Editorial: Frat 101

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

WHAT makes a fraternity different from an association or a “barkada?”

On the surface, these terms are similar: a group of people united by a shared purpose.

The association is formal and structured, distinct from the “barkada” one forms casually and informally with friends, classmates or peers.


Intimate ties bind members of a “barkada.” The decision to join or drift away from one’s clique is an interaction of choices made by the individual and the collective.

A fraternity is a strange amalgam. While other groupings value the individual and the unique traits and talents he injects into the collective, a frat must first reduce through physical and psychological ordeals the individual until he merges and becomes indistinct fromthe mindset and will of the collective.

Of all the tools, violence is wielded consistently to enforce a frat’s code of brotherhood. The violence is first experienced during “hazing,” the initiation to break down the will and identity of neophytes until they deserve to be called “brothers.” Violence is also wielded as a weapon against individuals or other groups during frat “rumbles” to stake dominion or extract vengeance.

Power trip

These insights into fraternities were drawn from “Batch ’81,” the 1982 classic movie directed by Mike De Leon.

In showing how a fictional Alpha Kappa Omega (AKO) fraternity tortures seven college initiates during the Marcos regime, De Leon drew parallelisms between a fraternity and the martial law regime as fascist systems where power and violence are used in the name of “brotherhood.”

The breakdown of the frat neophytes is not just physical but mental and social. They withdraw from their studies, fellow students, families and girlfriends. The annihilation of their individuality and independence is shown at the movie’s end when the surviving neophytes take part as the newest frat “brods” torturing a new batch of applicants in the ritual of hazing.

Opening eyes

“Batch ‘81” is valuable as a stark instruction into frat psychology. As contemporary “secret societies” that thrive despite their opposition of authorities, community values and social norms, frats have a mystique that may be its strongest recruiting point for out-of-school youths, rebellious teens or anyone seeking to belong to a group that promises the protection of “brotherhood.”

In light of recent reports of hazing’s latest victims, the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LLCPO) is visiting secondary schools to educate students about fraternities and illegal drugs, reported Rebelander S. Basilan in Sun.Star Cebu last July 6.

To have more impact on youths, these classroom encounters must not only rely on a lecture by police officers about the dangers of hazing and drug addiction. Better interaction can be drawn from showing relevant films, inviting former frat members to share their experiences and insights, and discussing the students’ concerns in an open forum.

The death of a hazing victim who studied at the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde, which prohibits students from joining any fraternity or sorority, will not be a strong enough deterrent for those most vulnerable to frat recruitment and intimidation.

The University of the Philippines Diliman’s decision to defer to the request of privacy by the relatives of its student, hospitalized due to hazing-related injuries, illustrates how a culture of silence and secrecy is indirectly nurtured by victims of frats. The LLCPO reported no hazing incident, which may not only mean none has occurred but that no one has reported an incident.

For as long as implementation of Republic Act 8049 (Anti-Hazing Law) is weak and ineffectual, stakeholders—youths, families, schools, communities and authorities—must push the dialogue to cut the hold of power and violence on those most vulnerable to the deceptive promises of a false code of brotherhood.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 07, 2014.


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