Orator, Mason and Revolutionary Figure
The Tagalog Estanislao Legaspi was an artisan. He joined the Masonic movement in the
Philippines during its earliest beginnings. Later, together with the bookkeeper and fellow Mason
Agustin del la Rosa, he established the Masonic lodge called Integridad Española (No. 212) in
Manila. He was cited by Wenceslao E. Retana, in Vida y Escritos de Dr. José Rizal, as having
resided along Calle Madrid in Manila and Calle Encarnación in Tondo.
In late June 1892, Rizal returned to the Philippines from abroad and, within a week, was
said to have called a meeting of progressive Filipinos, mostly Masons, who were one in their desire
to see meaningful social and political reforms instituted in their friar-dominated society. Held at
the home of Domingo Ongjunco, a wealthy Chinese mestizo, the meeting was attended by Legaspi,
along with pioneering Filipino Masons Pedro Serrano Laktaw, Jose Ramos, Timoteo Perez,
Domingo Franco, Agustin de la Rosa, Ambrosio Salvador and his son Moises, Numeriano Adriano,
Faustino Villaruel, Mariano Crisostomo, Apolinario Mabini, and Andres Bonifacio. In that
meeting, Rizal voiced the pressing need to organize a league, which would seek the unity of the
whole archipelago and work for substantial reforms from the government. To be called La Liga
Filipina, the league would endeavor to establish popular councils in key municipalities and
provinces through its deputized leaders.
Consequently, Legaspi was designated by Domingo Franco, who had been elected as
president of La Liga Filipina, as president of the Binondo popular council, with Francisco Diwa as
secretary and Tranquilino Torres as treasurer. Along with other Liga members Andres Bonifacio,
Teodoro Plata and Francisco Diwa, he was tasked to organize popular councils in the suburbs of
Manila and in the provinces. He then set up the popular council in Tondo called “Talang Bakero,”
while Bonifacio, Francisco Nakpil, Juan Zulueta, and other active Liga members took care of
organizing those in Trozo, Sta. Cruz, etc. Among their recruits for the Binondo popular council was
Antonio Salazar, whom Legaspi himself initiated at the house of Torres along Calle Elcano “one
Sunday morning in February 1893”. Salazar was later executed in Bagumbayan, along with 12
other Masons and revolutionaries.
Left leaderless within a week of its establishment when Rizal was ordered exiled to Dapitan
by the Spanish authorities, the reform-oriented Liga teetered between survival and dissolution.
According to Domingo Franco, in his confession to the authorities following his arrest, the Liga
members were divided into two factions, one of which gravitated towards the Katipunan, the
radical secret society founded by Bonifacio to seek Philippine independence through revolution,
the other, towards the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, which shared the reformist goals of the Liga,
whose members included Apolinario Mabini, Numeriano Adriano, Bonifacio Arivalo, and
Ambrosio Flores. Legaspi chose to be part of the Compromisarios, under whose aegis he
continued to head the erstwhile Binondo popular council of the Liga.
During the crackdown ordered by Governor-General Blanco following the discovery of the
Katipunan in August 1896, Legaspi was among numerous Masons arraigned before the military
courts. Later, according to historian Teodoro M. Kalaw, he served as a lieutenant colonel in the
infantry of the revolutionary army of General Emilio Aguinaldo. He is also believed to have taken
over the command of Camarines during the latter part of the revolution.
On December 23, 1900, he became a founding member, along with such former reformist
leaders as T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Agustin de la Rosa, Ambrosio Flores and Tomas del Rosario, of
the Federal Party. Established at the peak of the war between the Filipinos and the American
army, the Federal Party sought the immediate end of the conflict and restoration of peace for the
Filipinos to concentrate their energies on the country’s economic development. Their manifesto
was issued on the same day of its founding. Along with Hipolito Magsalin and Mariano Abella, he
was elected member of the party’s “Council of Administration”.
A survivor of both the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War, Legaspi
continued to devote himself to the Masonic movement. He served as Orator of a Philippine Orient
mother lodge, called Primera Luz Oceánica, which existed in 1903-1904, the other officers being
Vicente Lukban, senior warden; Jose Azas, junior warden; and Santiago Tindaya, secretary.
Guerrero, Leon Ma. The First Filipino. Manila: National Historical Institute, 1987.
Minutes of the Katipunan. Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1964
Kalaw, Teodoro M. Philippine Masonry. An English Translation from the Spanish by
Frederic H. Stevens and Antonio Amechazurra. Manila: Frederic H. Stevens, 1956.
Schumacher, John N. Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist
Movement,1859-1903. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1981
Taylor, John R.M. The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States Volumes 1 and 5.
Pasay City: Eugenio Lopez foundation, 1970.