their positions. The rituals and ceremonies which they cherished and had been using for years, were abandoned and supplanted by a foreign ritual. The laws and statutes governing the members and the lodges were now those of the GLPI. Even the lodges of the Filipinos had to be redecorated. The tessellated canopy covering the throne of the venerable master, which had been a prominent feature of their lodges, had to go. So did the statues of Minerva, Hercules and Venus, which had adorned all lodges as the symbols of wisdom, strength and beauty. The tables, too, needed changing. In short, it was a complete overhaul of the masonry they knew and in which they had been nurtured…”
While the union was effectively carried out, the issues of independence and democratic governance would haunt the newly ‘unified’ Grand Lodge. Again, the issue of democratization would surface in the light of the fact that a rotational system was adopted in the election of the Grand Master, with the American and Filipino Grand master alternating to serve the Grand Oriental chair. This despite the fact that at the time of the union, only ten lodges were affiliated under the American controlled grand lodge, while twenty seven lodges were under the majority-Filipino grand regional lodge. Clearly, the issue of democratic representation of the lodges in the grand lodge leadership was set aside. Moreover, the Spanish tradition of the Filipino masons was set aside and was replaced by the American oriented Masonic tradition. Despite this, Kalaw would remain honorably masonic in such a conundrum and would retain his gentlemanly candor in accepting the reality of the ‘fusion’. Maintaining an honorable tone, he would address the Filipino masons, (Kalaw, as cited in Fajardo, 75) by stating:
Letter of Kalaw to Filipino masons: “The opportunity afforded by this meeting invites us to evoke this evening the ideals of love and fraternity because, as you all know, we have just carried out a most transcendental accomplishment by bringing the symbolic lodges of masonry under the jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands. I may state here that we, the masons of the old Oriente Espanol, did not come to this fusion without a background of nobility. We have our own glories, our own traditions, and beautiful and magnificent record, full of heroism and sealed with our blood. We have not sought this fusion to vent any grudges against the Oriente Español. Far from it. We have only words of gratitude for the Oriente, to which the Filipino people are indebted for having brought to them, in the midst of the surrounding darkness, the resplendent light of Masonic truth. Our only and exclusive reason for agreeing to the fusion was to save our most important principle: Masonic unity."
On 31 March 1918, the Gran Oriente Español was informed by Kalaw that its lodges in the Philippines had all joined the Grand Lodge of Philippine Islands. These lodges returned their old charters to the Gran Oriente and began a new stage in the history of their lodges (Fajardo, 76).
Some Concluding Remarks
The history of the establishment of grand jurisdictions in the Philippines was reflective of the parallels that Philippine society has had in its own social evolution. Filipino masons had long been part of the historical tradition of asserting democratization in their society, and bringing to the fore the idea of self determination and independence. These principles – governed by the basic tenets of Masonic morality, rationality and enlightenment – had also guided the Filipino masons in their own organizational structure specifically in the establishment of grand lodge jurisdictions. Racial bigotry, colonial imposition, pride and arrogance were real stumbling blocks realization of a truly independent and democratic organizational mechanism in the governance of Masonic institutions in the past.
On 10 September 2006, seven lodges from Cavite organized and constituted the Independent Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands, severing their old ties with the Grand Lodge of the Philippines and continuing their work under new charters. Issues pertinent to democratic governance, autonomy of lodges and respect to the decisions of the attendant bodies would again surface that led to the formation of the IGLPI. A new leaf in the history of Philippine masonry and its quest for democratic and independent governance has turned, conscious of the dangers of authoritarian tendencies of some jurisdictions. This reminded the forewarnings given by Apolinario Mabini more than a century before (Kalaw, 73), when he said,
“…Arrogance and pride strode forth, occupied the chair of authority, spoke in commanding tones, and soon doubt, distrust, disharmony were spreading like subtle poison through the Federation. This is the disease which will sooner or later cause our death…”
The history of democratization and independence in Philippine masonry continues.
Fajardo, Reynold. 1999. The Brethren in the Days of Empire: Philippine Masonry from the US Colonial Era to the Commonwealth Years. Manila: GLP.
Kalaw, Teodoro. 1956. Philippine Masonry: Its Origin, Development and Vicissitudes up to Present Time. (translated by Frederick Stevens and Antonio Amerchazurra. Manila: McCullough.
The Letters of Apolinario Mabini. 1965. Manila: National Historical Institute.
Nicolas G. Ricafrente. “Masonry in the History of the Philippines,” http://filipinomasons.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html. accessed 21 March 2011
Nicolas G. Ricafrente. “In Search of the Essence of the Filipino Mason: Apolinario Mabini,”
http://www.philippinemasonry.org/essays.html accessed 21 March 2011
Gealogo, Francis. 2009. “On the Question of Masonic Jurisdictions,” IGLPI Journal, 2, 52-56.