Sunday, October 1, 2017

HISTORY OF FRATERNITIES IN THE PHILIPPINES
By Louie Blake S. Sarmiento
Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Juris Doctor - III

Introduction
In all times and among all nations which have reached a sufficient level of cultural development, there have always been fraternal associations formed for higher purposes. The origin of fraternity, as a principle, is as old as humankind. Humans always have that natural desire to associate with each other for a common purpose – either for social, philosophical, political, religious, charitable, mutual-benefit, or business purposes. Fraternities or so-called brotherhoods existed since the early civilizations, first among sworn kinsmen, Roman collegias, Orders of Knighthood, craft guilds, and burial clubs. Although ordinary men did not yet have a recognized “right to association” during the days of monarchy, fraternity as an idea existed in so-called ‘secret societies’ or ‘secret brotherhoods’- where the working class, middle-class and even some aristocrats fraternized with each other and practiced early democracy.

England
The development of Fraternities, as a type of organization, can be traced from trade guilds which emerged in England. Trade guilds, also called as craft guilds, are an association of artisans or merchants who oversee the practice of their trade in a particular town. There were over a hundred trade guilds in London alone. The Fraternity of Butchers, for example, owned a meeting Hall as early as 975 and has charters dating 1605 and 1637. The Fraternity of Cooks owned the first cook’s shop in 1170, and, in 1438, there is a reference to the “Masters of the mysteries of Cooks, Pastelers and Piebakers”.

These guilds were sworn brotherhoods that had binding oaths to support one another in times of adversity and back one another in trade ventures alongside with their philosophical and ceremonial role. Meetings involved proper decorum and wearing of regalia such as chains of office, special robes and so on. They have elaborate initiation ceremonies in which apprentices who join go through a step-by-step “initiatory rites” intended to teach them the mysteries and secrets of the trade, moral principles, and to ascend them into hierarchy within the association – from apprentice, fellow craft and Master of the trade.

Traditionally, these guilds provided material and financial aid to their members in times of sickness, economic distress or in finding employment when out of work. When a member could not obtain work in his town, he can travel to the next town and ask assistance from fellow members. Noting that there were no telephones at that time and mode of communication was still very slow, the brotherhoods used secret handgrips, symbols and passwords as proof of membership so that a member could avail food or financial assistance from the same Guild located in the next town.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, however, the ‘Statute of Apprentices’ was passed which took the responsibility for apprenticeship away from the guilds. The nature and scope of work was also changing, thus, the role of the guilds eventually went into decline. This removed an important form of social and financial support among ordinary workers.

In major cities such as London, some Guilds survived by adapting their roles to a social support function focused on brotherhood, mutual-aid, charity and ethical living, now known as a Fraternal Order or Fraternity. By the early-1700, a number of such groups emerged in England. Some lodges of the Guild of Free Masons, for example, allegedly evolved to become the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The Guild of Free Gardeners evolved to become the Ancient Order of Free Gardeners. Several other fraternities with a guild-like name, such as the United Order of Cabinet Makers and the Ancient Order of Odd Fellows, also came into existence.

United States
By the late-1700 to early-1800, many of these fraternities were imported to America by English immigrants. These groups offered social and financial support at a time when governments barely provided social security and welfare services. By joining, members can be contributors or recipients of charity and could protect themselves and their families against illness, accident, injury or death. The network of fraternal lodges furnished proxy families that could help disabled and distressed members and, at the same time, also served as a social network for traveling members looking for a job in a new country. Initiation ceremonies, on the other hand, taught moral codes and principles which presented civic virtues and equality before the law. Later, the concept of fraternity was established in colleges. The first among these are the Flat Hat Club (1750) and P.D.A. Society (1773) focused on literary and scholarship. The oldest Greek-named fraternity is Phi Beta Kappa founded in 1776.

The Age of Enlightenment was a time when religious fanaticism and violent executions by the church and power abuse by the ruling class were beginning to be publicly criticized by intellectuals. A new way of thinking based on reason over superstition emerged. New ideas such as democracy which supported working men’s freedom and rights to vote, fair wages, fair education and religious tolerance were beginning to reach the minds of common people. The idea “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” was born. The French Revolution and American Revolution resulted to the birth of today’s democratic societies which further allowed the fraternities to flourish under the protection of the constitutional ‘right to association’.

By the mid-1800, fraternities flourished in North America. Along with European and American colonization of Asia and the Pacific, lodges or chapters of these fraternities were eventually established in different parts of the continent.

Philippines
In the Philippines, Spaniards and other colonizers from Europe established fraternities in the Islands as early as the 1850's but these groups did not yet accept the natives. Primera Luz Filipina, a clandestine Masonic Lodge under the Grand Oriente Luisitano or Continental Freemasonry, was established in the Islands in 1856 which admitted only Spaniards. Being mere ‘subjects of Spain’ and not treated as equals, the native Filipinos did not yet enjoy the right to association and the concept of fraternities’ was still foreign idea.

But in the book, History and Geography of the Philippine Islands (1908), author O.W. Coursey stated that: “The awakening of the Filipinos to a deep sense of injustice being practiced upon them by the colonizers was the introduction of 'fraternal' societies in the Islands, and to the influence of higher education obtained by those of means to schools of Hong-Kong and other old-world countries”. This is perhaps the propagation of the ideals of democracy, equality, and fraternity (freedom of association) freely shared and taught by these fraternities in their degrees of initiation.

The book further mentioned that the “Society of Odd Fellows” spread to the Philippine islands in 1872, and was largely responsible for the petty insurrection of the following year. The Anglo-Saxon Freemasonry or Regular Freemasons followed in 1877. Most of the early members of these groups were American Military men and their allies who eventually helped fought the Spanish-American war. These fraternities established lodges or chapters in the country and held their meetings in naval and military base camps in Manila. Wealthy Filipinos who had the opportunity to study abroad, on the other hand, were accepted as members in Europe under the promise that they will remain loyal to the Spanish crown. And when they returned to the Islands, they also formed fraternal lodges beginning 1891.

The first documented brotherhood or fraternity originally founded by Filipinos is the Katipunan, short for ‘Kataastaasang Kagalangalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan’ (Supreme and Venerable Society of the Sons of the People), founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila in 1892 with the primary aim of gaining independence from Spain through revolution. After the Spanish authorities learned of their existence in 1896, Bonifacio and his men tore up their c├ędulas and started the Philippine Revolution.

In 1899, the ties between Filipino and Americans was disrupted and the Filipino-American war emerged so the development and progress of fraternities in the country was disrupted. When the war ended in 1902, the Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and Elks officially established lodges or chapters in the country.

Later, the concept of college fraternities began to form when American Education (University system) was introduced in the colony. State Universities were the first to enjoy “College Fraternity Life”, particularly in the University of the Philippines (UP), when the first College Fraternity, Rizal Center, a brotherhood of Jose Rizal followers who viewed the hero in iconic fashion was founded (This fraternity is already defunct). The first Filipino Greek Letter Fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, was founded in 1918 and is considered as the oldest in Asia and continues to exist up until today but membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman and UP Los Banos students. The oldest sorority in the Philippines is the UP Sigma Beta Sorority founded on February 14, 1932. Membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman, UP Los Banos, UP Iloilo and UP Davao students.

The progress of fraternities was again interrupted when Japan colonized the Philippines in 1941. When the Filipino-American-Japanese war ended in 1944, Philippine fraternities started to rise again and many Filipinos started setting up their own brand of fraternities and sororities.

The peak of fraternalism in the Philippines was probably in the 1950's to 1990's when many foreign and local fraternities where founded. Several American fraternities were also imported into the country, such as the Order of DeMolay in 1946 and the Alpha Phi Omega in 1950. Some locally founded fraternities also tried to make allies with fraternities in the United States. In 1984, the Alpha Sigma Phi of the Philippines was able to establish fraternal ties with the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity of the United States of America, although this relationship was eventually annulled in 2013. The rest is history….

SUGGESTED READINGS:
  1. Melling, J.K. (2003). Discovering London's Guilds and Liveries. UK: Shire Publications.
  2. Smith, T. (1870). English Gilds. London: Early English Text Society
  3. Dennis, V. (2005). Discovering Friendly and Fraternal Societies: Their badges and Regalia. UK: Shire Book publications
  4. O.W. Coursey (1908). History and Geography of the Philippine Islands.
  5. Fajardo, R. (1998). The Brethren: Masons in the Struggle for Philippine Independence. Manila: E.L. Locsin and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.
  6. Odd Fellows Sovereign Grand Lodge (1897-1940). Journal of Proceedings of the I.O.O.F. USA: Sovereign Grand Lodge, I.O.O.F.


ABOUT THE RESEARCHER

The researcher finished his Associate in Health Science Education in 2007; Bachelor of Science in Psychology with Certificate in Human Resource Management and Certificate in Women’s Studies in 2010; and Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2013 at Silliman University. He is currently studying Law (Juris Doctor) at the University of San Carlos in Cebu, Philippines.
He has presented research studies in several regional, national and international research conferences. The first was entitled, “Relationship between Hypermasculity and Hazing Attitudes among Fraternity Members” in 2009. His latest research work was entitled, “Generational Differences in Work Values across Generations”, presented at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii in Hawaii, U.S.A., on February 2014. He spent three years in the United States researching about fraternities and fraternal orders in connection to his up-coming book about the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

WHAT DOES THE ODD FELLOWS OFFER THAT IS SOMETHING UNIQUE AND CURRENT?

By Louie Blake S. Sarmiento, PG

1. A LARGE WORLDWIDE FAMILY WHO DO A LOT OF GOOD THINGS
- Currently, there are approximately 10,000 Lodges (Chapters) and nearly 600,000 living members located in approximately 30 countries.

- We all see each other as brothers and sisters free from any pretentiousness, all members are of one global family – an assurance of a warm welcome in distant countries.

- Even if members just met each other for the first time, there is already this sense of familial-bond, connectedness and trust.

- The Odd Fellows provide a WORLDWIDE social network of people, whom will treat you like real brothers and sisters, that extends all over the world, not just locally or nationally.

- If traveling is an interest, membership can provide a valuable and trustworthy network of international friends that will very much welcome an international visitor, and assist in their enterprises, and certainly their travels wherever possible.

- Internationally, the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs undertake various charitable projects:
 a. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs spend over US$775 million in international relief projects annually.
b. The Educational Foundation provides scholarships and substantial loans and grants to students
c. Odd Fellow and Rebekah Homes provide a caring environment for the elderly
d. Odd Fellow and Rebekah camps and parks provide recreation for the youth and for families
e. I.O.O.F Living Legacy Program focuses on planting trees and enhancing the environment
f. Annual donations to The Arthritis Foundation and many more.
g. I.O.O.F Visual Research Foundation supports vision care and research through the Wilmer Eye Institute
h. United Nations Pilgrimage for Youth sponsors a group of students for an educational trip to the United Nations.
i. Annual sponsorship of a float in the Rose Parade (Pasadena, California).
j. Annual pilgrimages to the "Tomb of the Unknowns" (Arlington National Cemetery, USA), and other Tombs of the Unknown Soldier (Cuba, Canada, etc.)
k. Sponsors SOS Children’s Village provides a caring home for orphaned children in 132 countries around the world.
i. Grand Lodges and Local Lodges all over the world organize various community projects and donate to numerous charities and foundations every year.

2. A LONG HISTORICAL LEGACY

- Undoubtedly, the Odd Fellows is ONE of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the world tracing its history way back over 250 years ago. Our branch, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, is 193 years old as of 2012.

- The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is also the first fraternal organization to accept women when it adopted the Rebekah Degree on September 20, 1851.

- In many cities, Odd Fellows were the first organizations of any type and a large number of their lodges have completed their first 100 years of service.

- Although, we do not aim to attract “named” members, the organization has had notable names in its members register which includes U.S. Presidents, Senators, Statesmen, Prime Ministers, etc.

3. A NON-POLITICAL AND NON-SECTARIAN ORGANIZATION
- We all know that the differences in people's political and religious beliefs are two of the reasons that has created conflicts and wars for thousands of years.

- For over 250 years, the Odd Fellows served a “venue for neutrality” which is a rare commodity in the community and many organizations of today.

- Within our meetings and gatherings, we have all promised to be neutral in things which divides the world.

4. UNIQUE BUILDING AND FANTASTIC FACILITIES



- Many Odd Fellow Buildings located in various towns and cities around the world not only serve as meeting place of Odd Fellows and Rebekahs but also as venue for various community events and activities and also as commercial spaces upon which the income is used in providing scholarships and sponsorship's.


- Many of these buildings are also registered as historical landmarks in several towns and cities in U.S.A, etc.



5. A FRIENDLY AND DOWN-TO-EARTH ATMOSPHERE

- Most Odd Fellow and Rebekah members are modest, friendly, warm and approachable and do not focus on 'status quo'.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Louie Blake S. Sarmiento: CONCEPT OF A REAL MAN...

CONCEPT OF A REAL MAN
By Louie Blake S. Sarmiento
MA Organizational Psychology I


A man bases his thoughts and actions on healthy philosophical principles. He believes that life is a commitment to improve and elevate the character of humanity through service and example. He is humble in a way that he never boasts about himself. He knows and accepts his strengths and weaknesses and keeps away from badmouthing people and making unreasonable allegations. He understands that certain things in life are unavoidable. He is aware of the vanity of earthly things, the frailty and inevitable decay of human life and the fact that wealth has no power to stop the sureness of eventual death. He then asks the question, “How am I going to spend my life?”

He is an advocate of friendship and never looks at people with prejudiced eyes nor bases his judgment on outward appearances. He supports the idea that all people, irrespective of race, creed, nationality, color, social status, sex, rank and station are equal. He does not take an undue advantage of his power or the weaknesses of those around him. He is gentle in behavior and never inflicts pain. He avoids impurity in thoughts and unchaste conduct. He also knows that he should respect himself by following temperance in his desires, fighting vices of every form, chastity of person and purity in heart and mind.

He is an enactor of love in a way that he feels jointly responsible for his fellowmen and prepared to give attention and help wherever and whenever help is needed. He is a person who treats others, especially women and children, with dignity and respect. He accepts the fact that nothing is perfect but believes that he has an obligation to contribute in making the world a better place to live.

He adheres to equality, justice and righteousness and a pursuer of truth. He sees searching for truth as searching for clarity in the sense of his life. Every time a small piece of truth is found, he will try to use it only in ways where he will be able to be true to himself and his fellowmen. Oftentimes, he thinks before he acts and speaks. He knows that, as a human being, it is a fact that he can think. He gives account to himself and knows that before he starts doing something, he can make the choice what to do and can think it over and consider whether the choice was the right one. He believes that making good and well-considered choices is called "behaving in a responsible way".

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Fraternities started in the Philippines?

An Unbiased Historical Account

By Louie Blake S. Sarmiento, Organizational Psychology

(Note: Writings are based on an educational research and does not aim to disrespect anyone or serve as official stand of the writer or his affiliations. This study is based on liberal and modern approaches in research.)


In all times and among all nations which have reached a sufficient level of cultural development, there have always been fraternal associations formed for higher purposes. The development of Fraternities can be traced from trade unions or guilds that emerged in England. These guilds were set up to protect and care for their members at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions or National Health Service. Various secret signs and handshakes were created to serve as proof of their membership allowing them to visit guilds in distant places that are associated with the guild they belong.


However, many of these Guilds were suppressed in the 16th Century. In major cities such as in London, some Guilds survived by adapting their roles to a social support function. Some of these groups evolved in the 1700’s into more philosophical organizations focused on brotherly love, charity and ethical living now known as a Fraternal Order or simply, a‘Fraternity’.


By the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, many of these Fraternal Order’s were transported to America by English immigrants. At that time, these groups served important social, philosophical and insurance purposes. Later, the concept of brotherhood was established in colleges. The first among these are the Flat Hat Club (1750) and P.D.A. Society (1773) focused on literary and scholarship. The oldest Greek-named fraternity is Phi Beta Kappa founded on December 5, 1776 but this fraternity do not have any chapter in the Philippines and also converted into an honor society rather than a social fraternity. By the mid-1800's, fraternal organizations flourished in America and established lodges (chapters) in different parts of the world.


In the Philippines, Spaniards and other colonizers established several Philosophical and Fraternal Societies in our country as early as 1850's but these chapters only admitted Spaniards or their own race and did not welcome the natives (Filipinos). According to the book, History and Geography of the Philippine Islands, fraternities played an important part in letting the Filipinos realize the injustice practiced upon them by the colonizers. The book mentioned that the Fraternity of Odd Fellows spread in the Philippines in 1872. The Freemason fraternity followed in 1877 brought by the Americans. The lodges (chapters) are also established mostly by military men assigned in Manila. Most members were basically American Military men and their allies who helped fought the Spanish-American war. The fraternity established their lodges (chapters) and held their meetings in naval and military base camps.


The first brotherhood to be founded by Filipinos is the Katipunan, short for Kataastaasang Kagalangalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Venerable Society of the Sons of the People), which was founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila in 1892. The primary aim of the fraternity was to gain independence from Spain through revolution. As many of us know, the brotherhood already disbanded.

In 1899, the ties between Filipino and Americans was disrupted and the Filipino-American war emerged. When this war ended in 1902, fraternities started to rise again. Odd Fellows, Freemasons and even the Elks established lodges in Manila area.

Later, college fraternities began to form especially when American Education (philosophy) reached our shores. State Universities were the first to enjoy Fraternity Life, particularly in the University of the Philippines, when the first College Fraternity Rizal Center, a brotherhood of Jose Rizal followers and who viewed the hero in iconic fashion, was founded (This fraternity is already defunct). The first Filipino Greek Letter Fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, was founded in 1918. This fraternity is now considered the oldest in Asia and continues to exist up until today but membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman and UP Los Banos students. The oldest sorority in the Philippines is the UP Sigma Beta Sorority founded on February 14, 1932. Membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman, UP Los Banos, UP Iloilo and UP Davao students.

The progress of fraternities was again interrupted when Japan occupied the Philippines in 1941. When the Filipino-American-Japanese war ended in 1944, Philippine fraternities started to rise up again and many Filipinos started setting up their own fraternities and sororities.

The peak of fraternalism in the Philippines was probably in the 1950's to 1990's when many fraternities where founded. Several American fraternities were also imported to the country such as the Alpha Phi Omega. Also, some locally founded fraternities made allies with some fraternities in the United States. Afterwards, the rest is history...


Sources:


Coursey, O.W.(1908). History and Geography of the Philippine Islands.


UP Sigma Beta Sorority: http://upsigmabeta.com


Upsilon Sigma Phi: http://www.upsilon.com




Philippine Fraternity Websites


Books on Fraternalism

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Louie Blake Sarmiento is NOT a Liar! Separate fact from fiction!

ODD FELLOWS AND FREEMASONS:
A modern insight about the claims against Odd Fellowship
by Louie Blake S. Sarmiento

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
- Maya Angelou


In my efforts to educate people about the Odd Fellows almost a year ago, I have met some degrees of opposition by some people. I have been called a liar because I do not agree with their claims that the ‘Odd Fellows is a copy of Freemasonry’, ‘a brotherhood for Poor men’, ‘a dead fraternity’ and that ‘joining Odd Fellows is very easy’. Almost a year ago, about 3 members in a forum misinformed other people regarding our fraternity. I am not an expert on Odd Fellowship, but as a member, I have tried my best to explain to avoid other people from following unsubstantial claims about our Fraternal Order. Take note that I am not against Freemasonry but, as a member of the Odd Fellows, it is my right to properly inform the misinformed. There have been many accusations and even reached to a point that they tried to destroy my reputation to discredit my character. Here is my stand:

1. Odd Fellows is not a copy of Freemasonry

Odd Fellows and Freemasons may have some similarities but there are huge differences. There is no single author who has given enough evidence to prove that Odd Fellowship is a copy of Freemasonry. Everything is theory and speculation and until now, the so called 'evidences' seem to lack weight and has been called into question by several authors. Even well-known radical writer, journalist and Freemason member Dr. Bob James stated:

“Moffrey (1910), among many others has claimed that the Odd Fellows' were 'founded in imitation of Freemasonry. There is no evidence for this claim, which I address further below.”


It seems to me that any borrowing at all is unlikely, but that, if it occurred, it would be of what Freemasonry had given up of pre-1717 custom, not what Freemasonry 'created.' We will see that Freemason rites themselves were far from stable or uniform across the United Kingdom until well into the 19th century, making even the idea of borrowing very problematic.”


Let us take note that even if Freemasonry was first formally established in 1717 as the Grand Lodge of England, it was only in 1813 when the 2 factions, Antients and Moderns, formed the current United Grand Lodge of England which made the Grand Lodge of England of the 1717 defunct. Just like Freemasonry, Odd Fellowship also undergone several factions such as Patriotic's and Ancient's which formed a partial amalgamation as the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in 1789. However, Odd Fellowship undergone another faction when the Manchester Unity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows voted their own Grand Lodge officers in 1814. This shows that both fraternal organizations were struggling in the late 1700's and it was only in the 1800's when they finally became stable organizations.


As it happens, apart from that single phrase and what I've already described as basic 'lodge' essentials, what we have for Odd Fellows’ ritual does not resemble known Stonemason's ritual.”


“The 'Most Noble Grand' here is very curious, as it is not a 'modern' Freemason title, but 'Noble Grand' is used by Odd Fellows. Freemason authors assert it derives from the Bucks. Dermott is not necessarily any more objective than anyone else here presupposing that the Freemasonry was the first with the terms 'lodge' and 'Grand Master'. He seems to have been very early in the queue of authors assuming that any society using the same or similar words to that Freemasonry used must be copying Freemasonry.”


“Spry, a key 19th century example, thought it obvious because of common symbolism and the use of an oath and a degree structure. Such claims reflect the ignorance engendered by the lack of research. It should not be necessary to point out that Freemasonry was, and is, in exactly the same position as those other societies - after nearly 300 years it cannot yet explain from where it 'borrowed' its rites, symbols, etc, or when it did so.

Even the use of apron as regalia by other fraternal or friendly societies such as Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows, Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, United Order of Mechanics, Ancient Order of Free Gardeners and several others, are not a proof that they are copies or imitators of the Order of Freemasons because the use of apron is actually also a practice borrowed by Freemasonry possibly from trade guilds and worker’s unions. To use similarities in symbols, regalia and terminology as proof that one is an imitation is like saying "Japanese and Chinese people have similar features, therefore Japanese are Chinese." But in fact, they are two different nationalities.


2. They call Odd Fellows a brotherhood for Poor men

This accusation is an obvious evidence of what we call ‘elitist mentality’ and ‘social discrimination’ by other members of other fraternities. As for Odd Fellow members and maybe even in other fraternal organizations, it is a teaching that wealth should not be the basis for brotherhood. Odd Fellowship does not aim to ‘rub shoulders’ with the rich and famous for satisfaction. Admittedly, Odd Fellows have members belonging to the lower class simply because Odd Fellowship, like many other healthy groups, does not have room for social discrimination and elitism. It aims to cater all people regardless of social status or personal appearance. This connotes that membership in Odd Fellows is really diverse. However, it should not be denied that there are also members who belong to the upper class of the society. In fact, there were several hundreds of men and women of prominence who became members of the Odd Fellows. Approximately five U.S. Presidents were members of the Odd Fellows same as several Prime Ministers and Mayors in United Kingdom. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the first female American dentist, was also a member of the Rebekahs.

3. They call Odd Fellows a dead fraternity

It is admitted that Odd Fellows suffered a membership decline during the 20th Century because of social changes such as technological advancement. Let us take note that this decline is not just experienced by the Odd Fellows but by all fraternal organizations in general, even the Freemasons, Knights of Pythias and Elks encountered membership problems especially in the United States due to several factors, e.g. technological advancement. There may be a number of Odd Fellow lodges with very few members or some lodges that closed down but this should not be the basis to label the ‘Odd Fellows as a dead fraternity’. This is because there are also lodges that are still growing and there are actually Odd Fellow jurisdictions with a lot of members. Proof that Odd Fellows is still a living fraternity would be that of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Europe and Cuba. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Sweden alone has some 40,000 members. In Finland for example, some lodges have more than a hundred members that they decided to breakdown their lodge into smaller lodges by creating more than than one lodge in one City.

In some cities, even in the United States, some lodges even hold larger membership than the Freemasons and other Fraternal Orders. In fact, One Odd Fellow lodge in Finland even sold their smaller lodge hall to the Freemasons to purchase a much larger building because their Odd Fellows membership are more numerous in that City.

While the exact number of members is not certain because not one jurisdiction holds the statistics, the claim that the Odd Fellows only have a quarter of a million (250,000) members was actually exclusive to those jurisdictions under the United States. Take note that Odd Fellows in United Kingdom is not counted there and possibly, the quasi-independent jurisdictions of the I.O.O.F such as those in Europe, Cuba and several other Odd Fellows Orders were not included. In 1994, the total membership in the I.O.O.F was said to be about 400,000. But according to newer sources which I just found out, the current membership of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is nearly 600,000 members in more than 26 countries. This is an enough proof that the Odd Fellows is not a dead fraternity but still alive. Not the same as in the past during the 'Golden Age of Fraternalism' but still trying to survive like any other fraternal organization. Also, a number of lodges are now being revived while some are exerting effort to increase their membership.

4. They said joining Odd Fellows is very easy

In their efforts to discredit Odd Fellows as an Honorable fraternity, they call it as an organization that is ‘very easy to join’. This may be true in lodges that are in the state of ‘reviving their membership’ or ‘starting up a lodge’. And this may be true since many Odd Fellows do not agree with the 'violent' and ‘snobbish’ procedure of admitting someone to membership. Because Odd Fellows are promoters of friendship, love and truth, it has been the practice of many Odd Fellows to be ‘approachable’ and ‘friendly’ to its applicants, pledges and to non-members as they are to their brothers and sisters. Odd Fellows follow the Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

In reviving areas and new jurisdictions, it is true and possible that one can receive more than one degree or even all three or four degrees in one day. However, this should not be used to generalize that joining Odd Fellows is easy as the procedure vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The truth is there are actually several jurisdictions that would at least take one year or more to finish all three degrees such as those in Cuba. In a number of lodges especially in Europe, some members there actually informed me that an applicant for membership in an Odd Fellow lodge will need about 3 years to reach the third degree. In addition to the lodge, a third degree member will wait several years, some even up to 10 years, so they can receive the Encampment degrees - a higher branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows which offers three more additional degrees. But as said, the length and procedure of joining varies depending on the jurisdiction.

Also, it should be noted that the Odd Fellows is not a competition of the Freemasons nor any other fraternal organizations since Odd Fellows do not aim for 'supremacy'. Odd Fellowship believes that all people are brothers and sisters. The two are totally unrelated and independent fraternal organizations with different traditions, purpose and principles. Historically, the two fraternities have good relationships with each other. In fact, it was not uncommon to find men who were members of both, and also not uncommon for the two to split the rent or share a single building such as the I.O.O.F, J.R. Scruggs Lodge 372 in Orangeville, Illinois, United States. There are also Freemason lodges that meet in Odd Fellows Halls and Odd Fellow lodges that meet in Masonic Temples.

This hopefully educates the misinformed that Odd Fellows is not a copy nor a part of Freemasonry rather it is a different organization with different traditions, purpose and goals.

“Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.” - Thomas Jefferson

(Note: Writings are based on an educational research and does not aim to disrespect anyone or serve as official stand of the writer or his affiliations. This study is based on liberal and modern approach in research.)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Louie Blake Sarmiento: Condemning Fraternity Hazing & Discrimination

What happens if you fight against a practice that has been there for generations? What happens when people are unaware of the inequality and discrimination within the system? Will it be you against the world?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who is an Odd Fellow?


An Odd Fellow bases his thoughts and actions on healthy philosophical principles. He believes that life is a commitment to improve and elevate the character of humanity through service and example. He is humble in a way that he never boasts about himself. He knows and accepts his strengths and weaknesses and keeps away from badmouthing people and making unreasonable allegations. He understands that certain things in life are unavoidable. He is aware of the vanity of earthly things, the frailty and inevitable decay of human life and the fact that wealth has no power to stop the sureness of eventual death. He then asks the question, “How am I going to spend my life?”

An Odd Fellow is an advocate of FRIENDSHIP and never looks at people with prejudiced eyes or bases his judgment on outward appearances. He supports the idea that all people, irrespective of creed, race, color, nationality, social status, sex, rank and station are brothers and sisters. He does not take an undue advantage of his power or the weaknesses of those around him. He is gentle in behavior and never inflicts pain. He avoids impurity in thoughts and unchaste conduct. He also knows that he should respect himself by following temperance in his desires and fighting against vice of every form, chastity of person, and purity in heart and mind.

An Odd Fellow is an enactor of LOVE in a way that he feels jointly responsible for his fellowmen and prepared to give attention and help wherever and whenever help is needed. He is a person who treats others, especially women, with dignity and respect. . He knows the application of sympathy, sincerity, unselfishness, and generosity. He accepts the fact that nothing is perfect but believes that he has an obligation to contribute in making the world a better place to live.

An Odd Fellow adheres to equality, justice and righteousness and a pursuer of TRUTH. He sees searching for truth as searching for clarity in the sense of his life. Every time a small piece of truth is found, he will try to use it only in ways where he will be able to be true to himself and his fellowmen. Oftentimes, he thinks before he acts and speaks. He knows that, as a human being, it is a fact that he can think. He gives account to himself and knows that before he starts doing something, he can make the choice what to do and can think it over and consider whether the choice was the right one. He believes that making good and well-considered choices is called "behaving in a responsible way".

www.ioof.org