Noli-Me-Tangere Lodge No. 42
Noli-Me-Tangere is Latin for "touch me not," a pathological term for a malignant tumor. This was the title of Jose P. Rizal's famous novel exposing monastic rule in the Philippines in all its ugliness.
On August 13,1917, Grand Master William H. Taylor issued a dispensation to thirteen Masons to organize a lodge in Pasay, Rizal and on that same date the first meeting of Noli-Me-Tangere Lodge was held. The following year, after it was issued a charter during the annual communication of the Grand Lodge in January 1918. The lodge was personally constituted by Grand Master Manuel L. Quezon, in ceremonies that were held on March 18, 1918 at Blue Lodge Hall of the Masonic Temple at the Escolta in Manila. On that day too, Manuel de Santos was installed as the first Master of the lodge under charter, a position he would hold up to 1919.
For a while Noli-Me-Tangere Lodge grew and prospered. Its membership reached almost two hundred. Many prominent citizens swelled its ranks, among whom are Primitivo Lovina, Master in 1933, Dionisio San Agustin, Master in 1921, 1922, 1927 and 1928 and Brigido Roxas. As the Temple it occupied became too small, it built a two-story Temple on a lot that it acquired on Libertad Street in Pasay.
The good times did not last. In the 1930's, the American economy collapsed which seriously affected life in the Philippines. Many Filipinos, the members of the lodge included, were reduced to bankruptcy; some lost their jobs, others their entire fortunes. Unable to pay their dues, the members shied away from the lodge. Membership plummeted, going down to 88 in 1931 and only 53 in 1933. The lodge went bankrupt. It could not comply with its financial obligations to the Grand Lodge and private firms. La Urbana, Inc foreclosed its Temple, together with the parcel of land on which it was erected. The situation was so bad that Grand Master Manuel Camus had no other choice but to arrest the charter of the lodge in the last months of 1934. Incidentally, Noli Me Tangere was not the only lodge that went under in 1934. The charters of three other lodges - Filipinas Lodge No. 54 in Unisan, Quezon; Plaridel Lodge No. 74 in Calauag, Quezon; and Hamtik Lodge No. 76 in San Jose, Antique - were also arrested and for the same reasons.
On September 3, 1934, when Camus was about to arrest the charter of Noli Me Tangere Lodge No 42, he received a petition for a dispensation to form a new lodge in Pasay signed by practically the entire membership of Noli Me Tangere. Camus viewed it as "plainly an attempt to organize the lodge under another name," and as a "plan to escape from legal obligations x x x a species of reorganization frowned upon as unethical, if not dishonest." Camus turned down the petition.
After the end of the Second World War, four attempts have so far been made to resurrect Noli Me Tangere Lodge, all to no avail.
The first attempt took place in 1946. On March 1 of that year, 25 old members of the lodge petitioned Grand Master Michael Goldenberg for the issuance of a dispensation empowering them to revive Noli Me Tangere Lodge in Pasay, but Goldenberg rejected the request. In his letter, dated March 9, he reasoned that "the former lodge was poorly managed and received very little support and very little interest was shown by its members. Its charter having been arrested years ago, no record whatever remains but only sad memories of its shorts existence.
A second attempt was made the following year. On February 25, 1947, Abundio C. del Rosario, one of the signers of the petition in 1946, wrote Grand Master Emilio P. Virata reiterating their petition. Virata was sympathetic. He issued a dispensation on March 7, 1947 authorizing the members to open the lodge. Del Rosario, Roman Amor and Modesto Cenido were appointed Master, Senior Warden and Junior Warden, respectively.
When the members tried to open the lodge, they discovered it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to operate in Pasay City. On March 11, 1948 they passed a resolution to surrender the dispensation. Del Rosario personally brought It to the Grand Secretary on June 3, 1948.
On December 15, 1955, or seven and a half years following the return of the dispensation, a third try to reactivate Noli Me Tangere Lodge was made. A new petition was presented to Grand Master Camilo Osias, signed by 16 Master Masons belonging to different lodges in Manila, one of whom, WB Angel S. Montes, was a member of the lodge at the time its charter was arrested. Grand Master Osias approved the petition on December 26, 1955.
Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42 was immediately reinstated in the rolls of the Grand Lodge. It forthwith started working and was soon recognized as one oldie active and proficient lodges in Manila. Everything seemed rosy, until WB Luis Meneses, Secretary of Bagumbayan Lodge No. 4, wrote four letters in succession to the Grand Lodge questioning the legality of the reactivation of the lodge.
The Grand Master formed a special committee headed by WB Juan Nabong, Sr. to investigate the matter. At the Annual Communication held in April 1957, the committee submitted its report, thus:
Our Masonic Law Book is silent on how to revive a lodge that has been dissolved for cause. Your committee, however, believes that the revival of a lodge in such condition can only be authorized by the Grand Lodge in view of its "attributes of sovereignty and government -legislative, executive, and judicial - limited only by a strict adherence to the Ancient Landmarks of the Order and by the provisions of its Constitution and Regulations." In the particular case of Noll Me Tangere Lodge No. 42, three steps should have been taken to revive the same: (1) filing of a petition for the purpose signed by members of said lodge at the time of the revocation of its charter; (2) removal of the cause of said charter revocation through the payment of its indebtedness to the Grand Lodge, unless the same is condoned by the latter; and (3) approval of the petition by said Grand Lodge. Although the petition in the present case has been presented to the Grand Master (not to the Grand Lodge), the petitioners, however, were all members of different lodges in Manila all of whom except one, had never been members of Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42 when its charter was arrested. Moreover, the cause that had given rise to the arrest of the charter had not been removed and the petition was approved, not by the Grand Lodge, but by the Grand Master. Article I, Part II, of the Constitution enumerates twelve instances wherein the Grand Master may exercise all the executive powers of the Grand Lodge during the recess of the same. None of said instances appears to authorize directly or indirectly, expressly or tacitly, the Grand Master to approve the revival of a lodge whose charter had been arrested; that article empowers only the Grand Master "to grant dispensation for the formation of new lodges." (Par. 55 Constitution) and also "to arrest the charter or dispensation of any lodge." (Par. 60). It is therefore clear that the revival of Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42, as above described, has been made without the support of any legal provision and that that mistake should, in the opinion of the committee, be corrected so as to avoid the setting of none-too-good a precedent.
On the other hand, the dissolution of the lodge involved can no longer be entertained, inasmuch as said lodge has been in operation since its reactivation on December 26, 1955, and has already admitted a number of new members by affiliation and initiation. In fact, the committee is pleased to state that it is one of the active lodges in Manila now whose officers have shown a degree of proficiency.
IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE SET FORTH, your special committee recommends that Noli Me Tangere Lodge be considered a new one Under Dispensation since December 26, 1955, and that because of the satisfactory work and proceedings it has so far displayed a charter be given it and a new number be assigned thereto at this annual communication.
The Grand Lodge approved the report of the special committee. Thus, the "revived" Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42 was dissolved and Noli Me Tangere Lodge UD was given a charter as Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 148.
In 1990, the leaders of Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 148 made a fourth attempt. They laid their plea before Grand Master Juan Nabong, jr. who, in response, decreed that Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 148 be given the number of the old Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42. In the January-April 1990 issue of The Cabletow the change in the numbering of the lodge was announced. The members started celebrating, but once again their jubilation turned to frustration when the Grand Lodge, during the Annual Communication in April 1990, rejected the change and returned Noli Me Tangere Lodge No. 42 to the Masonic mortuary.
What happened to the other lodges whose charters were also arrested in 1934? No attempt has been made to resurrect Filipinas Lodge No. 54, however, the two other lodges (Plaridel Lodge No 74 and Hamtik Lodge No. 76) have returned to life. In 1968, Grand Master Joseph Schon authorized their revival through a simple dispensation. No hassle. The two lodges were not obliged to pay their debts to the Grand Lodge, nor were they required to secure its approval for their reactivation. The Grand Master just informed the Grand Lodge that he revived the two lodges and that was it. This only proves that it is the destiny of some lodges to be luckier than others.