Freemasonry in the Philippines

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Freemasonry or masonry refers to a civic movement promoting fraternity and good works. Freemasonry defines itself as "a regular system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." In particular masonic meetings are characterized by initiations and rituals. As such masonry has been viewed historically by churches and governments as secret societies.

Its historical origins date as far back to 1717 in England, during the Enlightenment period. During that time, an intellectual movement arose throughout Europe based on rationalism, which held that only eternal truths could be attained by reason alone.

Members are organized into lodges, the basic organizational structure, which operates under the jurisdiction of a grand lodge

Rise of Freemasonry in the Philippines

"Primera Luz Filipina", the first masonic lodge in the Philippines was established in 1856 by Jose Malcampo Monje, a naval captain who became the Governor-General of the Philippines from June 18, 1874 to February 28, 1877. It was placed under the jurisdiction of "Gran Oriente Luisitano" and admitted only Spaniards. Other lodges for foreign-born residents soon followed.

Sometime in 1869, Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz joined the Scottish Lodge based in Nagtahan, which had been founded by the British Consul-General. It was placed under the jurisdiction of the grand lodge of Hong Kong. Zobel was made secretary of the organization. Historian Teodoro M. Kalaw wrote that Zobel was the first Filipino mason and added considerable prestige, considering that Zobel was a highly educated man who was a member of the Spanish Academy of History.

Zobel himself wrote: "Bajo estas circumstancias mis pensamientos se dirigieron -- y no solamente los míos--á la única organización que podía reunir todos los elementos liberales españoles del Archipiélago y del gobierno en Manila para conseguir la conservación y el desarrollo sano de esta colonia tan importante para España. Esta organización es la masoneria bastanda propagada en España y sus colonia y enemiga del clero católico." (Emil Hubner: Biografía del Excmo. Sr. Don Jacobo Zobel Zangroniz (1877), p. 44.)

Spread of Masonry among the Inteligentsia

It was a group of young Filipino students studying in Spain who helped spread the movement rapidly in Philippine circles: Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Jose Alejandrino, Ariston Bautista, Julio Llorente, Galicano Apacible, Antonio Luna, and his brother Juan, and Jose Rizal. Some of these joined Solidaridad Lodge 53 in Barcelona, Spain, and others joined Revolucion Lodge.

Upon their return to the colony, many formed lodges. On January 6, 1891, Nilad Lodge was formed in Manila. Soon others followed throughout the archipelago, even as far as Zamboanga. In 1893 these different lodges were organized under the Grand Regional Council led by Ambrocio Flores.

Such was the influence of Freemasonry in the public that even the plebian organization Katipunan adapted masonic secret ritual and codes.

Freemasony in the American Period

American soldiers formed theor own lodges. The first were volunteers fro North Dakota who organized the Knights Templar. A group of black soldiers from Missouri organized the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

The Filipinos reorganized under Grand Master Ambrocio Flores to establish the Filipino Grand Orient in 1899.


  • E. Arsenio Manuel. "Jacobo Zobel" in Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Vol 2. Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1970.

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