The University of the Philippines (UP) is again in the news.
The good news: Its underdog varsity team, the Fighting Maroons, is having a winning streak and has a good chance of playing in the UAAP (University Athletic Association of the Philippines) finals. UP edged Adamson, thanks to teamwork in which the league’s most valuable player, Bright Akhuetie, a Nigerian, scored the winning basket in the dying seconds. One more win versus Adamson brings UP to the finals, enough reason for UP, usually a cellar dweller in the basketball league, to celebrate.
Akhuetie’s performance was all the more extraordinary, in light of his condition wherein he suffered from flu before the game. Worse, he suffered discrimination from some fellow students belonging to the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity. One scurrilously called him UP’s “pet gorilla.”
Which brings us to the bad news: Exposed to the public was the online conversation of the fraternity members that contained a lot of slanderous, misogynistic, hateful, intolerant, inflammatory statements. These fraternity members assaulted women, gays, blacks, Moros, Leftists, and others.
It is right and just for the public to condemn the statements and actions of these fraternity members. Even Upsilonians have expressed their disapproval and anger.
UP President Danilo Concepcion, an Upsilonian himself, issued a strong statement, and I quote part of what he said:
“Let me now speak as an Upsilonian.
“It personally pains me for my fraternity, which is celebrating its Centennial, to have been associated with these posts. They do not represent what we have stood for all those years, as they bring us back to the darkness rather than the light.
“But my pain cannot be compared to that of those maligned by their posts, and I assure the University community that I will do all I can, both as President and as a fellow of the fraternity, to root out this problem and to instill or reaffirm a culture of respect, tolerance, and decency within Upsilon and our entire fraternity system.”
Indeed, this notorious behavior of some Upsilonians is a disservice of unfathomable depths to the fraternity. It comes at a time that the fraternity is celebrating its 100th year. It also comes at a time it is seeking to revise its image of being a fraternity of villains, a fraternity of Marcos.
During the course of its centennial celebration, the fraternity, which takes pride in striving for leadership, has not given any public recognition to Marcos, the only Philippine president it can claim. Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, a fighter for independence, and a true war hero (unlike Marcos who had to burnish his reputation with fake medals), has become Upsilon’s model. The fraternity has likewise honored fellows — the living and the dead — for their significant contributions in different fields and disciplines. But Marcos is excluded. (Other Upsilonian politicians, even the good ones like Ninoy Aquino, have likewise been excluded from receiving recognition during the centennial celebration. Perhaps, this is the tradeoff to prevent Marcos from being recognized.)
That Upsilon was Marcos’s fraternity does not mean that Upsilon is a Marcosian fraternity. Yet the perception that Upsilon is a bad fraternity because of its association with Marcos refuses to die. The bad behavior of some fraternity members as exemplified by the malicious, defamatory online chats reinforces this view.
The post from someone with an assumed name “Tita Maroon” is a typical sentiment: “I won’t be surprised kung brod ninyo si Satanas. Oh wait brod nyo nga pala si Marcos.”
Any large organization, be it a fraternity, a political party, the Catholic Church, a revolutionary organization, or a civic club, cannot predict the goodness (or badness) of its recruits. In Upsilon’s case, it was a misfortune (in hindsight) that Marcos became a member of the fraternity.
It is inaccurate to say that Upsilon is packed with pro-Marcos (or for that matter pro-Duterte) fellows. Upsilon is likewise the fraternity of anti-Marcos fellows — Ninoy Aquino, Jake Almeda Lopez, Senseng Suarez, Armando Malay and son Ricardo, the Laurels, the Yabuts, Behn Cervantes and his communist comrades like Mel Glor and Mer Arce, among many others.
Also worth noting is the decency of some of Marcos’s classmates and fraternity cohorts. The respected journalist RenatoTayag, was Marcos’s law classmate and fraternity brother, but he was never part of the Marcos shenanigans. Another Marcos cohort, now 104 years old, is Delfin Gonzales. At his age, he is still capable of posting intelligent Facebook messages. And he is anti-Marcos and anti-Duterte!
During my days at UP Diliman, I was witness to how Upsilon residents engaged in the anti-dictatorship struggle. Some of them were my close friends — the late Juanito Yabut and the late Luis Taylor.
And so, Upsilon must take pains to restore the honor of the fraternity. Here, history is a guide.
Upsilon was founded by a group of masons who were at the forefront of the struggle for Philippine independence. Freemasonry was a progressive force throughout the world, which sought enlightenment, freedom, and liberty. The Filipino revolutionaries and reformists of the 19th century drew inspiration from Freemasonry. Masons composed the leadership and membership of the Propaganda Movement and the Katipunan
I recall the late Al Simbulan’s view (discussed in a still unpublished manuscript) that Rizal had the intention of using the Masonic Lodges as his organization to launch the Philippine revolution. Upon the defeat of the Philippine revolution, the struggle for freedom and independence took various forms. Philippine masons, for one, continued the struggle through legal means.
This then is the background of Upsilon’s founding. The Upsilon credo is heavily influenced by the principles of Freemasonry. The emphasis is on attaining “the ideals of peace and freedom for all peoples,” on upholding the “spirit of self-negation for the greater good,” on promoting “mutual aid and affection.”
Returning to its progressive roots should be its key message, as Upsilon Sigma Phi celebrates its centennial.
And such transformation will be good news and a cause for celebration for the whole of UP. Winning the UAAP championship will merely be a bonus.
The author is not a fraternity member. He is a barbarian.
Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.