Nearly 300 years ago in
England, people were facing a lot of challenges. Life was tough, often lawless
and desperate. Medicine was still crude and in a primitive stage. Life
expectancy was about 45 to 50. There were lots of sickness, orphaned kids,
widowed mothers and many people cannot afford to pay a descent burial for the
So, ordinary people from
different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as
brothers and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which
they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and
even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate
families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned
or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
Such altruistic and
friendly society came to be known as “Odd Fellows” probably because they
consisted of people from different Odd trades and at that time, it was odd to
find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of
pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Odd Fellows are also known as
“The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
Nearly 300 years ago in England, people were facing a lot of challenges. Life was tough, often lawless and desperate. Medicine was still crude and in a primitive stage. Life expectancy was about 45 to 50. There were lots of sickness, orphaned kids, widowed mothers and many people cannot afford to pay a descent burial for the dead.
So, ordinary people from different trades and walks of life found it necessary to group together as brothers and contribute some of their hard-earned wages to a common fund which they could use for unfortunate times such as sickness, losing a job and even death. They would work together to help each other and the unfortunate families back on their feet, whether it was rebuilding a barn that had burned or putting in a new crop after a devastating season.
Such altruistic and friendly society came to be known as “Odd Fellows” probably because they consisted of people from different Odd trades and at that time, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Odd Fellows are also known as “The Three Link Fraternity” which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth.
‘Mystery of long-past ages enshrouds the origin of Odd Fellowship’ and the exact date of its first founding is ‘lost in the mist of antiquity’. Some historians trace its roots back to the Medieval Trade Guilds of the 12th and 13th centuries. Some estimated that it existed before 1650.
What is clear is that there were numerous Odd Fellows groups in England in the 1700’s. The earliest surviving printed record is said to be the rules of Odd Fellows, Loyal Aristarchus Lodge no. 9, in England dated March 12, 1748. King George the IV of England, while Prince of Wales, was admitted to membership around 1780. In 1798, it was mentioned that the original “United Order of Odd Fellows” consisted of a total of 50 lodges in England and its environs. Many pubs in Britain are named ‘The Oddfellows’ or ‘Oddfellows Arms’. Invariably these are past meeting places of Lodges.
For a time, Fraternal groups such as the Odd Fellows were suppressed in England, but by 1803, the Odd Fellows were revived by an organization called the “London Union Odd Fellows” which later became known as the “Grand Lodge of England” and assumed authority over all Odd Fellow lodges in that country.
In 1810, several lodges located in Manchester area declared themselves as an ‘Independent Order of Odd Fellows’ with the title “Manchester Unity. In 1814, they elected officers and proceeded to standardize degree work of the lodges. With their improved system, they were able to persuade other Odd Fellow lodges to join their unity. They also chartered the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in North America years after.
While several Odd Fellows lodges had existed in New York City sometime in the period 1806 to 1818, the INDEPENDENT ORDER OF ODD FELLOWS is regarded as being organized on April 26, 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., by Thomas Wildey and four other members of the fraternity from England.
At that time, the city was suffering a yellow fever epidemic and mass un-employment so the Independent Order of Odd Fellows dedicated themselves to “Visit the sick, relieve the distress, bury the dead and educate the orphan."
On September 20, 1851, I.O.O.F became the first fraternity to accept both men and women when it formed the Daughters of Rebekah. Brother Schuyler Colfax, (Vice President of the United States from 1869 to 1873 under President Ulysses S. Grant), was the force behind the movement. Though the term sorority was not yet coined in this year, it may be considered that the Rebekah is the first and oldest sorority in the world.
On September 20, 1865, the American Odd Fellows became the first to reunite the North and South after the American Civil War. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows gave an account of the laying of the cornerstone of the Wildey Monument just after General Lee’s surrender, just before the war ended. This event was really the "First Fraternization of the Blue and Gray". Men who had been engaged in the conflict, on both sides, marched side by side as brothers, wearing the regalia of the Order.
In 1870, the I.O.O.F became the first fraternal organization to build orphanages and homes for the elderly. They also built cemeteries. Many of which are now listed as historical places.
During the ‘Golden Age of fraternalism’, the Odd Fellows was the largest fraternal organization in the world. The world Almanac showed that it had over 3.4 Million members in 1915. Although non-political and non-sectarian and contrary to the belief that it is just a working man’s organization, it also claimed many notable members which included about six U.S. Presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Warren Harding, as well as many Senators, Governors and community leaders. King George IV, Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Prime Minister John Macdonald, Chief Justice Earl Warren and William Jennings Bryan were also identified as members. Lucy Hobbs Taylor, the first female American dentist was also a member of the organization.
The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs also played a very important part in
establishing the State of
Since then, the Odd Fellows had spread throughout the world where it currently have about 12,000 lodges and nearly 600,000 members in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
HISTORY IN THE PHILIPPINES
The history of the Odd Fellows in the Philippines is quite interesting. The fraternity reached the Philippines long ago before the country gained independence and many unfortunate events occurred along the course of time. Many of the records were destroyed and only few remain where we can get accountable information about its first organization in the country.
1872: According to Major O.W. Coursey, author of the History and Geography of the Philippine Islands, the awakening of the Filipinos to a deep sense of injustice being practiced upon them by the Spaniards was the introduction of 'fraternal' societies in the Islands, and to the influence of higher education obtained by those of means in the school of Hong Kong and other Old-World cities. He mentioned that the 'Society of Odd Fellows' spread to the Islands in 1872 and was largely responsible for the petty insurrection of the following year. This could be because many of the military men who fought the war were members of the society. Membership was mostly limited to military servicemen during that time.
1898: Author Peter Sellars in his book, History of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the City of San Francisco, mentioned of military men, whom many are members of the Order, had been given proper send-off by the Odd Fellows of San Francisco on their way to the Philippines. The New York Times also mentioned that during the 74thAnnual Session of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the United States, a ‘Brother Badley’ who is with the United States Army in the Philippines, asked permission to establish the society in the country. The Grand Sire, international president of the organization, at that time recommended that the action be taken by the Sovereign Grand Lodge at that session. He also recommended that members serving in the Army may be permitted to form military lodges or associations. In Peter Sellars’ book, an 'Odd Fellows Association of the Philippines ' was in existence in the country. Most members, if not all, were military servicemen so presumably, meetings were held inside Naval or military base camps and that membership was exclusive to military servicemen.
1899: An armed military conflict between Filipinos and Americans occurred. Presumably, Lodge meetings of the Odd Fellows were suspended.
1902: When the war ended, the Odd Fellows started to continue their plans on establishing the fraternity in the Philippines. The book, 'Official History of Odd Fellowship', mentioned that District Deputy Grand Sire, Charles H. Burritt, chartered the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in the Philippines by forming Manila Lodge no.1 in the City of Manila on July 29, 1902. According to the Journal of Proceedings (1905-1906), Manila Lodge no.1 had about 66 members, composed of the highest and best type of citizens; government officials and prominent businessmen. And the state finances are equally healthy and in sound condition.
1941: Japan declared war against the United States . At that time, the Philippine government was still under the guidance of the United States. Hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese aircrafts launched a military strike on military base camps located in the Philippines. For how many years, Filipino guerrillas and American soldiers fought together against the Japanese up until 1944 when Japan finally surrendered. Over a million Filipinos had been killed in the war and many towns and cities, including Manila, were left in ruins. With this situation, Odd Fellows lodge activities were definitely abandoned and the lodge hall or meeting place of the Odd Fellows in Manila was most likely destroyed. Since then, the Society of Odd Fellows was never heard in the country anymore.
August 23, 1985: Watchdog Committee was organized as a brotherhood and sisterhood, and as a fraternal movement against racism, marginalization, and oppression. It later became an inter-fraternity wherein members from different fraternities gathered as one to promote unity, equality and peace.
August 2009: The majority of the members of Watchdog Committee decided to merge with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and revive I.O.O.F. in the Philippines.
September 10, 2009: The Sovereign Grand Lodge of the I.O.O.F. (in the United States) approved the idea, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Kapatirang Watchdog Lodge no.1, was given the authority to organize.
November 21, 2009: Odd Fellowship in the Philippines was officially revived through acquisition of Watchdog Committee by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Sovereign Grand Master Paul Cuminale, Past Sovereign Grand Master Richard Proulx and Sovereign Grand Secretary Terry Barret visited the country and instituted Kapatirang Watchdog Lodge no.1, Dumaguete City Encampment no.1 and Canton Negros Oriental no.1 in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Visayas, Philippines.
May 30, 2010: A second Odd Fellows chapter was instituted in Cagayan de Oro, Lanao del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines known as Kapatirang Mindanaon Lodge No.2.
September 17, 2011: Samahang Sillimaniang Lodge no.3 was instituted in Silliman University, Dumaguete City, Philippines.
January 29, 2012: Kapatirang Golden Luzon Lodge no.4 was instituted in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, Philippines.
April 29, 2012: Kapatirang Marilag Lodge no.5 was instituted in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines.
PHILOSOPHY AND PURPOSE
organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows aim to provide a framework
that promotes personal and social development. Lodge degrees and activities aim
to improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend
sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the
darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral
power and influence for the good of humanity. For members, the degrees in Odd
Fellowship emphasize a leaving of the old life and the start of a better one,
of welcoming travelers, and of helping those in need. The command of the IOOF
is to ""visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and
educate the orphan." Specifically, IOOF are dedicated to the following purposes:
improve and elevate the character of mankind by promoting the principles of
friendship, love, truth, faith, hope, charity and universal justice.
2. To help
make the world a better place to live by aiding each other, the community, the
less fortunate, the youth, the elderly, the environment and the community in
every way possible.
3. To promote good will and harmony amongst peoples and nations through the principle of universal fraternity, holding the belief that all men and women regard less of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, rank and station are brothers and sisters.
4. To promote a fraternal experience without violence or hazing, free of vices and discrimination.
AIMS AND AMBITIONS
1. Brotherhood and Sisterhood
It is the aim of the fraternity to promote the brotherhood and sisterhood of man and woman. Odd Fellowship starts from the principle that all people, irrespective of race, color, gender, sex, rank and station, are brothers and sisters. The fraternity propagates this idea and shows it in the way its members associate with their fellow-man. For Odd Fellows, brotherhood and sisterhood is not an empty notion; they experience this brotherhood and sisterhood on a large scale in their lodges and in the fraternity.
2. Friendship, Love and Truth
a. Giving Friendship
This is the first thing one may expect from members of a Fraternity. Associating with brothers and sisters means that, among Odd Fellows, you can be yourself, and you can adopt a vulnerable attitude, knowing that no-one will ever take advantage of this. This means that the atmosphere in a lodge will always be one of warmth and understanding. But also, in the world outside the lodge, Odd Fellows will try by giving friendship to contribute to the realization of the ideal: "The Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Man".
b. Showing Brotherly and Sisterly Love
Great words which, for Odd Fellows, mean: Feeling jointly responsible for your fellow-man, and being prepared to give attention and help where help is needed. The fraternity, the lodge, but especially each individual Odd Fellow or Rebekah, will take part in social activities in one way or another. The starting-point for these activities is the Golden Rule: to treat others as you would like them to treat you.
c. Searching for Truth
An Odd Fellow sees searching for Truth as searching for clarity in the sense of his or her life. Every time that a small piece of truth has been found, Odd Fellows and Rebekah will try to use it only in ways where they will be able to be true to themselves and to their fellow-man. Typical for a human being is the fact that he or she is able to think. Before one starts doing something, one can make the choice what to do; afterward one can think it over and consider whether the choice was the right one. This contemplation is called "Giving account to yourself". Making a good and well-considered choices is called "behaving in a responsible way".
As an Odd Fellow, you are making a life-time commitment to improve and elevate the character of humanity through service and example. In order to fully understand how you may accomplish these obligations, instruction in ceremonial form is divided into degrees. Each degree teaches you sublime lessons and principles.
a. Initiatory Degree – With this degree, you are already a voting member and able to participate in business meetings. In this degree, one will witness a representation of our mortal existence. Its mission is to remind the initiates 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. This allows each initiate to beg the question “How am I going to spend my life? Am I going to live life as a criminal? As a drug addict? As a drunkard? As a self-centered person?” It allows the person to identify the 'ills' of our society that has blinded us for decades: vices, confusion, and selfishness. It emphasizes a 'leaving of the old life' and the 'start of a better one', of welcoming travelers, and of helping others. As Odd Fellows, members are bound by an obligation to extend the hand of fellowship as they are commanded to: Visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan. In Short, members will commit, as an enlightened person, to do their part to build a better world by helping those in need and at the same time, improve and elevate the character of mankind.
b. 1st Degree or the Degree of Friendship - A story that will show true friendship will be re-enacted in this degree. True friends will help, care, protect, and rejoice in each other’s accomplishments; they will not be divided by jealous competitions. In simpler words , we should be ‘friendly’ individuals.
c. 2nd Degree or the Degree of Love - This degree depicts a lesson that brotherly and sisterly love transcends race, skin color, gender, religion or national origin. As an Odd Fellow, you are expected to make the same commitment. Our helping heart and hand extends to everyone in need whether he or she is a member of the fraternity or not, a friend, a stranger or even an enemy.
d. 3rd Degree or the Degree of Truth – In this degree, you will be introduced to the symbols of Odd Fellowship and instructed in their representations. They are used to remind us of the many ‘truths’ we can apply in our daily lives. As an Odd Fellow, you will be committed to truth and only to truth. By this, we mean, you should always speak the truth and be honest in all your dealings with God, family, work, community, country and our world. You must practice truth in all your actions and not just through words and meet all your obligations to the best of your ability.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
Several theories explain the meaning of the name "Odd Fellows".
In the 1700's in England, major trades were organized in guilds or other forms of syndicate, but smaller trades did not have any social or financial security. For that reason, people who exercised unusual trades joined together to form a larger group of fellows from different or "Odd" trades. Hence, Guild of Odd Fellows.
A variation on that theory states: 'The Odd Fellows, at least according to one story, got its curious name from the fact that it was a lodge that opened its doors to the working class who at that time did not ordinarily belong to fraternal orders--and were thus "odd". At that time, only the aristocracy had established philanthropic societies, and it was unheard of that common men would organize a mutual aid fraternity. Because of their work to relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the underprivileged, they were considered to be “odd”. From these special sources came the characteristics of a fellowship that has continued to this day throughout the world.
One says that they were called "odd" because in the beginning of Odd Fellowship in the 1700's, at the time of industrialization, it was rather odd to find people who followed noble values such as benevolence, charity and fraternalism. In a cold, calculating world such as ours, it is still considered “odd” for one to be willing to share his worldly goods with the less fortunate. “Odd” that such a group does not stop to ask why others have not done so, but who consider it an imperative duty which must be discharged. This is a theme for the most laudable emulation, the brightest gem of consistency in Character. This is the character of Odd Fellowship. An Odd Fellow is one who is alive to the interests and needs of all around him and is ever ready to lend a helping hand.