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Greek letter societies

Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) - April 20, 2021 - 12:00am

I asked my father if I could join a sorority, a Greek letter society, and he said to me: “You can do what you want, just don’t let me get you from a hospital.” My Dad was not from UP but he proudly placed third in his dentistry board exams. He did not know many people who went to UP but I guess he trusted me enough to know what I was getting into. I also trusted the persons who invited me.

The head (or Grand Archon as we called them) of Sigma Delta Phi then was my schoolmate in high school, Lyca Benitez (now Brown) and sister to my classmate Sunny Benitez (now Rush). UP was such a big place, I thought, and a group of close friends or sisters would definitely help me navigate the new and strange neighborhood that the State University was.

I was a sophomore then and my life was school and home, as Dad would have me fetched after classes due to the brewing First Quarter Storm activities of rallies and protests. Not long after my induction into the sorority, I became more independent, got involved in productions of musicales and Broadway-type shows and had more activities on campus. There was the caroling at Christmas and initiations of new members and parties with our brother fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi. So my UP family became bigger, larger and my network became wider even if I was barely 20. Because we had a “tambayan” also called the Basement, we got to know each other better in between classes while getting free tutorials in Calculus, Science and History from brods and sisters.

When one joins a sorority, there is a sense of security, a sense of belonging that only a bonafide member can experience. Senior sisters, like true blue  ates (older sisters), made sure you were accounted for at meetings and get togethers. Brods were like real brothers, sharing food and drinks, being escorts at parties and balls and otherwise completing your campus family. Older brods were like young Dads and same-age brods were barkada or boyfriends. Many sisters ended up marrying brods because of the close friendship and constant exposure to each other – the likes of Winnie Collas marrying Christian Monsod, or Celia Diaz marrying Doy Laurel and many more popular lifetime partnerships.

The sorority gave us a sense of security no amount of vitamins could match as you felt you had a whole phalanx of supporters to defend you in whatever you needed in school. Whether intellectual support in academics or even helping your school requirements like projects and course “must dos,” sisters and brods were around for just about anything you needed, before Google came along.

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Yes, the times may be different but human nature remains the same. We need to belong, we need to socialize and we seek safe spaces and safe groups where we can feel right at home. How many of you have gotten in touch with classmates who were your co-members in a college organization? Maybe you did not even reconnect with any of them after college. But for sorority and fraternity members, they are family for life.

In this generation where one already has social media, Facebook groups and little cliques or chatrooms, we still need a family-like group that does not replace but supplements family. Whenever I think of sharing news or a controversial piece on Viber, I first share with my batchmates, a safe haven for me. You will never be judged and everyone understands where you are coming from. Just like family. But with shared values learned or acquired in college when we spent more time together on campus. We also went through the same unforgettable experiences that photos will never capture. But these memories forever remain in our hearts. That explains the bond that sisterhood creates.

These days, kids and teenagers turn to strangers on the internet for lack of a group to support them. Many just feel helpless and some even take their lives only because they could not talk to anyone. This is why there are so many mental wellness support sites and volunteer doctors who try to help out. What was needed in the first place before it got worse? A safe family-like group that could welcome them and they could feel comfortable discussing life with. That’s the role of the sorority in many of our sisters’ lives. So, is it just for mental health? It also provides emotional support and even academic assistance when you’re in school. I remember having to ask brods and sisters for help in academic requirements.

Next, you have a network for life. Like they say, your net worth is your network. Regardless of age, a brod is a brod and a sis is a sis. Imagine having ‘sisters’ your mother’s age, your ate’s age and some much younger than you. Now that is really an extended family. And you will never be judged.

What is sad is that today’s college kids do not seem to value these groups anymore. There has been a dearth of applicants or invitees who wish to belong to such support groups, thinking it is a thing of the past. I do not even think a college student will read this piece as their attention span may not go over 100 words of prose. But maybe their parents will. Or an aunt or uncle.

In the US, they invite leaders and potential leaders to such societies. That is why they kept the Greek letters – they show you that even 100 years ago (88 years for Sigma Delta Phi) the need for such groups was already proven. That has not changed much because it is human nature to need such company. And today, we still have that same human need for belonging and for acceptance. And to instill good values along the way.

We do have to change the application process, but the need still remains. And so does the answer. It’s called a society. A Greek letter society comes with honor, prestige and all the extra perks of having friends and mentors forever. I am a proud Sigma Deltan.

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Chit Juan graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman and was recently elected to the board of Sigma Delta Phi Alumnae Association Inc.

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