The Manila Elks Lodge 761 in its 114th Year
Fascinated by the beauty of the country, by the warmth and genuine personalities of the Filipinos, groups of impressionable Americans in the early 1900’s were lured to the vast business opportunities and the unbridled entrepreneurial possibilities of the country they had liberated. Bringing with them knowledge and enthusiasm, their investments to fund commercial and personal interests, they settled in the Philippines. In 1901, a group of American expatriates, then residing in Manila, yearning for camaraderie and solidarity, petitioned the U.S. National Elks organization to allow the installation of an Elks Club on American soil in the Philippines. The Grand Exalted Ruler of the Grand Lodge in the United States approved the petition. Celebrated in Intramuros, the old walled city established by the Spaniards, the grand occasion on August 14, 1902 had some 200 American businessmen and guests -consisting of former military volunteers, professional lawyers, and doctors who hailed the “first ever event wherein an American Elks Lodge was authorized and formally incorporated overseas as the Manila Lodge 761.” The original Elks Club facility, designed and built by the Lodge, opened its doors in 1910. The grand structure was advertised and considered then to be the finest American-owned facility in Asia. Aside from the Elks, a new Army and Navy Club was established and co-located on the purchased land at the Luneta extension. Together, the two magnificent clubs formed the heart of American business providing social and commercial links in the Philippines that led the fledgling country through the great growth years.
1910- The original Roxas Boulevard Manila Lodge 761 Clubhouse
The Elks took the lead in American enterprise, with key members involved in financial underwriting and expertise in the areas of agriculture, manufacturing, education, management et al. The Elks Lodge membership blossomed to over 600 members by 1920, and the Lodge continued to expand its social and entertainment facilities. Interestingly enough, providing continuous entertainment became the secondary mission of the Elks in the Philippines.
By 1925, the Elks Lodge had increased its holdings by building service apartments at the rear of its major building and between the Elks and the Army and Navy Club. These facilities provided for almost 100 service type apartments for businessmen and women. It served to create a magnificent epicenter of business activity and acumen that was central to the American effort in the Philippines. The Elks Club became a conduit for a strong business arterial force and the gateway to business success in the Philippines. In retrospect, the Elks Club served as the forerunner of the American Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, formally established in 1920, was temporarily housed at the Elks Club. In addition, it became an extension of the U.S. Commissioner’s office when its residence moved from Malacanang to a wing of the Club in 1935. Historically, after the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth and installation of its first President, Manuel Quezon, the United States High Commissioner and his staff relocated from the Palace and occupied the Elks Club office spaces for several years until 1940, when the current U.S. Embassy was built. During the Japanese occupation in 1942, the invading Japanese forces marched directly to the Elks Club, the Army and Navy Club, the Manila Hotel, and Wack Wack – then the prestigious golf club. The almost 100 residents of the Elks Club and the Army and Navy Club were brought to the Santo Tomas prisoner-of-war center as the Japanese placed their flag on the Elks Club. To this day, the Manila Lodge 761 is the only Club in the history of the Elks organization, wherein a foreign flag was flown in its premises.
1945-46 The Elks Club was totally destroyed during the war and re-taking of Manila
On March 26, 1949, President Elpidio Quirino, as the guest of honor, formally opened the newly rebuilt Elks Club on Roxas Boulevard and the Luneta extension. With over 500 members during 1950, the Elks Lodge began anew. Combined with patience, vigorous and painstaking efforts, pragmatic leadership, and inspired management, a newly dynamic reconstituted Lodge was born. Its mission was to cater to the needs of members, the arrival of many new U.S. businessmen and servicemen assigned at the U.S. military facilities in Subic, Clark, Cavite, and Baguio. The rebuilt Elks Club with its facilities became their home providing lodging, entertainment, and camaraderie. In 1954, the American Chamber of Commerce became a tenant of the Club, occupying some 300 square meters in the Bayside wing and using the Club’s Lodge Room for its annual meetings.
1949- The New Elks Club of 1949, built on the original property
Then in 1956 as part of Elks benevolent mission, a major charitable initiative, the Elks Cerebral Palsy hospital project was successfully launched. In appreciation, the President of the Philippines awarded a plaque for its services. Subsequently, the Elks Cerebral Palsy hospital obtained a donation of property, located at Dao Street, Makati with a 99-year lease from Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala. From outside donations and funds provided by Elks, three buildings for a modern clinic were erected. This charitable effort by the Elks gave a lasting and positive effect on the Philippine community. In the 1960’s, due to the legality of foreign ownership of the Elks Property on Roxas Boulevard with the City of Manila, the Elks eventually sold its reconstructed property, and briefly moved to another spacious facility built by the Elks, in the Flag Village area of Makati (across from the current Rockwell Center). Finally in 1977, the Manila Elks Lodge found a most suitable place in the heart of Makati. It sold its Flag Village property, and acquired a 1000 -square meters on the 7th floor of the Corinthian Plaza building in central Makati, where the Club is today.
1977-2012 The New Elks Club, 7th Floor, Corinthian Plaza, Makati
In the decade that followed, the Elks Club became a thriving, prosperous, and innovative organization. It hosts about 100 functions a month, has live entertainment during the week, sponsors sports and special events on the weekends. In 2006, the club has over 100 US members with about 120 foreign or associate members. In keeping with the Elks penchant for charity, the Lodge is still the main contributor to the Cerebral Palsy hospital and to many other charitable and worthy organizations. The history of Manila Lodge 761 is indeed a “one of a kind” lodge in the benevolent order of the Elks. It was spawned in a foreign country, albeit with an American flag in the breeze. It has seen the Americans provide a major boost to a developing country for almost 50 years before the granting of full independence by the United States government in 1946, and another 50 plus years in helping the growth of the new Republic of the Philippines. The Manila Lodge is still strong and influential. It has a special place in the bustling Makati and Manila business districts as a haven for American expatriates: a social and entertainment center for business associates and friends of varied backgrounds. That the Elks “take care of their own” is indeed true for Manila Lodge 761. The Club celebrated its 107th year of activity on August 14, 2011, exemplifying the American virtues of benevolence, charity, integrity, and fidelity. Throughout its history, it proudly displayed the Elks banner with the American flag that proudly presides within its premises. Presently, the Manila Elks Club is now recognized where Americans gather to celebrate, cherish, and share their traditions with fellow Americans, associates, Filipinos, and foreign friends. In its 109th year of existence in the Philippines, it hopes to continue the Elks legacy with pride and honor.