Outside Freemasonry, only a handful of local researchers know that on November 22, 2018, Sarangani Lodge No. 50, Davao’s oldest Masonic lodge, will celebrate its centennial.
Conversely, the first Masonic triangulo (club) in the region, according to some accounts, was founded by Pedro Laktaw Serrano in Mati City in 1892 or 1893 on orders of the principals of the Propaganda Movement abroad.
Masonry as an inspiration of the Katipunan, could have also started in Mindanao in 1892. An original document in private possession reproduced in Adrian Cristobal’s The Tragedy of the Revolution (1997) pointed out that Restituto Javier, also known as Mangahas (to date), appointed and sent to Mindanao to establish a KKK chapter.
The document, written in Filipino, stated that Javier “accepted his assignment under oath and signed the paper in his own blood, witnessed by four of Katipunan’s inner circle. He signatories were Teodoro Plata, also known as Pangligtas (savior), as representative; Ladislao Diwa, alias Baliti (banyan tree), as fiscal; Andres Bonifacio, alias Maypagasa (there’s hope), as secretary; and Valentin Diaz, alias Walangulat (no fear), as councilor.”
Take note that during the early part of the KKK, Bonifacio was then the movement’s secretary. The acknowledged pre-Supreme Council head at the time was Deodato Arellano, who was proxied in the document by Plata who signed in behalf of Ang Nangungulo (the president).
Born on June 10, 1873, Javier, a native of Tondo was arguably the first member of the Katipunan after its founding by Bonifacio. Accounts claim he was an employee of Fressel and Co., a German-owned firm where he met warehouseman Bonifacio, who recruited him to the movement and Freemasonry. Interestingly, Javier and half-brother Jose Turiano Santiago stood as primary sponsors of the wedding of Bonifacio and wife Gregoria de Jesus.
Javier’s KKK involvement led to his arrest and banishment to the Canary Islands along with Santiago. Through a prisoner-swap program, he returned to the country and joined the rebels of Tarlac under Gen. Pantaleon Garcia who founded an insurgent government in 1899.
There are no records found yet that indisputably say Javier, then a teenager, reached Mindanao or dropped by Davao region. If ever he landed in Mindanao, he likely made contact with Serrano, who was sent on a mission to organize lodges and triangles in southern Philippines.
Javier’s link to Serrano, founder of the Masonic club in Mati City, predated his involvement in the KKK. In his youthful years, he studied pre-tertiary in private schools owned by Serrano, a nationalist writer and lexicographer from Bulacan, and Hipolito Magsalin, who later helped draft the Malolos Constitution, which was also known as the Political Constitution of 1899.
The committee to draft the charter convened on September 15, 1899; its membership also included Basilio Teodoro, José Albert, Joaquín González, Gregorio Araneta, Pablo Ocampo, Aguedo Velarde, Higinio Benitez, Tomás del Rosario, José Alejandrino, Alberto Barretto, José Ma. de la Viña, José Luna, Antonio Luna, Mariano Abella, Juan Manday, Felipe Calderón, Arsenio Cruz and Felipe Buencamino.
Born on October 24, 1853, Serrano, on the other hand, earned his degree in elementary education from Escuela Normal Superior de Maestros (Philippine Normal School) in Manila and taught in San Luis, Pampanga. From there he moved to Malolos and later to Binondo, Manila where he was a mentor at the municipal school in Quiapo. Before the revolution erupted, he became controversial as a Mason after his fight with Marcelo H. del Pilar, known as the Plaridel. He was expelled from the fraternity and served the ecclesiastical Revista Catolica.
Along with Plaridel and Mariano Ponce, he was also active in civic activities, which made him a member of Caja de Propaganda, whose aim was to spread the information on the abuses committed by the Spaniards and to instill the idea of democracy. He travelled to Spain and got the title of maestro superior in Salamanca. He also became the tutor of King Alfonso XII’s son and was the first Filipino to have been accorded that honor.
Upon his return to the country, along with Moises Salvador and Jose A. Ramos, he founded the Nilad, the first lodge in the Philippines. When Dr. Jose P. Rizal founded the La Liga Filipina, Serrano became its secretary.
Nothing is known about his contribution in the first phase of the Revolution. In the second phase, he contributed an article in El Heraldo de la Revolucion. In Mayo 1898, he accepted a position in the Spanish legislative assembly to stop public involvement in the revolution. When the Philippine-American War erupted, he wrote for the patriotic Ang Bayan (The Nation), Kalayaan (Freedom), and Kapatid ng Bayan (Brother of the Nation).
A prolific Spanish and Tagalog writer, he wrote Diccionario Hispano-Tagalog (1889), which Rizal praised. He is credited for initiating the use of letter ‘K’ in his writings. In 1914, he published Diccionario Tagalog-Hispano, an authority on the subject. He died on September 22, 1928.