‘Arangkada 2014’ sa Manila
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - February 4, 2014 - 12:00am

Not until I became romantically linked to an Upsilonian more  than  a decade ago did I realize that the Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity of the University of the Philippines is a force to reckon with. I saw how the “brods” were closely bonded, be they living in Northern America, Cagayan de Oro City and  Tacloban City. I felt, as I attended weddings and private reunions and funeral rites,  that nothing could come between them come hell or high water.

During the past four days,  hundreds of Upsilonians and members of the Sigma Delta Phi Sorority gathered in Manila for the sixth global reunion titled “Arangkada sa Manila,” which, in the words of Upsilon Sigma Phi Alumni Association chair Benedicto “Ben” Tabin ’64, delivered at a grand ball held at a five-star hotel, “reaffirms once more the time-tested fraternal bonds that unite Upsilons worldwide.”         

The Upsilon Sigma Phi is the oldest  Greek letter fraternity in Asia, and the oldest student organization in UP. It was “nebulously” hatched in a restaurant in Intramuros in 1918, and  formally organized on Nov. 19, 1920. The head is known as the Illustrious Fellow, and the first honorary fellow, University Regent Conrado Benitez, was inducted into the fraternity. He wrote the Upsilon Hymn which later would be sung before and after every formal meeting.

During World World War II, some members gave their lives to serve the country. The most famous of them were Wenceslao Q. Vinzons (former UP Student Council president, youngest delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention, and governor of Camarines), Agapito del Rosario (mayor of Angeles, Pampanga), and Jose Abad Santos (Secretary of Justice and  Chief Justice  of the Supreme Court), all of whom were executed for refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese emperor.

The other popular members of the fraternity: the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., ’50,  President Ferdinand E. Marcos, ’37, the Laurel brothers   Sotero, ’30, Jose P., ’32,  and Salvador, ’47, and Senator Gerardo Roxas, ’46, Sen. Joker Arroyo, ’48, former Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan, ’81, and former  Sen. Richard Gordon, ’68.

According to Tabin, the Upsilon is a gathering of “highly-intelligent and multi-talented men who have excelled in their respective disparate callings but are all animated by the Upsilon spirit of self-abnegation for the greater good, the cock-of-the-walk and the envy of others on and off campus.”    

The Upsilon  Sigma Phi Alumni Association, according to its president Jose “Pong” Ejercito, ’74, and the Upsilon Sigma Phi North America Inc., headed by Dodie A. Arevalo, ’64, president,  and the Upsilon Sigma Phi Los Banos Alumni Association  partnered with the  Sigma Delta Phi Alumnae Association  chaired by president Elizabeth Bacungan-Macaibay, ’82  and Sigma Delta Phi Association UPLB headed by president Caro Salafranca-Esguerra, ’76 in organizing the Arangkada.

Two of many things I notice. The Upsilonians proudly identify themselves by batch; the junior batches hold the senior batches in high respect, it is said anything that senior brods command (provided their demands are honorable) is followed. The next thing is how, in almost all events they sponsor, the name and songs of  the late musical artist Dick Zamora are sung loud and clear. At the Arangkada grand ball, for instance, a dramatic song-and-dance number  from Dick’s legendary musicale “Aloyan” was performed by some original and new batches of Upsilonians and Sigma Deltans.      

The previous global reunions had catchy names, namely,  Engkwentro sa San Francisco, Alas sa Las Vegas, Barko Barkada sa Florida, Ocho-Ochoa sa Toronto, and Ala-ala sa LA.

The word “Arangkada” for the Manila global reunion was arrived at after a contest was held on the USP Facebook page. According to Edgar Mababangloob, ’86, chair of Arangkada sa Manila, the entry of Miki Cantero ’88 won hands down. “Arangkada means to rev up, advance and move forward towards a certain destination or goal,” writes Edgar in the reunion souvenir program.  

At the grand ball program  directed by Juor Buted, ’80, three Diamond Fezes were given to Doni Altura,  Rene Lorenzana and Tony Mabesa, all of Batch ‘54. Emcees were Tong Puno and  Caro Salafranca-Esguerra. The increasingly popular Dondi Ong, ’88 sang, as did  Joseph Olfindo, ’75 and Sigma Deltan Linda Gamboa. Caro rendered a breathtakingly sexy tango number.

An award was given to the oldest Upsilonian, 101-year-old  Ernesto  Castaneda, ’36, who was accompanied by his  son Ed, ’65, and grandson Gino, both Upsilonians.

Moved by the happy event was Saeed A. Daof, my Upsilonian hubby, who met up with his “old” chums from the US — Dodi Arevalo, Cugi Javier, Tor Budy and Berio Santiago and  wife Joan,  and Rey Tibayan. Saeed, by the way, was the founder and charter president of the Upsilon Sigma Phi Southern California Chapter (SOCAL).

The souvenir program contains historical episodes by fraternity members, each relating to decades of the fraternity, beginning with the 50s. It’s a volume worth keeping, even for non-Upsilonians and students of history.

 Doni Altura, ’54 writes that the 50s were the “golden age” for the organization. Doni heads his own company, TCGI, a leader in design and construction management. He was one of three recipients of the Diamond  Fez.  The two other recipients were Rene Lorenzana and Tony Mabesa.

Benny  Fulgencio, ’65 writes about  the 60s, with the fraternity caught “in the maelstrom of. . .  turbulent years, stamping its mark indelibly in the history of the nation and the university.”

Butch Tan, ’74  relates that the 70s was “a decade of contradictions. . . It was the decade of martial law — declared by no less than a brod — in which radical chic had become all the rage. . .” Amid the sea of red stood the Upsilonians — “an  island of . . . reactionaries, bourgeois, burgis, elitista (which) were among the kinder (relatively) labels pinned on us.”

Victor “Chito” Avecilla, ’79 writes about  the 80s. He names brods who became government officials, court justices and heads of agencies.

In his classic piece, lawyer Chet Tan ’63 (who married campus beauty Cora de Jesus), writes of the Upsilon as, “. . . first of all, a family of men, a brotherhood if you will. Otherwise, why call each other brothers? As such there is presumed running through  the ranks of generation upon generation of  Upsilonians chromosomes of certain uniform inclinations, handed down from one batch to the next. There is the commitment to the ideals of peace and  freedom, mutual aid and affection, among others. . . It is also a standard, something  all members  measure themselves by. (One) is called upon to be upright, self-respecting and selfless for the greater good.”

Among the Upsolinians  I admire   are Ambassador Willy Gaa, ’66, Ambassador Joey Ampeso, ’68,  Manolet Ocampo, ’69,  Rico Agcaoili, ’69,  Danny Gozo, ’65, Tong Puno, ’65, Inky Reyes, ’78, and Chitong Rivera, UP Alumni Association president and member, UP Board of Regents.

Arangkada is only the prelude to the bigger event — the fraternity’s centennial celebration in 2018. Louie Keirulf, who chairs that event, said being planned are stage plays, concerts and exhibits on the Diliman campus, sports activities, a coffee table book, possibly an Aloyan film feature, medical and other related community-based projects and a national Upsilon caravan.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com





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