SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

I was a “barbarian” in my college years at the University of the Philippines. That’s what they call students who did not join a Greek-lettered organization.

I had transferred over from an all-girls school run by nuns that decided to close down in my freshman year (no, I was not the cause of the closure). One of two conditions set by my parents in allowing me to go to UP was no sorority; the other was no rallying, which I did not follow.

Most of my high school classmates who were also at UP had joined a sorority by the time I got to Diliman. Naturally I was recruited into their sorority; I remember attending a tea party where everyone – all the sisters – was so welcoming and oozing with sweetness.

But the advice someone I highly respected gave me when she learned I was transferring to UP was top of mind: “Don’t join a sorority.” Her words – she was adamant – carried a lot of weight because she had joined that sorority when she was at the UP some years ago.

They all need not have worried because, to begin with, I had little or no intention of joining a sorority. Why? The short answer is that I have commitment issues; I cannot totally belong, be a full-fledged/full-time sis even to like-minded, good-intentioned “sisters.”

There was also the matter of hazing or – a mere euphemism – initiation. It’s a rite of passage and something you go through to prove your unflinching resolve to be part of the sisterhood, and once you go through the rituals you’re one of “them” for life, a membership cast in stone. So during initiation week you see female students walking the campus with their hair in curlers or their clothes worn inside out; admittedly harmless rites. But there are supposedly more serious rituals not so public; one friend told of being made to eat a live butiki (lizard) with your choice of soy sauce or suka (vinegar).

Boys joining fraternities undergo the headline-grabbing hazing rites – severe beating, paddling, prolonged physical maltreatment – all to prove “you’re a man” and good enough to be one of “them.” One frat supposedly has, as its final ritual, burning a lighted cigarette into a part of the left hand, an indelible, very visible badge of membership. Members of this frat were supposedly the real tough guys on campus; they sure looked it, but some of them who were my classmates became my buddies (I shared my notes and did all the reports) and they proved to be really helpful and kind, even charming. But when they got into a rumble with another frat, it was always violent and bloody.

The guys who beat that student to death were most probably similarly severely beaten in their time, and those who survived will probably beat the recruits when they become the masters. Now facing criminal charges, the lives of the hazing masters are also ruined. Was it worth it?

The call now, after another frat hazing death, is for school authorities to ban hazing and to better monitor their frats so they don’t practise hazing. We’ve had RA 11053, the Anti-Hazing Law, but it hasn’t stopped these stupid macho rituals – and it obviously has not stopped young, promising Filipinos from senseless and unnecessary death.

So who’s the barbarian?

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