In the 16th century, after hundreds of years of existence the members of Freemasonry and the Knights of Christ already reached the Fareast. There is a definite record that in the year 1520, Freemasonry existed in Upper Java in Indonesia.
The book is entitled, “Colleccion General De Documentos Relativos Las Islas Filipinas Existente En El Archivo De Indias De Sevilla. Tomo III (1519-1522)”. It was published by the “Compañia General De Tabacos De Filipinas” and printed in Barcelona, Spain in 1920. A copy of this book is found in the Bohol Provincial Library from where I obtained a xerox copy.
The Spanish language of this book is archaic and it is unedited. This book is quite important historically because it contains the documents regarding the Magellan Expedition. The cost, salaries, and provisions of the expedition are given in different documents. The records of those who died in the expedition, including those who died in Mactan on 27 April 1521 and in Cebu on May 1, 1521 are given. The logbook of pilot Francisco Albo of the ship Victoria is found in Document No. 115, pp. 229-278.
Document No. 98
Documento Num. 98 (1520-1528), is entitled Descripcion Geografica Desde El Cabo De Buena Esperanza Hasta China (Geographical Description from the Cape of Good Hope until China), pp. 112-138.
This document describes the route and the places from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, to the Red Sea, western part of India, Ceylon, Burma, Sumatra, and Sulo. The other places towards China are already hearsay informations.
Upper Java (Java Mayor)
The interesting part of the record is about Upper Java (p. 134). Herewith is the unedited record, “…las avitadores de ella son onbres baxos y grosetes parados son gente may ricas e may enjeñosas ay grandes carpinteros de masoneria…”
I asked my friend, Prof. Luis Romanillos, a Spanish language professor at the University of the Philippines to make a translation. He is a former Augustinian Recollect priest who made researches in Spain for many years and obtained his Master’s Degree in history from the Gregorian University in Rome.
Here is his translation; “The inhabitants of it are men that are short, stout and sedentary. They are very rich and ingenious people. There are great carpenters and masons.”
I told Prof. Romanillos that if what he means by “masons” are stonemasons or workers of bricks and stones, I would disagree. The English word “mason” or worker in bricks and stones is “albañil” in Spanish.
I look up the entry of “masoneria” in the Velazquez Spanish and English Dictionary and in the most authoritative Spanish dictionary “Diccionario de la Lengua Española” by the “Real Academia Española” and these two dictionaries say that masoneria means Freemasonry.
Prof. Romanillos said, “Yes, stonemason is albañil in Spanish. However, I used masonry because that is the common meaning today.” This is where we differ; he translated for “today’s meaning” while I prefer the meaning when it was written in year 1520.
Since masoneria means Masonry or Freemasonry, I would translate “grandes carpinteros de masoneria” as “great Freemason carpenters”.
It should be noted that in the year 1475, the “Freemason carpenters” guild was already recognized and granted a charter in Edinburgh, Scotland. (“Cracking the Freemasons Code”, R.L.D. Cooper, 2006, p. 11).
Document No. 98 was written in 1520. The writer of the document would have been familiar with the “Freemason carpenter” because it was granted a charter 45 years previously. The writer was giving information that Freemasons, both operative and speculative, existed in Upper Java in what is now Indonesia.
It is not surprising that Europeans will be in Java in 1520. Bear in mind that Marco Polo (1254-1323), the Venetian traveller, was already in China during the time of Emperor Kublai Khan.
Fr. Combes said that the Bo-ol Kingdom or Dapitan Kingdom between Dauis and Tagbilaran was already a well known kingdom with many embassies sent to it. One day the ambassador of Ternate, Indonesia made advances to a minor wife of the King of Bo-ol. The nose and ears of the ambassador were cut and he was sent home to Ternate.
The King of Ternate vowed vengeance and sometime in 1563, the Ternateans with the help of some Portuguese, destroyed the Bo-ol Kingdom.
The island of Ternate in Indonesia is towards the north of Upper Java. If Freemason carpenters were present in Upper Java in 1520, and made the place rich, then there would be some in Ternate to help in construction works.
If Ternatean ambassadors and personnel were present in the Bo-ol Kingdom, then some Freemason carpenters were also present because they were the builders and repairers of ships, especially the ships of the Ternateans.
If Freemason carpenters were in the Bo-ol Kingdom, then you will not be surprised why Chief Sikatuna and Chief Sigala would learn the “secrets” of Freemasonry. They gave masonic challenges to the Legazpi expedition.
When the Magellan expedition arrived in Cebu, the local people were not ignorant. Magellan was told that a week previously the ambassador from Siam or Thailand had just left. A week prior to that, the ambassador from China also left Cebu.
The commercial, social, and cultural interaction among the people in the Fareast was already well developed. So if Humabon was told that he would be initiated or inducted into a kind of fraternity, he would readily agree if it would be to his advantage.
In the record of Antontio Pigafetta there is a statement about Rajah Colambu of Limasawa that indicated that a kind of Freemasonry was already present in the locality. In other words the locality was already a fertile ground for propagating any brand of Freemasonry.
(To be continued)