Pax you, fratmen

In San Beda College’s official seal, the Latin word ‘pax’ appears prominently. The word is also engraved in various campus structures as it is supposedly etched in the heart of Bedans who are, as our hymn goes, “men of prayer, work, and peace.”

But my dear Alma Mater shocked the nation last week with reasons other than peace. Marc Andrei Marcos, a freshman law student, died in initiation rites under the bloody hands of men he wanted to be his ‘brods’. The incident, which happened in a farm somewhere in Dasmariñas, Cavite, was believed to have been participated in by over thirty members of the Lex Leonum Fraternity. Marcos, black and blue in various parts of his body, was brought to the hospital not by his would-have-been brods, but by two farm helps.

What aggravates the nation’s grief and fury is that only five months ago, another Bedan law student, Marvin Reglos, suffered the same fate under the Lambda Rho Beta fraternity.

As expected, CHED chair Patricia Licuanan condemned “in the strongest terms” the death of Marcos. She reminded the college of its “heavy responsibilities and duties under RA 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.” Other schools, particularly the UP and the Ateneo, have also had similar episodes of fraternity violence, each time fueling public uproar but only to be forgotten after the issue subsides, no thanks to the Filipino’s short-term memory coupled with the ningas-cogon vice.

San Beda has responded by saying that it does not recognize fraternities, sororities or similar organizations. Since they are not recognized, the Benedictine-run institution said that it could not submit to CHED a “certified list of officers and members of such organizations.”

Meanwhile, administration lawmakers urged CHED to enforce a strict “no-hazing policy” in schools as the Filipino people mourn for the death of yet another young man who had a full and bright life ahead.

Before admission to San Beda, I had to sign a contract stating that I could be expelled if the college finds out I am a member of any fraternity. I really did not find any need to join one. Among most active student leaders in my batch, I did not lack belongingness nor self-esteem. But then I was in undergraduate San Beda. I knew our law school was different; joining fraternities there are more of norm than exception They hold activities in the open and display banners bearing their groups’ Latin names even in interschool activities like bar operations. Today, San Beda reportedly bans fraternities in law school though I doubt if administrators seriously believe it is possible.

Banning fraternities or hazing, however, is only a part of the solution. Making it less appealing is the more difficult task.

An aspiring lawyer perceives membership in a fraternity as ticket to legal success. The exclusivity and influence of a group proves beneficial not only in ensuring survival in law school but even more when one has become a lawyer who finds connections handy in cases he handles (e.g. when the judge is one’s brod). Having passed the initiation, after risking life and limb, the neophyte becomes a full-fledged member of the fraternity, part of the old boys’ network. “The pain lasts a few days, but the perks are forever,” this explains the resilience of hazing as a law-fraternity practice despite RA 8049.

In 2010, Jejomar Binay credited his vice presidential success to the support he got from the Alpha Phi Omega. In one episode of the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, widely watched by aspiring lawyers, fraternity prestige was proudly displayed by the senate president himself. When Rep. Raul Daza stood up to introduce himself as prosecutor, Presiding Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile formally acknowledged him, and fondly called him “brod.” Enrile then quickly turned to the senior defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, and likewise referred to him as “brod.” Broadly smiling, the venerable defense lawyer impishly nodded to the chair, and forthwith called out the other “brods” among the senator-judges – Senators Edgardo Angara and Franklin Drilon.

Public officials cannot in good conscience condemn fraternity violence while becoming poster boys, wittingly or otherwise, of these barbaric groups. We are in dire need of statesmen like former Senator Jovito Salonga who in 2007 resigned from his fraternity, Sigma Rho, which was implicated in the death by hazing of a UP student. Any politician who does a Salonga today deserves our vote.

Until then, ‘pax’ would remain as elusive as justice is in this country where lawyers turn liars propagating the fraternal mystique.

*****

The first opinion column I ever wrote, and that was in high school, was against fraternities very active then in Northern Christian College. It’s title: “Mga anak ng frating.”

Obviously, fratmen were unhappy with it, and even before the school paper was circulated, the picture in my column was defaced in almost every copy, with the permission of a security guard who turned out to be their supporter. Alarmed, people began warning me about possible danger. But I was not afraid.

Then one afternoon, in a street adjacent to the campus’ main building, four teenage boys suddenly circled me as I was walking home. With my head locked in the muscled arms of a gangster, my face was on the receiving end of powerful jabs. While I tasted blood dripping from my nose, I saw nothing but black, except stars and twittering birds circling my head (the kind of which I thought only appeared in cartoons). I was a helpless punching bag until members of the Samahang Ilocano came to the rescue. They shooed away my attackers.

I was thankful to S.I., of course. God knows what more injuries I could have sustained if they did not come. Yes, I was grateful, but only until I figured that the four action stars were their brods from INNHS, a nearby school. All of them arranged the plan so that I would have a debt of gratitude to them. Bravo.

A couple of months after, a riot erupted in the campus, killing one student and injuring a security guard. Only then did administrators ban fraternities on campus.

An NCAA moment

(The NCAA championship is around the corner, and San Beda is poised to seal another championship. Too bad, William S. and asiong’s Mapua is already out of the running.

This essay brings me down to memory lane.  Dedicated to Arjun “The King Lion” Cordero, this piece was  written while downing bottles of SanMig light after San Beda’s devastating loss 15Sept 04)


“If one wants something badly, all the universe will conspire to help him achieve it.” Paulo Coelho is a liar.

Heaven knows, it was not just another basketball game.  Rains poured heavily and roars of thunder were heard after the painful loss, even nature grieved with us.  An earthquake shook Manila at midnight, the gods must be turning in their beds, having difficulty catching sleep, asking themselves how they could have undone a destiny of despair for the sons of Benedict.  We wanted the win so badly, we gave every bit of our soul, but fate was on the other side. Continue reading “An NCAA moment”

A fellow Ilocano Bedan writes

Glenn George G. Cajigal, former Vice Mayor of Badoc town, writes via e-mail:

I READ your column on Ilocano Bedans and Red Lions Fans. I am a Bedan and I really love to watch the NCAA games, especially those that are played in by the San Beda Red Lions, the number one team in the league right now.

You were able to mention some Bedans in our province. Allow me to add to your list. I know a few like Vice Mayor Allan Nalupta of Batac, his brother Brgy. Chairman Thirdee Nalupta, and their cousin Charles Nalupta. There is also a certain Pinong of Batac who happens to be my classmate in CAS Batch ‘93. Then there’s Mr. Allan Lao of Laoag City, Atty. Angel Miranda Jr., and Elmer Rubio of Badoc. My family members also belong to the Bedan community: my dad Judge Novato Cajigal (San Beda Law), my brothers Marcus and Novato Jr. are sons of Mendiola, too.

Herdy, I like your idea about creating an organization of Bedans in our province. Just let me know and am very much willing to help and support you. Thanks and more power.

Herdy’s Riknakem: Looking forward to working with you, brother. Salamat for your support. Animo!

Debate!

NOVEMBER 20, THURSDAY—It’s three in the morning as I write this, and I, along with a team of student debaters, should be boarding a bus to San Fernando, La Union to join a regional debate championship.

Fate is not on our side, however, as Nestor Corrales, one of our debaters, had to be rushed to the provincial hospital due to severe stomach pains. Nestor’s absence paralyzed our team, and it was too late to change horses. We decided not to push through. So, here I am, yet again, glued in front of my laptop in consuming solitude.

The other team members, Jonalyn De Ocampo (BS Civil Engineering II) and Lester Toledano (BS Nursing II), already had their bags packed and were so excited to go. It would have been their first time to represent MMSU in a competition of such scale.

Quite interestingly, we are also holding this week our university Intramurals. And so, against a backdrop of athletes running, swimming, kicking and smashing, there we were engaging each other in training for what we consider as the “basketball of the mind”.

Elsewhere, COMELEC Commissioner Rene Sarmiento was so impressed at how debate has been made integral to the United States electoral process that he suggested a presidential debate for the 2010 Philippine polls.

Sarmiento said debates to be held in our country will “gauge the capacity, potential and eloquence of candidates.”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines quickly volunteered to host the presidential debates. It seems odd to me, however, that the Catholic Church, an institution that mandates its faithful to always say ‘Amen’ in blind obedience, would offer to host an event that welcomes, respects, and celebrates differences in opinions. Their offer is good but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Thanks, but no thanks.

Media organizations and civil society groups were also warm to Sarmiento’s move, and for good reason. Our people are exhausted of candidates who sing-and-dance their way to public office. But Romeo Macalintal, La Gloria’s election lawyer, readily opposed the holding of mandatory debates, saying that it is unconstitutional.

It will be remembered that, in 2004, La Gloria refused to join a presidential debate. Instead, her team staged something even worse than the musical cheap shots employed by politicians during campaign rallies. The administration party organized a ‘Gloria look-a-like contest, where the contender with the biggest facial mole and the most conspicuous set of teeth wins. (The capacity to lie straight-faced should have been the biggest criteria). Continue reading “Debate!”