Tuesday, August 14, 2007

MY SON, MY BROTHER

Compared to his two siblings, Ian is the least exposed to the ways of the Masonic Fraternity. His sister, after all, joined the Job’s Daughters during her teens while his youngest brother fully exhausted seven years of his life in the DeMolay movement until the time he became a Senior DeMolay.

But it was understandable; he was already in his second year at Los Banos when his Dad joined the Craft and to confound matters, he got himself employed, got married and thereafter established residence in his adopted place. Except for some fleeting moments, like attending his father’s installation as Worshipful Master of his mother lodge in 1995 and acting as surrogate brother to the fraternal brod of his kid brother, Ivan, when the DeMolays tangled with a college fraternity, his link with the organization the aging puma has embraced was indeed rare. Suffice it to say that it came as a mild shock to the rest of the family when he said in late 2005 that he wants to knock at the Craft’s proverbial door timing his entry at the time he will reach the age of thirty five.

The aging lion was of course silently pleased at learning of his son’s decision but nonetheless was guarded in his reactions. The only question that he posed was: “Have you discussed this with your wife, Vicky?” and got a nod in reply. It turned out it was her employer at the farm where she works as an animal nutritionist that prodded her to allow her husband to follow the footsteps of his Dad because her boss is a mason in good standing at Sierra Madre Lodge No. 181 and it was from the latter that she consciously noticed the sterling qualities of a member of the Craft.

But knocking at the proverbial door was not easy. The cub’s first obstacle was that he was informed it will cost him some twenty grand to join and admittedly the sum was not peanuts. Another difficult problem to hurdle was that the lodge was forty two kilometers away from their residence and therefore will entail considerable travel time to attend meetings.

The prospects of knocking at the door of other lodges were considered. Nearby stood two other lodges, namely Makiling Lodge No. 77 and Pinagsabitan Lodge No. 26 in neighboring Sta. Cruz, but he knew of no one in these two lodges. He also contemplated submitting his petition form in any of the lodges at the Capitol Masonic Temple where his Dad once used to roam, but the distance was even more problematic than what it would entail him should he decide to join any of the lodges in Laguna. He also broached the idea of joining Jacques DeMolay 305 because he has an acquaintance there, but the same problem on travel time exists. Not only that, its stated meeting was on a Friday at six P.M. and reasonably, getting home after each meeting would pose a problem.

His big break came in January 2007 when he excitedly called his Dad long distance in Bohol saying he has already submitted his duly-accomplished petition form at Sierra Madre Lodge No. 181 and was asking what to do next. He received a reply saying: “Well, all you do is wait until your name is circularized by the Grand Lodge in what is called as “Circular No. 12. What he did not know was that his Dad emailed Elo at the GL office and learned that the his petition for membership was already circulated to the brethren by the end of the month of January.

Still a petitioner, his sponsor gradually exposed him and his wife to the public ceremonies of the Fraternity. They were invited to the installation ceremonies of Sierra Madre Lodge No. 181, Pinagsabitan Lodge No. 26 Malinao Lodge No. 25 and Makiling Lodge No. 77, and attended all of them.

Sierra Madre’s March stated meeting saw him and two other petitioners eagerly awaiting being balloted and at closing time were informed that the results were favorable. This made him send a text message to his Dad saying: “Tay, yelocrap na ako”. His Dad, feigning ignorance shot back: “Just what is that supposed to mean?” and received the epic reply: “yelocrap, the one who distributes ice during the fellowship!”

The three petitioners were initiated on March 30 and the lodge forthwith made plans for their second-degree passing and the third degree raising to the sublime degree. April 14 was tentatively set for the second-degree conferral while the third degree was set for the month of May.

Meanwhile the aging cat formulated plans of his own. He and the lion tamer were already scheduled to visit the kids at the metropolis and it would be a nice idea if he can request that he be the Conferral Master of the third degree, portraying the role of King Solomon, and thus symbolically raise his son to the sublime degree. That idea would indeed, be nice.

But like many dreams, there are some that regretfully vanish in the air, with the amputation of his right leg reducing that dream to wishful thinking. For how could one execute the strong grip of the lion’s paw and the five points of fellowship when the limping and aging lion could not even arise from bed with but one leg to stand on?!

And snags stood in the way. The “passing” was consummated only on May 19 while the “raising” was done on June 16. These two events were partially witnessed by the aging lion although he chose to be outside of the lodge while the second section of the third degree conferral was going on. Once the smoke has vanished he noted that compared with the two others, the cub was roasted “well done” that even showed visible signs of burnt residues on his breast while the two were only broiled medium rare. Which made the aging lion quip: “Well, like the sides of a coin, there are two sides of looking at a given experience, it either turns you into a ferocious lion to get even, or become a judicious sphinx because you believe that the manhandling was despicably wrong. Looking back, it appeared some lodge members did not look with favor his reply on the query why he wanted to join the Craft that “he wanted to follow the Masonic footsteps of his Dad” a dream many old timers wish but never could realize.

As a memento of his joining the Craft, the aging lion gave him the golden ring that he has proudly worn the past eighteen years saying:

“I have worn that ring proudly the past eighteen years and have always reminded me of three things, the Square, the extended Compasses and the letter G at the middle... May it also always remind you that the Square is an emblem of Truth and Morality, that the extended Compasses remind you to circumscribe your desires, and that the letter G means that the GAOTU watches over your actions”.

Monday, August 13, 2007

BROTHERLY LOVE, RELIEF AND TRUTH- A personal experience

Short talk delivered to Laong Laan Lodge No. 185 on June 2, 2007

You have listened to the Entered Apprentice degree lecture earlier this afternoon where the three principal tenets Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, three of Masonry’s greatest teachings, were taught. So simply worded, easily understood, yet oftentimes difficult to internalize and apply in our daily lives. Curiously however, without these tenets, this aging lion would not be alive today. So let me tell you this story.

For a start, allow me to apologize for my inability to strictly comply with the rules on proper attire. It is true I am impeccably dressed in white barong and matching black pants but I am not properly shod. Instead, I am wearing a sandal same as what Boaz must have worn in ancient times. Also, my right leg is missing from the knee down. Which reminds me of the answer that I gave to the question “What happened to your right foot?” that was asked by a brother last Saturday, May 26, on the occasion of the passing of our eldest son at Sierra Madre Lodge No. 181 to which I replied: “I accidentally entered a first degree conferral and inadvertently advanced my right foot first instead of my left as required!”

But seriously, the loss of my shoe is not without reason. In the ensuing confusion when we boarded the plane bound for Manila last April 11, I inadvertently left it at home at our den in Guindulman, Bohol. I was then already seriously ill such that when we saw Kuya Billy at St. Luke’s Hospital the next day, he said, “Kuya Jun, we need to amputate your right leg soonest possible. Gangrene has already seriously affected it and any delay and can easily cause your death!”

But before he can do that, a number of medical tests were needed. There was the CBC, to the Echo, Doffler, fasting blood sugar and many others. And the combined cost of these preparatory tests already exceeded P10,000 and soon drained our pockets.When the tests were over my niece who was an expert Endocrinologist and Diabetes specialist estimated that the total cost of the amputation will be in the vicinity of about P300,000. Whew!.

Naturally, it worried me greatly. Where will we get that money? I reckon, wrestling with the Grim Reaper may even prove a more viable alternative! As a result, I even considered having the amputation done in Cebu under Dr. Felix Vicuna, Jr. who said over the phone that the under the circumstances, it will only cost us some P50,000 as a charity patient! But the danger of my soul separating from the body because of the thin atmosphere while the plane is airborne was ominous. My weak heart and lungs may not withstand the rigors of air travel even the trip from Tagbilaran to Manila that was done previously was considered a wonder I escaped death unscathed.

I therefore reluctantly agreed to have my leg amputated at St. Luke’s with Doc Billy orchestrating the event and so checked-in at the hospital on Monday, April 16. But the amputation was done only on Thursday evening as the cardiologist was adamant in giving her go-signal because my lungs were full of water any miscue could trigger my weak heart to collapse. To lessen the risk, the anesthesiologist arranged that the operation be conducted while I was in sitting position so that I don’t drown while Doc Billy was ceremoniously separating my right leg from the rest of my body.

I was then returned to my room the next day, Friday, but no more than twelve hours later, was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit or ICU gasping for precious breath. Doc Billy and the cardiologist were giving medical instructions to the point, the life of the aging lion was at stake. Doc Billy even overruled the form signed by the lion tamer that the various attachments usually attached to patients during extreme emergencies and thus precluded the Grim Reaper from claiming the old cat for his prize.

And wonder of wonders, I stayed at the ICU for no more than a day which made the attending male nurse quip: “You are an exceptional patient. In my stay here at the hospital, I have not seen a patient get out of this room in less than twenty four hours alive! Bad grass, one might say, but I was given another chance to stay alive.


To sum it all up, the amputation was performed on Thursday, April 19, and exactly a week later the patient was discharged from the hospital The lion tamer who was accompanied by her daughter settled the bills but would not her pet to even have a look. He will surely wonder how the heck they managed to foot their bills to pay the foot that Doc Billy amputated!

This incident is being narrated because clearly, “brotherly love and relief” are divine attributes that motivated Kuya Billy to render his services for free and also goaded him to organize the medical team and thus enabled him to perform the amputation. In addition, he cajoled the brethren to take notice of the aging lion’s dire need for financial help by posting via the Internet my miserable plight, and in addition also sent text messages to brethren who knew me.

In so doing a good number answered the call, among them, WBs Benjie de los Santos, Bong Fajardo, Ka Albert, our Worshipful Master who was accompanied by Bro. Danny Gutierrez and VW John Teng. From out of the lodge those who responded include VW Pong Lustre who was accompanied by Sis. Del and their triplets, VW Nanding Pascua accompanied by Sis Shiela, the four Gabionza ladies of Quezon City Lodge No. 122, two of whom were accompanied by their respective hubbies VWs Jerome and Joe, VW Alex Fabian who hand-carried the contribution of Quezon City Bodies and VW Mike Maraan who gave the contribution of Juan Sumulong Lodge No. 169. and VW Rommel Corra.l. In all, their financial assistance totaled no less than P50, 000.

For her part the lion tamer called up relatives and friends and from the family of the late Bro. Eduardo Palac (he is the subject of a previous article titled “Requiem for a Departing Brother) accumulated about P170,000 cash. The children of the nonagenarian Bro. Antonio Maputol, her cousins, also sent P50,000. So did the aging lion’s youngest sister who also sent through the wire an equal amount. And many other relatives and friends who contributed in varying sums.

These are not all, even those who were unable to send money sent in word that they do care. The families of fishermen at our backyard and our neighbors called saying they hope for the aging lion’s early recovery.

But while the love and concern of those who helped clearly demonstrated the sterling values of both brotherly love and relief, the third tenet called “truth” at first glance, seems unconnected. On critical analysis however, truth was found to have buried itself in another virtue called “Charity” for in the second degree parambulation that was copied verbatim in the Book of Corinthians where it wisely said:

“Charity suffereth long and is kind
charity envieth not
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up
doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own
doth not rejoice in inequity but rejoiceth in the TRUTH.

I guess this is how this short talk should now end. These three principal tenets are intertwined, after all.

Thank you for your attention!

(Note: This article was originally delivered in Taglish but was rehashed to conform to standard English presentation.)