MW Conrado Benitez

MW Conrado Benitez

MW Conrado Benitez

Grand Master
Masonic Year 1936

One of the seven wise men

Conrado Benitez, the great statesman, eminent educator, constitutionalist,  journalist, historian, civic leader  and outstanding  mason was the twenty-third Grand Master of  the Grand Lodge  of the Philippines and  the  second  Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council of the Philippines.

The Mason

He worked in the quarries of Masonry for more than half a  century.  He was only 25 years of age when he was  raised to  the sublime degree of Master Mason in Bagumbayan  Lodge No. 4 on the eleventh of November, 1914 – the Lodge’s  first candidate.  Due to his proficiency and active participation in  Lodge  affairs, he was elected Junior Warden  that  same year;  Senior Warden in 1917 and Worshipful Master in  1918. In  1936, he was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.   His contemporaries at that time were  some of the great names in Masonry – Jose Abad Santos, Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, Manuel L. Quezon, Francisco A. Delgado, Frederic H. Stevens, Teodoro M. Kalaw, Manuel Camus and scores of others.

In  1916 he joined the Philippine Bodies.  By  1919  he was  a  Master  of the Royal Secret.  In  1937,  the  Mother Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, USA, honored him  with his investiture as Knight Commander of the Court of  Honor. Twelve years later he joined others in organizing the Luzon Bodies and was elected as the first Venerable Master of  its Harmony  Lodge of Perfection.  That same  year  (1949)  the Mother Supreme Council invested him with the rank and dignity  of Inspector General Honorary, 33°.  When  the  Supreme Council  of  the Republic of the Philippines was  formed  in 1950, he was one of those created a Sovereign Grand  Inspector General and Active Member, serving as the  first  Grand Treasurer  General of the Supreme Council.  He  later  also served as Grand Chancellor and then as Ven. Grand Prior.   In 1961 Sovereign Grand Commander Frederic H. Stevens  resigned his position because of failing health. At the  session of  the  Supreme  Council held that year  Benitez  was  duly elected  as  the  second Sovereign Grand  Commander  of  the Philippine Supreme Council.

Benitez  was  also an Honorary Member  of  one  foreign Supreme Council and the Grand Representative of four others. Aside  from  these he was a Shriner and a  member  of  Lodge Perla del Oriente No. 1054, Scottish Constitution.

The Statesman

The Masonic education, tenets and ideals of service  of Benitez  fitted  well in his role as one  of  the  country’s leading  statesmen.  Up to his late years, Dean Benitez,  as he was fondly called by all, was actively involved in  civic affairs and in his principal lifelong obsession – the promotion of higher education.

Born  on  November  26, 1889 in  Pagsanjan,  Laguna  he studied at the Philippine Normal School and graduated  valedictorian.   In 1911 he was sent to the United States  as  a government pensionado  and enrolled at  the  University  of Chicago  where he acquired his M.A, and his Ph. D. Back  in the  Philippines  he studied law at the  University  of  the Philippines.

He  started his public career as a teacher  of  history and  economics at the Philippine Normal College.  Later,  he founded  the College of Business Administration of the  University  of the Philippines, and became its first Dean.    He was  also  one of the founding trustees  of  the Philippine Women’s University, the first university for women in  Asia.

He  was,  too,  the moving spirit  behind  the  world-famous Bayanihan  Folk Arts Center, which gave identity to  Philippine  culture and brought from abroad honor and prestige  to the nation.

Dean Benitez was chairman and co-founder of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and trustee of the International  Institute  of Rural Reconstruction  (IIRR)  - both of which were dedicated to the upliftment of the masses of our people who lived in the rural areas.

In  the  1920′s there were no  Filipino  newspapers  in English;  all the English papers were owned and  edited  by Americans.  In those difficult years, therefore, the Filipinos  saw the imperative need of publishing a Filipino  paper in  English, owned, edited and managed by Filipinos.   Thus the  Philippines Herald was founded, and Benitez was  chosen as its first editor.  The editorials of the Herald,  nationalistic  in tone and purpose, effectively gave the  Filipino side and  they were so well written, with a  restraint  and sobriety that are the hallmarks of good writing, that  they commanded  the  attention and respect  of  nationalists  and foreigners  alike.   The Philippine independence movement  at last  had its voice in the language of the colonial master.  It  was a voice without venom which  eloquently  articulated the  Filipino aspirations addressed to the sovereign  power; it  was a voice that when the occasion demanded could  sound like  a thousand trumpets to compel respectful hearing  from even as far as Washington, D.C.

In  1934 Dean Benitez was elected as a delegate to  the Constitutional Assembly and became a member of the committee of  “Seven  Wise Men” charged with the task of  framing  the draft of the proposed Charter.  In 1937, US President Franklin  D. Roosevelt made him member of the  Filipino-American joint committee charged with formulating economic plans  in preparation for the country’s independence.  In 1938, he was appointed assistant executive secretary to the President  of the Philippine Commonwealth.

A firm believer in the potentialities of the youth,  he co-founded the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA),  of which he served as President and chairman of the Board  from 1949  up to  the time of his demise.  He had  also  been  a staunch advocate  of “free primary  instruction  in public schools  and of citizenship training to adult citizens”  and fought to have them enshrined in the Constitution as nation­al policies.

Dean  Benitez  received quite a number  of  awards  and medals for his outstanding public service, among which  were the President Award of Merit for Community Service in  1956; the Distinguished  Alumnus  Award from  the University  of Chicago  in 1957; the Diploma of Merit for faithful  service to  higher education from the University of the  Philippines in 1962; the “Man of the Golden Year” award from the Philippine  Women’s University in 1968; and the  Pro-Patria Award conferred on him by President Marcos in 1969 in  recognition of  his distinguished achievements in the fields  of  education, economics, and social reform.

HIS PASSING

On  January  4, 1971 Dean Benitez dropped  his  working tools.   His passing left a deep void that is hard to  fill, but  he left a rich heritage of shinning examples in public service worthy of the emulation of present day  Masonic leaders. Thus the Balustre issued by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite announcing his death said -

Our Supreme Council has been very  fortunate and  proud to have had him as our Sovereign Grand Commander for a decade; and the Masonic fraternity has  been more than fortunate to have counted  him as one of its leading members and staunch support­ers  for over half a century. He shared his  time and strength with his Brethren in accordance  with the high ideals and character-building  philosophy of Freemasonry, and left us with a record of good deeds  which  will forever be a  living  voice  to remind us of his greatness.

 

Share