My brother, Manuel Luis Quezon, was born on August 19, 1878 in the sleepy coastal town of Baler in what is now the province of Aurora. As a child, Kuya Manuel was called “Ang Kastila” because of his mestizo lineage. It is not clear if Kuya Manuel fought in the Philippine War for Independence but his father, a sergeant in the Spanish colonial government’s army, remained loyal to the Spanish flag which led to his and another son’s death in an ambush by Filipino Katipuneros while travelling to Baler from Nueva Ecija.
During the Filipino-American War however, Kuya Manuel served as an aide-de-camp of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and rose through the ranks from private to major until he surrendered in 1901 after which he was imprisoned for 6 months by the Americans. During that war, he was promoted to the rank of captain after rescuing the wounded Novo Ecijano and would-be general Col. Benito Natividad from the frontlines.
Kuya Manuel was made a master mason on 17 March 1908 in Manila’s Sinukuan Lodge No. 16 when already an elected member of the Philippine National Assembly. He went on to become a senator and the country’s first Senate President in 1916.
Most Worshipful Manuel L. Quezon is acknowledged as the First Filipino Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines which he helped establish in 1917 after spearheading the unification of American and Filipino Masonic Lodges in the country. He, however, resigned from Freemasonry in 17 September 1930 apparently due to the request of her wife, Dona Ma. Aurora Aragon-Quezon.
In 1935, Kuya Manuel won the Philippines’ first national presidential election which he contested with two other equally worthy brother Masons: Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay.
Seven years after leaving Freemasonry, Kuya Manuel clarified his resignation with the following statement: “I didn't and never will renounce Masonry. There is a form which those returning to the Church are supposed to sign but I refused to sign it. Instead, I wrote the Archbishop a personal note saying that I understand that I could not be readmitted to the Roman Catholic Church so long as I remained a Mason, and, for that reason I was resigning from Masonry but I never renounced Masonry”.
Kuya Manuel died of tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York while in exile in the United States during World War II. His remains were later interred at the Quezon Memorial in the city named after him.
Today, Kuya Manuel is honored in the town where he was born by the constitution of the the Manuel L. Quezon Memorial Lodge No. 262 that was presided by now Supreme Court Chief Justice and Past Grand Master Reynato Puno.
It is interesting to note that 3 more brother Masons served as president of the Philippines. They are Kuya Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (Philippine Revolutionary Government, 1899-1901) of Pilar Lodge No 203 and now Pilar Lodge No. 15, and founder of Magdalo Lodge No. 31 and later renamed Emilio Aguinaldo Lodge No. 31 in his honor; Kuya Jose P. Laurel (Japanese-sponsored Republic, 1943-1945) , past Junior Warden of Batangas Lodge No. 383 and now Batangas Lodge No. 35; and (3) Kuya Manuel Roxas (First Philippine Republic, 1946-1948), Past Master of Acacia Lodge No. 13 and Makawiwili Lodge No. 55.
FOOTNOTES: The information used for this article was gleaned from the following sources: Quezon City Lodge No. 122, Our Famous Brother Masons, Wikipedia, RP Stamps and Postal History, An Online Guide About Philippine History, WikiFilipino, and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines. Any errors in the interpretation of their work are mine alone.