No 1045, District 25, Under The United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & ACT Australia [Views herein does not necessarily reflect those of LJR 1045 & UGL NSW & ACT.]

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dimasalang: The Masonic Life of Dr. Jose Rizal

By Raymond S. Fajardo, 33º

Edited by Fred Lamar Pearson, Jr., 33º

Dr. Jose P. Rizal, a Philippine national born on June 19, 1861, died before a firing squad on December 30, 1896. Thus came to an inglorious end the life of a remarkable man and Mason. Martyr, patriot, poet, novelist, physician, Mason - he was all of these and more. In fact, he squeezed into a very few years, 35, an incredible array of activities. Dimasalang: The Masonic Life of Dr. Jose Rizal by Raymond S. Fajardo, 33º, hereafter appearing in edited form, is an excellent volume which treats splendidly, a neglected facet of the remarkable life of the George Washington of Philippine Independence.

I. Introduction

A majority of the Filipino patriots who led their countrymen in their struggle for emancipation against Spain in the last two decades of the nineteenth century were members of the masonic fraternity. Among all of them, however, only one deserved to be called an international mason - Jose P. Rizal. Only he joined lodges in several countries and practiced the rites of various masonic Grand Jurisdictions. He received masonic degrees from lodges in Spain, Germany, France, and possibly England; he attended lodge meetings in Hong Kong and was the first to be elected Honorary Venerable Master of a [Nilad] lodge in the Philippines. Furthermore, he was the only Filipino designated as the Grand Representative of a Spanish Grand Orient to the Grand Orient of France and the lodges in Germany.

Born to educated and relatively well-to-do parents [June 19, 1861], he went to Manila [1872], enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal where he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1877, and then at the University of Santo Tomas where he studied philosophy, letters, and later, medicine until 1882.

Masonic lodges, at the time were very few and composed mostly of Spaniards. During that early stage, members of Rizal's family were already closely identified with the Fraternity. His uncle, the Most Excellent Jose Alberto Alonzo, Knight Commander of the Spanish Orders of Isabel the Catholic and of Carlos III, was in Spain in 1868 when the Revolution led by masons deposed Queen Isabela II. He fraternized with the mason Juan Prim, the general who led the revolt, and Francisco Pi y Margall, the president of the short - lived Spanish republic. It was in the house of Alberto where Rizal stayed [while attending school] in Biñan.

Rizal's elder brother [Paciano while a student] in Manila lived with Fr. Jose Burgos and worked with him in the Comite de Reformadores. The Comite had several masons on its rolls, some of whom were implicated in the Cavite Revolt of 1872. Moreover, Fr. Burgos' sister was married to Dr. Mariano Marti, a 33º mason who was the Grand Delegate of the Soberano Oriente de España and who is credited with having organized lodges in Manila, Cebu and Iloilo. Beyond peradventure, Paciano met a number of Masons on the Comite de Reformadores and[during his association with Fr. Burgos.

The first documented exposure of Rizal to masonry took place in 1882. May 3, 1882, he started on his journey to Madrid. June 11, his ship docked at Naples, [where he saw] a multitude of posters set up by masons announcing the death of Giuseppe Garibaldi, their Grand Master. Rizal wrote about what he saw in a letter to his parents and brothers. That letter marked the first time Rizal made a written mention of Masonry, but not the last.

II. Rizal's First Years As A Mason

Upon his arrival in Spain, Rizal found it a country strongly influenced by Masonic thought. The atmosphere of freedom had a profound impact on Rizal who was then smarting from the abuses of the friars in his native land, particularly the injustice inflicted upon his mother. When he was only ten years of age, his mother was arrested on a trumped-up charge and forced to walk from their residence in Calamba, to the prison in Sta. Cruz, the capital of Laguna, a distance of over thirty kilometers. She was later exonerated, but only after two-and-a half years in jail.

Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal's good friend, assessed the impact of free Spain upon him, thus:

During his sojourn in Spain he came upon a new world. The horizons of his mind widened considerably, opening up to him new ideas. He came from a country where the friars, the bureaucrats, military officers, and the rest of the Spaniards exercised absolute power. In Madrid, he saw the exact opposite; freethinkers and atheists spoke freely and disparagingly of his religion and his Church; the authority of the State, he found out, was weak; he expected to see liberals and clericals fighting each other, but he saw quite the opposite… At the sight of all this, a feeling of bitterness overwhelmed him when he compared the unlimited freedom in the Mother country with the theocratic absolutism in his own land.

Rizal soon came under the influence of several outstanding masonic thinkers.

Miguel Morayta, a Grand Master, was his college professor who molded his views of history, while the ex-president of Spain, the Catalan - Francisco Pi y Margall, who also became his friend, gave direction to his political thoughts. Among the first Spaniards to advocate emancipation of the Philippines were the masons Rafael Labra y Cardano and Sovereign Grand Commander Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla. Small wonder, therefore, that Rizal decided to apply for membership in Acacia Lodge No. 9, a lodge in Madrid under the Gran Oriente de España, at that time the principal and biggest Grand Orient in Spain. Upon his initiation, Rizal chose Dimasalang as his symbolic name in Masonry.

Early on Rizal and other Filipino expatriates realized that the enemy of reform in the Philippines was not Spain or religion, but the friars. Starting a patriotic propaganda for the improvement of conditions Rizal quickly rose to the forefront of this movement. In 1884 he started writing his famous novel, Noli Me Tangere, an incisive indictment of the Philippine political and religious regime. The same year Rizal spoke at a banquet [held] in honor of Juan Luna and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, Filipino artists named first and second prize winners in a painting contest held in Madrid. Rizal saluted Spain, but flayed the friars in the Philippines. When copies of the newspapers carrying his speech reached Manila, authorities branded him a subversive.

Completing his studies in Madrid, Rizal left for France in July 1885 to specialize in opthamology. He trained in Paris for four months, then he left for Heidelberg, then considered the most advanced center of opthalmic research in Europe. From there he moved to Wilhelmsfeld, Leipzig and Berlin and met some of the most eminent men in Europe.

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This excerpt is from Heredom, the transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society.

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