BIAK-NA-BATO LODGE NO. 7
Biak-na-Bato is a Tagalog word for "cleft rock." It is the name of a place in the mountains of Bulacan Province where, in 1897, the insurgent forces under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo retreated from the advancing Spanish army. Here a peace treaty was signed between the Filipino insurgents and the Spaniards that placed the Philippine Revolution on hold.
Biak-na-Bato Lodge was the second blue lodge organized for filipinos under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines Islands. Unlike Bagumbayan Lodge was established for filipinos who spoke English, this lodge was meant for those who spoke Spanish.
The lodge was founded in Manila on November 11, 1916 by a group of 23 Master Masons led by Felipe Tempongco, Joaquin Ventura, Dalmacio Monroy and Pedro Rodriguez, who petitioned the Grand Lodge for a dispensation to form a lodge. Their main purpose was to have a Masonic lodge for Spanish-speaking Filipinos and Europeans. On the same day, the Grand Master issued the dispensation. On February 13, 1917, during the Fifth Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge, Biak-na-Bato Lodge No. 7 was granted a permanent charter. It was duly constituted the following day. The colorful and impressive ritual of the Grand Lodge of California was used for the occasion.
In time, Biak-na-Bato became a cosmopolitan lodge. Its roster disclosed that its members were Filipinos, Spaniards, Americans, Chinese, Syrians, Japanese, and Indians. Many prominent men joined it, some of whom were Toribio Teodoro, the Owner of Ang Tibay, who was the Master of the lodge in 1939; Jose Campos Rueda, Master in 1927, Lino Gutierrez, Master in 1928 and Jose Arpal, Master in 1934.
During the early days of the lodge, the officers and members wore tuxedos when attending stated meetings. The Master invariably had a Top Hat and Tail Coat. The Spanish language was used in the ritualistic work and the lodge came to be regarded as having the best degree team in Spanish. Its members were frequently invited to confer degrees in Spanish, complete with their uniforms and regalia, in different parts of the country. In time, however, the "Cleft Rock" Lodge switched to the English language in all its ritualistic work, but still keeps in its possession the complete ritual of the first three degrees in Spanish.
When the Second World War broke out the lodge had to close. Many members enlisted in the armed forces and later joined the underground movement. Some gave up their lives and were buried in unmarked graves. These notwithstanding, at the end of the war, on January 11, 1947 to be precise, the members were able to reactivate the lodge.
On January 10, 1957, the lodge presented an Honorary Membership Diploma to the man who made the name Biak-na-Bato famous, WB Emilio F. Aguinaldo, President of the first Philippine Republic. WB Aguinaldo, in accepting the Diploma, said in his response: "The name Biak-na-Bato is very dear to me, and I am extremely happy that the members of this lodge have kept that name. I am indeed glad to be one of its members."
This lodge played an important role in the establishment of a lodge in Saigon, South Vietnam under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. In the mid-fifties, Marcelo C. Cheung, a Past Master of the Lodge, left for Saigon to work. He got in touch with several brothers and in 1960, they convinced the Grand Lodge to authorize Biak-na-Bato to confer the degrees on petitioners residing in Vietnam. During the first year of the arrangement, more than thirty candidates residing in Vietnam were initiated. In the following years the membership of Biak-na-Bato rose to almost 200. The new Masons set up a Square and Compass Club in Saigon. Eventually, Cheung, together with those who were initiated in Biak-na-Bato and other Masons, founded Saigon Lodge No. 188.
Two Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines were members of this lodge, Vicente Carmona and Raymond E. Wilmarth.
These days the lodge can rely on Victor Tan Tek Sian, Eduardo Chua, Antonio Juco, Vicente Cu, Jr., Orlando Ortiz, Avelino Supan, Bonifacio Sanchez and others.
Location: Plaridel Masonic Temple, Manila