Sunday, November 16, 2008


One of the more common sights in Manila are those of our young students beaming with youthful vitality, pride and promise; rightly so, for ahead of them are the best and exciting years of their life, with some seeking work/live opportunities in various distant lands. Indeed, a gripping future awaits these young folks.

However, there remains to this day, a dark aspect of student life that despite the perils involved -- its hazing rituals, primarily -- many are enticed to sign up due to the
sense of community and belonging that such groups offer, including the promise of a vast network of peers who could help one another professionally after graduation. And despite the Philippine Hazing Law, violent inititation rites continue to be condoned and practiced by many local Greek letter societies or fraternities.

Cris Anthony Mendez died on August 27, 2007, following severe beatings by members of the Sigma Rho Fraternity at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The beatings to his legs and chest were so severe that the 20-year-old was left with bruised lungs and huge bruises all over his body, according to the autopsy report.

Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and former Senate President Jovito Salonga has resigned as member of the Sigma Rho fraternity because of this incident. In a statement sent to the Inquirer, Salonga, one of the most prominent Sigma Rhoans, said that he was resigning “because of recent events in which Sigma Rho has been involved.”

Sigma Rho has been accused of two other fraternity-related violence: In December 1994, Dennis Venturina, a Sigma Rhoan, died in a riot between Scintilla Juris and Sigma Rho; whereas, on February 19, 1999, Niño Calinao, a senior journalism major was shot dead by suspected Sigma Rho members. He was mistaken for a member of the rival fraternity Scintilla Juris, which clashed with Sigma Rho members in a riot a week before the killing. Both incidents happened inside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus.

Prior to these incidents at UP Diliman, there was also the tragic fraternity-related case of 22-year-old first-year law student Leonard Villa of the Ateneo University back in 1991.

In joining the Aquila Legis Fraternity, Leonard Villa was allegedly subjected to a savage initiation rite in which he was kicked, mauled and beaten to death. His mother, Gerarda Villa,
recalled the struggles her family went through just to prove that her son's killing was murder and not homicide.

Yet t
o date, she cannot get the judicial system to mete out punishment to those found guilty of having participated in her son's killing. Villa said they won the case in the lower court against 26 members of the Aquila Legis but it was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The case is now with the Supreme Court.

Through six decades, Aquila Legis fraternity has inducted over 1500 members, 90% of whom are members of the Philippine Bar and include Cabinet Secretaries, Congressmen, Justices, and Ambassadors. Its name comes from the Latin phrase meaning "Legal Eagle."

Since the death of her son, her late husband, Romulo Villa, a lawyer and once a BIR Commissioner during the Marcos era, founded Crusade Against Violence (CAV) in which she is now the current president. During her interview with the Inquirer, Villa said that they expected cover-up attempts in the Cris Mendez case.

It should be noted that although not everyone who goes through such ritualistic tests endures debilitating physical injuries, other forms of hazing, though subtler, can cause lingering emotional or psychological trauma -- such as being subjected to constant verbal abuse or sleep deprivations. In other cases, new members or rookies are ordered to wear humiliating attire, deprived of a regular schedule to maintain personal hygiene, or required to provide personal services to senior members (e.g. cooking, cleaning, carrying books, errands, etc.).

Hazing is often used as a method to promote group loyalty and camaraderie through shared suffering (male bonding in fraternities), either with fellow participants, past participants or both. A tentative explanation from evolutionary psychology is that grave hazing can condition the habituation and internalization of the psychological trait known as Stockholm syndrome in humans.

Stockholm Syndrome argues that blatantly brutal hazing can, in fact, produce negative results; making the units more prone to break, desert or mutiny than those without hazing traditions. This was observed in the Russian army in Chechnya, where units with the strongest traditions of dedovschina were the first to break and desert under enemy fire.

Regrettably, hazing has transcended the walls of our universities and some local high schools. It has become a societal problem, a way of life in certain elitist organizations and professions. Incidents of which occur in the military, police forces, athletic teams, marching bands, religious cults, professional schools and various clubs.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 3:54 PM


Anonymous bertN said...

When I was in college, I was repeatedly enticed by my friends to join their fraternities. I steadfastly refused because hazing is a practice I abhor. If truth be said, I cannot be a friend or a brod of someone who will torture or physically abuse and humiliate me. Simply not my cup of tea.

November 16, 2008 9:54 PM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

I have a close friend who unfortunately was indirectly involved with that Aquila Legis murder. He's now a practicing lawyer and seems to be a success at it.

However, there are times when I wish I have the courage to call him and his fraternity brothers a bunch of killers and hypocrites for successfully obstructing justice through all this many years.

November 17, 2008 1:08 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

Rites of initiation has been with us since time immemorial. I've been reading on Sidney's tattoo series and read up, as a follow up on various links. I've read on one of the links the Igorot's rite of initiation of head hunting for the younger members of the tribe. But these initiation are rites of passages that does not use violence for the sake of violence or to humiliate the initiate. We must re-learn and re-teach the values of initiation to our younger generation. Whether we like it or not, it will come to stay (marriage is a rite of initiation for us men... heheee); but we must set the standard and draw a line.

Another great post Eric!

November 17, 2008 1:54 AM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

More like a peace movement/Hippie family commune for me when I was in college in Manila.
We considered the fraternities back then as the "war freaks" on campus.
There are a lot of other ways to build and bond a fraternal brotherhood among the many journeys and experiences earned through the years of club association. Hazing in fraternities is an overdose of testosterone, barbaric and medieval in many ways.

BTW, It's mostly the rich elite kids that perform the hazing ceremonies on the plebes and when sh#* happens, they get away with the crime ,most of the time.

November 17, 2008 3:02 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I, too, have a very low threshold for pain, bertN, and although I very much desire to join and applaud groups with altruistic and benevolent missions, if brutal hazing is involved in its membership, however, I'd run away far from it as fast as I could.

It just doesn't make sense to physically torture anyone for the sake of "brotherhood.". There's absolutely nothing God-like about acts of brutality against our fellowman.

November 17, 2008 6:50 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That is true, Mario. I'm all for ritualistic testing but none at all about inflicting physical and emotional injury or excruciating pain to the initiate.

But in my Sociology and Anthropology classes in college, I've come across some bizarre initiation rites as outlined by Margaret Meade in her journals.

November 17, 2008 6:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Strangest of coincidences, Panaderos, Lenny Villa was my nephew. His death truly devastated his family, relatives and friends.

And from what I was told, many of the accused come from prominent Filipino families -- privileged elites -- that somehow remain untouchable by our law. A sad commentary indeed on our judicial system.

November 17, 2008 7:02 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

"There are a lot of other ways to build and bond a fraternal brotherhood among the many journeys and experiences earned through the years of club association. Hazing in fraternities is an overdose of testosterone, barbaric and medieval in many ways."

I couldn't agree with you more, Pete. And some of these intense ritualistic rites border on homo-eroticism. A nephew, along with his boot camp mates (local air force) was made made to brush their teeth and before allowing to wash off the toothpaste from their mouths were paired with fellow cadets and made to engage in extended French kissing.

- "BTW, It's mostly the rich elite kids that perform the hazing ceremonies on the plebes and when sh#* happens, they get away with the crime, most of the time."

The Lenny Villa case best exemplifies this, Pete. To date, those found guilty of his death are thriving in their respective profession and as a free man.

November 17, 2008 7:09 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

This is quite a very intense post, Eric! I have my own account since I became a reluctant sorority member of the Alpha Phi Omega when I was in college. Yep, I went through the hazing until the final initiation. I actually refused to join but then the sorority girls even went to the point of waiting for me outside my classroom! So, I went along and surrendered to the humiliation of everything.

After the initiation, I was hugged and congratulated like forgive and forget...ha! Until now, whenever I have to give my words of wisdom to any would-be college student, I would say---don't be cowed by these bullies and stay independent!

November 17, 2008 8:50 AM  

OpenID bwzone said...

I was a frat member and went through the hazing rituals myself. All I can say is it did reaffirm my manhood, tested my physical and mental limits and I appreciated the value of being part of a group of people who care for each other and enjoy each other for positive reasons and not for warring with other people. If done right, with proper supervision and guidance form the school, I think it is an uplifting experience.

November 17, 2008 9:31 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

There seemed to be lots of coercion from your "sisters" to get you to join their sorority, Bernadette. But the fact that you were disinclined to go through the final stage of their initiation rites proves just how humiliating the entire process was.

Yes, I still hear that some college fraternities are actively recruiting new members, and despite the law against it, still practice hazing in some form or another.

November 17, 2008 11:09 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I think it's wonderful, BW, to be a part of a group of people who care for one another and enjoy each other for positive reasons -- that ought to be the prevailing condition in all school campuses. However, I see no need or reason to subject those who may want to become a part of it under intense initiation tests that involves brutal beatings and mauling.

Again, I'm only referring to the kind of "hazing" that the Philippine law prohibits.

Having grown up with five older brothers, who could be very opinionated, domineering and intimidating -- if given half a chance -- my father was wise enough to encouraged me (the bunso) to articulate my opinion.

And through positive reinforcements, he helped me build the inner strength to be alone if need be. Hence, I was fine with only a friend or two while in high school and college. However, I nonetheless enjoyed a healthy social life; got invited to many parties thrown by schoolmates :)

But in all honesty, I really find no virtue or piety in pain and suffering.

November 17, 2008 11:37 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Hi, Eric.

One of my greatest fears as a mother was for any of my two sons to join fraternities. But I'm just so glad they joined the Demolay International where there are no hazings involved, but mostly rituals. I was able to join one of these rituals, when Marco was installed as Master Counselor few years ago. It was a very solemn ceremony; made me feel proud being a mom of a Demolay member. :)

I don't know if there is truth to what I've heard that in some extremist fraternities/sororities, there are even sexual abuses involving women neophytes. If true, this is very disturbing.

November 17, 2008 12:13 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

this post reminds of my own foolishness when i was young. i joined one of those greeks and went through the hazing ritual. fortunately, initiation for girls was not as brutal as boys. but i witnessed how some neophytes were terrorized physically and psychologically. sadistic tendencies came out during initiations---sometimes, it was like a mob. and some 'level-headed' members would usually stop the sadistic ones from going overboard. now, i'm thankful that no one was rushed to the ER during my time. but in hindsight, the pain was unnecessary. real and lasting friendships can be developed without the hazing part. sure, you have shared memory of how painful it was---like a memory of a car crash. but would you reminisce your car crash with your friends?

November 17, 2008 12:16 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I had just googled and learned about the DeMolay International, Rhoda. Fascinating!

Had I known about it as a youngster, I most probably would have tried to join, but then again, I only started learning about the Knights Templar during my late 20s.

Marco had made a wise choice in joining this group!

They should have similar chapter for the youths of Manila. I wonder if Mario knows anything about this?

November 17, 2008 7:20 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

"real and lasting friendships can be developed without the hazing part. sure, you have shared memory of how painful it was---like a memory of a car crash. but would you reminisce your car crash with your friends?"

Some had equated the unsettling feeling that comes after going through a hazing to post traumatic syndrome, Luna.

Goodness! I sure am glad to know that you didn't suffer from any physical injury, though the sight of seeing some initiates go through torture-like episodes must have disturbed you enough just the same.

Thank you for sharing, Luna.

November 17, 2008 7:27 PM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

Nowadays, does the purpose of a fraternity the same as it did when the concept was created? I don't think so. Thus, I thought away with all these fraternities :)

November 18, 2008 5:36 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Based from conversations I had with some students, Photo Cache, frat societies have become akin to thuggish youth gangs, largely involved in macho posturing than actually doing something like spreading goodwill and participating in civic duties.

November 18, 2008 7:19 AM  

Blogger reyd said...

Hazing will always be a part of any school fraternity agenda. When I joined my fraternity, I knew I will be subjected to humilation and other things to become a member.
It was a good thing since our group are more into civic actions and helping each other in our studies and as a bonus, we assist each other in our lives after school. There were some notorious frats in USTe but I just remained friends with them.
They are more into "Toma, Suka, Tumba" --- hahaha, parating lasing o nakikipag rambulan sa ibang frat. :D
The last time I was in Pinas, I heard about those deaths associated with hazings and even some high school kids are into forming their own fraternities.
And my gulay, there are lots of "Rainbow Coalitions" hanging around the malls. They seemed to be enjoying themselves with their outrageuos outfits and actions that I haven't seen in the San Francisco area. :lol:
That's their life, and so be it.

November 22, 2008 4:43 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

"Hazing will always be a part of any school fraternity agenda."

And sadly, Reyd, as long as there are those willing to be subjected to hazing, then like anything else, it will thrive.

I think there are fraternities or student organizations that are intent on benevolent activities. Kudos to all of them!

November 22, 2008 8:05 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The following is an excerpt from a New York Times article:

7 Students Pledging a Fraternity Are Burned
Published: November 21, 2008

BOSTON — Seven students at a small New Hampshire college have been severely burned in a fraternity hazing ceremony, the police and officials there say.

The students, at New England College in Henniker, N.H., near Concord, were branded with an unidentified object during a “hazing ritual” about three weeks ago, the Henniker police chief, Timothy Russell, said Friday. All the burns were in a straight line, about seven inches long, on the left side of the upper chest.

“The object, we think, was meant to be as close to the heart as possible, whatever meaning that has for the fraternity,” Chief Russell said.

Read complete article here:

November 22, 2008 12:46 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not forgotten Lenny Villa. so sad that attaining brotherhood requires brutality and death.

There is no justification for death. If your loved one, the child who you have loved and cared for all your life, suddenly gets pressured or even coerced into joining and then dies. Or perhaps gets dragged into a frat war and becomes part of something criminal?

Will you still be proud of your damn fraternity?

Alas, our government is run by them. No law will be passed to abolish fraternities.

Perhaps they will take pity and just abolish the violent initiation rites?

think of your children.

transcend violence

October 04, 2010 12:31 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have watched episodes on Law and Order related to hazing and fraternities and how I wish the same justice on TV can be done in real life. This is a sad note on both our educational and justice system. There are other healthy ways of initiating or testing the loyalties of friends in a group. Violence is not an answer to these tests of loyalty. Sadly, this does not happen in our systems. Thank you for this post. I hope that this becomes an eye-opener to those who will come across it.

July 19, 2011 10:08 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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