compiled by BROTHER BENITO MANEZE, Snr. P.M.
The history of Freemasonry under the Scottish Constitution in the Philippines is filled with events that are of interest to the Fraternity. By its introduction into the Philippines there has been added an element of strength to the Craft as a whole. The establishment and progress of Freemasonry under the Scottish Constitution in the Philippines is of great concern to Masons of this country.
On 1st June 1907 several brethren, recognising each other as Master Masons in good standing, assembled at the residence of Brother Manuel Camus at 196 San Sebastian Street, Manila. Their purpose was to map out preliminary measures for the institution of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons under the Scottish Constitution in Manila, Philippines. Present at the assembly were:
Brother Manuel Camus, Manila Lodge, No.342, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California;
Brother Francisco Aguado, St John’s Lodge, No.618, Scottish Constitution, Hong Kong;
Brothers Jose’ Fournier, Carlos Camus, Vicente Verzosa, Jose Lopez Regina, Jose Infante and Rufino Victoria of Dalisay Lodge, No.177, under the jurisdiction of the Gran Oriente Espanol of Spain.
On 11th June 1907, a petition was prepared and signed by the above-named brethren praying that the Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland grant a Charter for the constitution and erection of a Lodge in Manila, Philippine Islands, to be known as “Lodge Perla del Oriente” (Pearl of the Orient), to be conducted in the Spanish language, such petition to be presented through the Right Worshipful The Honourable George Albert Watkins, of Hong Kong, China, representing Scottish Freemasonry in the Orient, the following brethren being named as the first Office-bearers:
MANUEL CAMUS Master
FRANCISCO AGUADO Deputy Master
Jose FOURNIER Senior Warden
CARLOS CAMUS Junior Warden
VICENTE VERZOSA Secretary
GEORGE A. WATKINS Treasurer
JOSE LOPEZ REGINA Senior Deacon
JOSE INFANTE Junior Deacon
RUFINO VICTORIA Tyler
On 7th November 1907 the Grand Lodge of Scotland granted the Charter prayed for, transmitting it to the District Grand Master of Scottish Freemasonry in Hong Kong for consecration of the Lodge and the installation of the Office-bearers. As the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Scotland provides that the Right Worshipful Master of a Daughter Lodge can be installed only by a Master or a Past Master of its own jurisdiction it was necessary for the Master-elect, Brother Manuel Camus, and his Deputy Master, Brother Francisco Aguado, to proceed to Hong Kong, where they were duly installed on 23rd April 1908 by the Right Worshipful Gregory Paul Jordan, District Grand Master. The other officers were duly installed at the first regular meeting under Charter by the Lodge on 14th May 1908 at its new quarters at 70 Principe Street, San Nicolas District, Manila, by Brothers Manuel Camus and Francisco Aguado after their return from Hong Kong. At the same meeting several petitions for degrees were presented and considered.
The first addition to the membership of the Lodge was by affiliation of Brother Eugenio Dieven from Dalisay Lodge, No.177, Gran Oriente Espanol of Spain. The first initiation was that of Manuel Martinez, and the first Brother to be raised to the degree of Master Mason was Juan Lebron Ocampo.
While it was the original intention of the founders of the Lodge to confine its ritualistic work to the Spanish language, it was not long, however, before American and other English-speaking candidates began knocking at the portals of the Lodge seeking for Light. To refuse due consideration of those who were worthy would be neither fraternal nor a full recognition of that universality of Freemasonry contemplated by the principles of the order. It was soon realised that English was slowly but surely supplanting Spanish in the Philippines; therefore it was agreed that both the Spanish and the English languages be used, according to the tongue of the candidate, in the conferring of degrees. This action was heartily endorsed by the English-speaking brethren whose support and encouragement, attested by their frequent attendance at the meetings and their participation in the social functions, aided greatly in the upbuilding of the Lodge and its growth to its present position.
The membership in the following years became cosmopolitan and according to a census made in 1916 there were 19 different nations and nationalities representing the membership of the Lodge, namely Spaniards, English, French, Germans, Italians, Russians, Swedes, Portuguese, Swiss, Scots, North Americans, Cubans, Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Malays, Filipinos, Australians and Chinese.
Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., since its foundation in 1909, has played a very important role in the progress and development of Masonry in the Islands and it has the unique distinction of having been the mutual meeting ground of members of the Gran Oriente Espanol and subordinate Lodges under the Grand Lodge of California during the early days of the civil government in the Philippines under the United States of America. It so happened that the Grand Lodge of California did not recognise the Gran Oriente Espanol as a regular Grand Lodge, and an edict was issued banning members of the Gran Oriente Espanol from visiting Lodges under the California jurisdiction and vice versa. Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, has been a recognised regular Lodge in Manila, and fraternal relationships were then existing both with the Grand Lodge of California and the Gran Oriente Espanol, and consequently members of both jurisdictions were welcomed in the meetings of Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C.
Conflicting opinions were advanced as to the propriety of the stand taken by Lodge Perla del Oriente. However, under the circumstances, Lodge Perla del Oriente could not do otherwise, and records show that the Grand Lodge of California sustained this stand, as it ruled that within the Halls of Lodge Perla del Oriente members of the Gran Oriente Espanol may be recognised and treated on an equal level by members of Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California. Such meetings, on mutual grounds, apparently, divested the Masons of that era of all prejudices and gave birth to the idea of consolidating all Lodges then in existence in the Philippines under one jurisdiction, which resulted in a common understanding between the conflicting Grand Lodges and, ultimately, the establishment of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.
Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., continued its adherence to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, maintaining fraternal relationships with the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, and the strong bond of fellowship between these two jurisdictions is attested by the fact that members of the subordinate Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines are in constant attendance in meetings of Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C.
The last global war disrupted the activities of all Masonic organisations in the Philippines. When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Philippines in December 1941, and when they occupied the city of Manila on 2nd January 1942, Lodge activities were suspended. The Japanese did not allow any group meetings behind closed doors; therefore, Masonry was suspended in the Philippines. The Plaridel Masonic Temple at 520 San Marcelino Street, Manila, where we held our meetings prior to the Japanese occupation, was commandeered by the Japanese Army. The Masonic records and paraphernalia of the Lodges which had formerly held meetings at the Plaridel Masonic Temple were lost, being burned or destroyed by the Japanese.
The American civilians and members of Lodges and other foreigners considered enemies of the Japanese were herded into different internment camps. The Filipinos, especially the Masons, were kept under strict surveillance and several were imprisoned and tortured in Fort Santiago as they were known to be helping Americans and citizens of other countries at war with Japan.
After the liberation of the Philippines by the armed forces of the United States, several Filipinos, Americans, Chinese and European members of the Lodge promptly exerted efforts to have the Lodge resume its activities under dispensation for the issuance of a duplicate copy of Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In this connection, Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., is deeply grateful to Muog Lodge, No.89, F. & A.M., under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, for the permission given to us to hold our first meeting in the post-war period at their Masonic Temple, Paranaque, Rizal Province, on 15th December 1945, at 2 p.m., for the installation of Office-bearers of the Lodge who were duly elected in November 1941.
Duly installed by Brothers James Stevenson and Benito Maneze, Snr., Past Masters, were the following Office-bearers:
DAVID W. S. CLAWSON Right Worshipful Master
BENITO MANEZE, Snr., P.M. Immediate Past Master
THOMAS H. FENSTERMACHER Worshipful Senior Warden
ALBERT C. WRIGHT Worshipful Junior Warden
JAMES T. IRVIN, P.M. Secretary
BENITO MANEZE, Snr., P.M. Acting Treasurer
HARRY C. ELLSWORTh. P.M. Chaplain
EDWARD PERENOUD Senior Deacon
LORENZO TREMPER Junior Deacon
ARTHUR H. HAMMOND Director of Ceremonies
LIM KAO HIAN Senior Steward
MAURICE FURSTENBURG Junior Steward
SALVADOR VICO O.G. – Tyler
By force of circumstances, after our first meeting at Muog Lodge Hall, we were not allowed to hold another meeting therein and had therefore to seek another sanctuary elsewhere. After several consultations with the Brethren as to where we could hold our meetings, Brother Thomas H. Fenstermacher, our Worshipful Senior Warden, kindly and thoughtfully offered his home located at 427 Interior, Tejeron Street, Sta Ana, Manila, as a temporary Lodge meeting place. His small sala was converted into a Lodge Hall which was duly consecrated at 2 p.m. on 10th February 1946 with Brother Benito Maneze, Snr., Immediate Past Master, officiating and assisted by other members of the Lodge.
The Right Worshipful Master, the Worshipful Senior and Junior Wardens, the Secretary and the Treasurer utilised small wooden boxes piled up on top of each other serving as pedestals and tables. A small wooden table on which rested the Holy Bible with the Square and Compasses served as our Altar and the three lesser lights were lighted at each of the pedestals of the three Principal Officers of the Lodge. It was necessary to use carpenter’s tools for our Masonic Working Tools; the square, compasses and hammers served as gavels. The jewels of the officers, which were luckily saved by Brother James Stevenson, P.M., were strung on cords and twelve white aprons donated by Brother David W. S. Clawson, Right Worshipful Master, were used by the officers. Subsequent donations were received from the Brethren enabling us then to hold our meetings in due form. For several months, without interruption, regular meetings were held at the residence of Brother Fenstermacher.
Early in October 1946, the Lodge received an invitation from Brother Louis M. Hausman, Past Master of Manila Lodge, No.1, F. & A.M., and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mt. Arayat Lodge of Perfection, A. & A.S.R., for Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., to hold its meetings at the Scottish Rite Temple, 912 (now 1828) Taft Avenue, Manila, which was then being reconstructed. The first meeting of the Lodge was then held at the Scottish Rite Temple on 12th October 1946, and from then on the Scottish Rite Temple has become its permanent residence.
It is interesting to note that although Lodge Perla del Oriente, No.1034, S.C., has not considered surrendering its Charter to the Grand Lodge of Scotland to enable it to join the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, its relationship with the latter has been one of friendship and cordiality, evidenced by the presence of several Grand Masters and Grand Lodge Officers of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, likewise by Officers and Brethren from other Lodges, who grace the occasions of Installation of our Office-bearers on the third Saturday of every November of each year, which has become a tradition with Lodge Perla del Oriente. It is the hope of every Perla member that this close relationship between Lodge Perla del Oriente under the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines, and its subordinate Lodges, shall continue unmarred in the many, many years to come.