The recent death of University of the Philippines student Cris Anthony Mendez most probably during initiation rites of the Sigma Rho reminded me of my brush with a fraternity when I was still a college student of Southwestern University.
A friend invited me to an orientation session with one of the fraternities in the campus. In that meeting, I shot the most number of questions that I later found out was resented by members of the fraternity. Of course, they hid their resentment and proceeded to persuade me to join the scheduled initiation rite.
I later decided not to join the group and refused to go with a friend who was set to undergo hazing (he was told to bring a paddle for the purpose). That friend would then tell me that had I joined the initiation rite, I would have been made to pay for my inquisitive bent. Some members of the group were itching to physically harm me.
Indeed, anything can happen in initiation rites that involve hazing. If one or two members are sadists by nature or are drunk, then the possibility of physical harm or death is high. It takes but some prodding to turn meek college students into a mob out to kill a recruit.
One cannot blame, therefore, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago for pushing for the abolition of fraternities and sororities. Of course, that is an extreme reaction to Mendez’s killing but it should be enough to prod fraternity leaders to change their method of recruitment, like doing away with initiation rites altogether.
In fact, hazing is not the only problem for fraternities and sororities; fights with other fraternities erupt, too. In Cebu, the quarrel between the Alpha Kappa Rho and Tau Gamma Phi has resulted in violent clashes and deaths, and the “war” has yet to end.
I agree that majority of fraternities and sororities are good and their projects have benefited many people. But deaths due to hazing and clashes with rival fraternities and sororities should stop. Perhaps with a Senate committee investigation on Mendez’s death all angles of the issue will be discussed.
—Candido O. Wenceslao, September 4, 2007