By J. Rafisura — Junior Warden
About two days ago, I received in the mail the latest issue of “California Freemason” magazine. To my delight, this one is different as it is a “Filipino Edition”! From the front cover without to the several articles within, it featured Filipino arts and culture and some remarkable individuals and lodges with Filipino heritage and influence all-across California. In one section, it talks about famous Filipino masons who fought and struggled to pave the way towards Philippine independence.
Among those featured was Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. Rizal was made a Master Mason in Logia Solidaridad No. 53 in Madrid, Spain. He affiliated in a lodge under the jurisdiction of Grand Orient of France and was made an honorary Worshipful Master of Nilad Lodge No. 144 in 1892. He saw masonry as a great manifestation of democracy and an equalizer of all human race. Rizal was famous for his literary prowess - publishing novels, poems, proses and plays. Each literary piece conveys his messages about his deep sense of national pride, his distaste against foreign rulers and the massive exploitation of the indigenous people and the rape of the country’s abundant natural resources. He stood against foreign oppressors and advocated the need for basic education, the right to self-govern, free speech and freedom of thought. Having incited “rebellion” through his works and underground activities, he was eventually charged by Spain with “Treason” and was publicly executed in a firing squad. His martyrdom has fanned the flames of Philippine revolution in 1896 against the Kingdom of Spain that resulted in several revolutionary movements, leading to the independence of the Philippines.
After more than a century has passed since his death, his legacy is still very much alive today. At present, we can see Filipino-American masons wearing “barongs” (national costume intricately made of pineapple leaves, abaca or cocoon fibers) in some formal blue lodge festivities – such a display of national pride. For some Non-Filipino masons, owning a “barong”, added with proper S&C embroidery, is a prized possession, usually obtained as a gift from a brother mason who has Filipino descent. Every 30th of December, the date of Rizal’s execution, Masons in the Philippines participate in a public parade, in full masonic regalia, marching towards a “Rizal Edifice” to pay respect and offer elaborate floral arrangements. No Philippine town or city is without a Rizal Monument. Other civic organizations also join in the parade and make their own offerings. However, when it is the Masons’ turn, the atmosphere changes and the whole exercise transforms into a more solemn, symbolic, mysterious and meaningful ceremony.
As 4th of July approaches, we celebrate America’s Freedom, attained and kept out from the sweat and blood of great American patriots spawned through the sacrifices of our founding fathers, most notably, a fellow mason, WB George Washington. I would be remiss of my Filipino heritage if I do not also tip my hat to Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal - a great Filipino nationalist, a fearless writer/novelist, artist, educator, linguist, anthropologist, ophthalmologist, ethnologist, inventor, sportsman, revolutionary…..a FREEMASON!