Dr. Jose P. Rizal is not only a hero. He is also arguably the most recognized Filipino ever with his statue prominently displayed in munisipyos and kapitolyos throughout the country, and countless streets and buildings and towns and a province named after him. His birthday every June 19 and his death every December 30 are national holidays. And a full 3-unit course about his life, works and writings is a required subject in college. He is so well studied that college students can name at least one of his girlfriends!
That Dr. Jose P. Rizal is a great Filipino patriot is undisputed. That he is also an outstanding artist, an excellent writer, a skilled doctor, and a handsome playboy are established facts. But what do we know about Kuya Pepe the mason? Why did he joined Freemasonry? How was he as a Mason? In commemoration of the 111th year of his martyrdom, let us revisit the milestones of Kuya Pepe’s Masonic journey and have a look at him as a fellow traveler…
1861 (June 19): Kuya Pepe was born in Calamba, Laguna.
1872-1882: Kuya Pepe studied at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (1872-1877) then at the University of Sto. Tomas (1878-1882) where at some time he stayed in the house of his uncle Jose Alberto Alonzo who is a Freemason and who perhaps introduced Kuya Pepe to the ideals of Freemasonry.
1882-1884: Kuya Pepe visited Naples in Italy while studying medicine at Spain’s Universidad Central de Madrid and was impressed by the public adoration shown at the death of Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi who is a Freemason. It was probably at this period when Kuya Pepe encountered the ideals of the Spanish Freemasons Miguel Morayta and Francisco Pi y Margal which led him to petition for membership at their Masonic lodge, the Acacia Lodge No. 9 of the Gran Oriente de Espana in 1884, and adopted Dimasalang as his Masonic name.
1885-1887: Kuya Pepe left Spain for France and Germany to pursue further studies at the University of Paris and later at the University of Heidelberg where he became a member of the Berlin Ethnological and Anthropological Societies through the intercessions of the German Freemasons Dr. Rudolf Virchow and Dr. Feodor Jagor. It was also while in Germany that Kuya Pepe acquired additional degrees in Freemasonry which might have included The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. It was during this period when Kuya Pepe wrote his first novel, the “Noli Me Tangere”.
1887 (August 6): Kuya Pepe came home to the Philippines and immediately faced charges from the Spanish friars on the alleged subversion of his novel --- the “Noli Me Tangere”. Governor-General Emilio Terrero y Perinat who is a Freemason found nothing wrong in the novel and shielded Kuya Pepe as far as he can do so, even assigning him a personal bodyguard. But when he thought he can no longer protect Kuya Pepe, he advised him to leave the Philippines once again.
1888-1889: Kuya Pepe arrived in Paris after travelling via Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, and England. He then moved in Belgium where he started writing his second novel “El Filibusterismo”.
1890 (November 15): During a visit to Spain, Kuya Pepe affiliated with the Solidaridad Lodge No. 53 of the Grand Orient of France, an all Filipino Masonic Lodge, where he was elected as Supervising Architect. It was probably in the same year that Kuya Pepe was also designated by the Gran Oriente Espanol as its Grand Representative in France and Germany.
1891-1892: Kuya Pepe left Europe for Hong Kong where he stayed for 7 months. While in Hong Kong, Kuya Pepe was elected in absentia as the Honorable Venerable Master of the Nilad Lodge No. 144 in Manila. The formation of Nilad Lodge inspired the growth of Freemasonry in the Philippines.
1892-1896: Kuya Pepe finally returned to the Philippines in 1892 and was soon exiled in Dapitan until July 31, 1896. As soon as Kuya Pepe was sent to Dapitan, the Spanish colonial government also closed down Masonic lodges and deported active Filipino Masons.
1896: Kuya Pepe left for Spain to serve in Cuba as a military doctor in the Spanish Colonial army during the Cuban Revolution. He was however arrested upon reaching Spain and sent back to the Philippines to stand trial for treason. On December 30, Kuya Pepe was executed by firing squad at what was then Bagumbayan and ignited the Philippine War for Independence under the leadership of two Filipino Freemasons --- Andres Bonifacio and Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
FOOTNOTE: An alleged photo of Dr. Jose P. Rizal in Masonic regalia from the blog “Travel Light (in search of that which was lost)”. This claim is disputed and the photo is said to be of a young Freemason taken sometime in the 1920s or the 1930s. Kuya Pepe died in 1896.
This article was written for "The Craftsman" and primarily based on an article attributed to Fred Lamar Pearson, Jr. for the book “Dimasalang: The Masonic Life of Dr. Jose. Rizal”. The book was authored by Raymond S. Fajardo and edited by Fred Lamar Pearson, Jr.