Fraternities and sororities have been getting a bad rap lately because of incidents of deaths due to hazing and the sad thing is that the thugs responsible for these criminal acts have painted an evil public picture of fraternities and sororities as cruel cliques looking for the next victim to torture.
While some groups calling themselves fraternities whose members senselessly beat the living daylights out of applicants may deserve such public condemnation, they don’t deserve to be called fraternities. I call them street gangs and I believe that there is an important difference.
Because of this, I believe that the point of view of a fraternity member will do good for some balance in the perception of such organizations.
I am a fratman and damn proud of it. I am a member of the Fraternal Order of St. Thomas More which is composed of the Tau Mu Fraternity and the Sigma Tau Mu Sorority of the Ateneo de Davao College of Law. Steeped in history and tradition, I consider our order to be a good example of what such an organization should be.
Born on July 29, 1967 when nine (9) friends, Berting Sarenas, Ramon Alojipan, Roger Fernandez, Ben De Guzman, Jess Albacite, Rudy Raymundo., Rudy Ylaya, Ed Dacanay, and Larry Ilagan, all studying law at the Ateneo de Davao, wanted to be more than a “barkada”, the Tau Mu Fraternity came into being because they wanted to be brothers, supporting each other like family and becoming greater than just the sum of their numbers.
When the boys would not let her join, their close friend, Gie Hofilena, whom I am proud to call my mom, formed her own, the Sigma Tau Mu Sorority, two (2) years later which is why the sorority will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this coming October 26, 2019.
Since then, from the nine (9) founding fathers and the sole lady founder, the order has grown to nearly 1,500 members, many of whom have become shining stars in the fields of law and public service, already too many to enumerate.
Anyone of the members will proudly say that the sense of belonging, support and family that we enjoy and are proud of is truly different from just being a member in an ordinary association. It is truly different when you know that there are those who will have your back through thick and thin, no matter what.
This strong sense of being family arises from the initiation process which, sadly, is now perceived to be barbaric, cruel and senseless. However, the true purpose of the initiation and its proper implementation is far from this perception.
The initiation process of what I would consider a true fraternity or sorority is supposed to be a learning experience. It is through the initiation that a neophyte is indoctrinated on what the organization is about, the principles and beliefs that the members live by and the bonds that lead the members to call each other brothers and sisters.
Initiation rites involve pressure because it is also a testing process whereby the initiates are supposed to learn how to cope and adapt to it. I like the way that a good friend of mine, who is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, stated it. He said “A plebe is like a machine that is being pushed to determine and extend its capacity to perform but you do not compromise the machine itself”
As an example, taking the bar exams is a huge challenge and, through the period of the review and the actual Bar Exams, there will be times of frustration and hopelessness. However, for someone who has been through the crucible of a proper initiation, there is a great deal of strength and confidence from being able to say that having gone through it, no task is insurmountable. This is particularly true when you know that you can rely on your brothers and sisters for anything you may need to help you in such challenges.
If this is so, then why do these hazing deaths happen even in established fraternities? In my opinion, it is when members lose sight of the purpose and intention of the initiation,, when misguided souls turn primal and give in to their desire to hurt rather than to teach, that things can go awry.
Going to my friend from the PMA, when I asked him about the latest hazing related death, he scratched his head and said that those involved forgot the intention to test and push the limits of the “machine” because what they did already compromised the human machine and I totally agree. The perpetrators forgot that the person they were hurting was someone who was supposed to become their brother, their comrade-in-arms.
They forgot that the true essence of fraternity is to be a family and that the decision to join comes with it the commitment to pursue what is needed for the betterment of the adopted family and all of its members.
Stated in the simplest of terms, this is truly what it means, being FRIENDS BY CHANCE, BUT BROTHERS AND SISTERS BY CHOICE.
P.S. HAPPY 50th ANNIVERSARY TO THE SIGMA TAU MU SORORITY.
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