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Theosophical Society in the Philippines


    Peace Work
     & Ecology



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 international Theosophical Society.
zapata Ismael Zapata, first national President of the TS in the Philippines

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 Principal.
argente 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.

cabellon Olimpio Cabellon

This is still the site of the National Headquarters to this day. 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 were invited.
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.
benito reyes 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 prisoners.

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.
escudero Francisco “Bing” Escudero,
served for a short period in
1969 before he migrated to the United States
cleo gregorio 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 speaker.
geoffrey hodson 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 letter.
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 Foundation.
golden link
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 Bacolod City.

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 Society.
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.