Brief Chronology of the Theosophical Society
The first lodge in the
Philippines was chartered in
1892 in Manila. It was
named the Manila Theosophical
Society in Escolta with B. C.
Bridger as Secretary. By 1903,
however, the lodge was no longer
listed in the annual report of
Adyar, presumably because it had
ceased to function. In 1911, an
organization called Oriental
Theosophical Society was
formed, but which did not have
any connection with the
||Ismael Zapata, first national
President of the TS in the
On 19 May 1925, the Manila Lodge was established with
Devereux M. Myers, a Lieutenant of the U.S. Air Corps, as the
first President of the Lodge. The lodge was under the
Theosophical Society in America, since the Philippines was a
colony of the United States at that time. Six other lodges were
formed: Cebu (president, Jose Ma. Espina); Lotus (president,
Manuel Pecson); Jose Rizal (president, Rosendo Reinoso);
Soliman (president, Domingo Argente); Muñoz (president,
Domingo Enrile); and Filipinas (president, Mariano Sayo).
In 1933 the seven lodges, with a total membership of 112,
were granted a charter that made the Philippine Section
autonomous of the American Section. Its first National President
was Ismael Zapata of the Manila Lodge with Mrs. Micaela S. Brilla
of Lotus Lodge as Vice President. On the same year, Geoffrey
Hodson gave a series of lectures in the Philippines.
In the next two years,
the Section underwent
reorganization. A magazine
called The Lotus was
launched. In 1937, when Jose
M. Espina was the National
President, a Theosophical
Institute was established
with Benito F. Reyes as the
||Domingo Argente, who served three
non-consecutive terms as national President
During the Second
World War, the Society
suspended meetings and
activities. In 1946, Domingo
Argente, who was then the
President, reported that several
members were tortured and
executed by the Japanese
occupation force. The first
post-war convention was held in
Manila on 24 February 1946 with
eight reorganized lodges, plus one
new lodge, for a total of 161
members. In 1947, a piece of land
was donated by Mr. and Mrs.
Roberto Martinez in Quezon City
where a two-story building was
constructed using funds borrowed from a bank.
|The 1948 national convention of the TS in the Philippines. The building was a quonset hut on a property donated by Mr. & Mrs. Roberto
Martinez in 1947.
This is still the site of the National Headquarters to
The work of the Philippine Theosophical Institute was
continued, and at the same time an elementary school was built
with 100 students from Grade one to Grade six. The Institute
gave weekly classes that were open to the public. The youth
movement was active and published the Philippine Theosophical
Youth Digest in mimeographed format. Theosophical teachings
were translated into Pilipino and printed in pamphlets.
By 1950, there were 12 lodges with 289 members. Sidney A.
Cook, International Vice President of the TS, with his wife, Ellen, visited the Philippines.
|A TS group photo in 1948
Jose B. Acuña
of Costa Rica was the guest lecturer the
following year, when Olimpio
Cabellon became the Section
President. In 1952, Benito Reyes
became National President. National
lecturers were appointed to visit the
lodges. A Symposium on Religion was
held for 12 Sundays where
representatives from different religions
In 1957, Domingo Argente assumed again the Presidency of
the Section, followed by Jose Zulueta in the following year. From
1959 to 1970, Argente again assumed the Presidency.
|A group photo in the 1960s. At the center of the second row is Mr.
Domingo Argente, then President.
||Dr. Benito Reyes,
President from 1952-1957
In 1959, Rukmini Devi Arundale visited the
Philippines upon invitation of the
Section. She presented ancient
Indian dances which attracted the
attention of the Press. The then
International President, N. Sri
Ram, made a four-day visit in 1961.
He met with Carlos P. Garcia, who
was then the President of the
Philippines, and who was a
member of the Theosophical
Society in the Philippines. The
Section had an active Theosophical
Order of Service (TOS). One of its
projects was “Friendship
Incorporated,” headed by Cleo Z.
Gregorio, which actively worked for the rehabilitation of former
In 1964, several prominent lecturers came to the Philippines.
The first was John B.S. Coats, the then President of the
Federation of Theosophical Societies in Europe. Geoffrey
Hodson also visited for one month, and later Bishop Sten von
Krusenstierna of the Liberal Catholic Church. Edith Gray of the
Theosophical Book Gift Institute also visited and donated
substantial theosophical books to public and university libraries.
||Francisco “Bing” Escudero,
served for a short period in
1969 before he migrated to the
||Cleo Z. Gregorio, President from
1970 to 1984
Cleo Z. Gregorio became the President in 1970 and she
began to undertake an active public program to popularize
theosophy in the country. A significant milestone was the holding
of the School of the Wisdom in the Philippines by Geoffrey
Hodson in 1971, which drew many members into the Society, and
attracted wide attention.
Later in the year, John Coats was the
guest of the national convention, and he came back in May 1972.
A free correspondence course on Theosophy was started and
even announced in the newspapers. Geoffrey Hodson and his
wife returned again in 1974 for another month’s lecture. His
several visits had been a significant factor in deepening the
commitment of many members to the theosophical cause. In the
same year, the Section published its first book, Self-Discovery
Through Meditation, commemorating the section’s 40th year.
During these years, the section’s book distribution and library
programs grew through the initiative of Tony Francisco.
On 2 September 1978, the three-story national headquarters
building was destroyed by fire. Funds
had to be raised to reconstruct the
headquarters. The call for support was
received well by other Sections of the
Society. A temporary structure was set
up, which later gave way to a permanent
two-story building. Theosophical work
was boosted by the visit of Joy Mills in
1980. She gave public lectures and a
seminar for members. In 1983, the
Section hosted the Indo-Pacific
Conference of the Theosophical Society
with over 150 participants from nine
countries, with Joy Mills as the principal
||Mr. Geoffrey Hodson came to the
Philippines four times. He conducted
the School of the Wisdom in Manila for
three months. At right is
Mrs. Sandra Hodson.
When Cleo Gregorio stepped down
as National President after 14 years of
service, she had already strengthened the
core membership of the section who
embodied a deep sense of commitment
to theosophical work. She was succeeded by Vicente Hao Chin, Jr.
in 1984. In 1985, the Section established a nursery and
kindergarten school, and printed a Pilipino translation of At the
Feet of the Master and the Introductory Study Course in Theosophy. The
Theosophical Order of Service (TOS) was reactivated with the
launching of Day Care Centers for severely malnourished children
in Metro Manila, as well as the Self-Reliance Program for
extremely poor families. A course in Theosophy was started in
one of the colleges in the Philippines.
In 1989, the Section launched the Theosophical Digest which
was intended to familiarize a larger circle in Philippines society
with spiritual teachings and experience. Public reception of the
magazine was quite unexpected, and it has since become a major
vehicle in the dissemination of theosophical principles among the
population. It was eventually adopted as a public magazine by the
Theosophical Publishing House in Adyar and has since been
simultaneously printed in the Philippines and India since 1998.
For a few years, an independent
publisher also printed and
circulated it in Malaysia. In the
Philippines it became
instrumental in helping establish
new lodges in various parts of the
country, such as Bacolod, Iligan,
Davao, Bohol, Iloilo, and Capiz.
Previously, lodges were
concentrated in Luzon island.
In 1989, the Section
published Light of the Sanctuary:
The Occult Diary of Geoffrey Hodson,
containing diary entries of the
author regarding his contact with the Mahatmas. Before he died,
Geoffrey Hodson left instructions that the book be published by
the Philippine section. This was followed by another posthumous
sequel entitled Illuminations of the Mystery Tradition compiled from
his diary. The publishing arm of the section was renamed
Theosophical Publishing House, Manila. One of its major
publications was the chronological edition of the Mahatma Letters
to A. P. Sinnett, containing notes and historical background of each
|Vicente Hao Chin, Jr. assumed Presidency in 1984. In the photo below, he led a delegation to
Adyar and planted a tree in the Adyar gardens in the name of the Philippines. With him, from
left are: Eugenia Tayao, Benito Arguelles, Romeo Velarde, Rekha Nahar and Jesse Alto.
In 1991, the Section formed the Peace Library and Research
Center, which launched a nationwide essay contest on “What I
Can Do to Promote Peace,” in cooperation with the United
Nations Information Center and the National Press Club. The
Center also published a quarterly newsletter, Peace Ideas, which
became an effective bridge between the TS and other
peace-oriented and spiritual organizations.
In the meantime, its TOS program had grown such that it
became the recipient of international volunteers from India,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Korea. It also received grants from
UNICEF and other foreign NGOs. In 1992, the Indo-Pacific
Federation elected Vic Hao Chin as its president, and he served
for three triennial terms.
In 1993, the Section formalized
a Theosophical Core Curriculum,
consisting of three parts: theosophical
studies, self-transformation, and
service work. It also formulated a
Mission Statement in order to clarify
what its core work was in order to
prevent unnecessary confusion
about what activities should be
considered as priorities. Based on it,
the Board of Trustees approved a
10-year plan. Practically all of the
activities were accomplished by the
end of the period. To strengthen its
fund base, the Section set up a
separate Philippine Theosophical
The Golden Link School was
established in 2002.
A weekly radio program was launched in 1995 entitled
“Golden Lessons in Living,” followed by another one called “In
the Light of Theosophy” a few years later.
A significant program of the section was launched in 1996
called the Self- Transformation Seminar (STS). It was initially
intended to help the integration and deepening of the spiritual life
of members. When groups outside of the TS became interested, it
eventually became a very active public program of the Section,
serving the needs of universities, government agencies, civic
organizations and the general public. By 2003 the seminar had
been conducted in more than ten countries, including United
States, England, India, Australia, Pakistan and Singapore, with
facilitators trained in three countries. As an offshoot of the
seminar, the Section organized the Golden Link Youth
Organization, which was intended to promote character building
and integration among young people. The project led to
significant observable results among its participants. This resulted
in the establishment of the Golden Link School in June 2002. It
now serves as the vehicle for incorporating the character program
into the formal school curriculum for primary and secondary
school levels. The Golden Link School is the fourth school
established by the Section, the others being Sunshine Montessori
Learning Center, TOS Learning Center, and Besant School in
In 1998, the Section launched a searchable digital version of
the Secret Doctrine. In 2003, it released the CD on Theosophical
Classics, containing all the writings of H. P. Blavatsky including the
Collected Writings, in cooperation with Theosophical Publishing
House (TPH) in Wheaton, Illinois (USA). In 2007, the Theosophical
Encyclopedia was published by the Section. These projects have
enabled members, here and abroad, to quickly find references on
theosophical subjects and learn of prominent personalities in the
In November 2007 the Indo-Pacific Conference of the
Theosophical Society was again hosted by the TS Philippine
Section. Delegates from Asia and guests from South America,
North America and Europe attended the event.
|The 9th Indo-Pacific Conference was again held in Manila on Nov., 2007. Seated on the
rightmost is Pedro Oliveira, outgoing President, and seated on the leaftmost is John
Vorstermans, incoming President.