A deep dive into the hazy world of fra­ter­ni­ties


‘ Walang labasan ng pan­galan ah—pan­galan ko at ng school ko.” So we agree on Mr. 1925. He is cur­rently a law se­nior in a well-known law school and hold­ing a po­si­tion in his fra­ter­nity. “Kum­baga in lay­man’s term, para akong vice pres­i­dent.” Mean­while, “Golden Phoenix,” the head­mas­ter of a fra­ter­nity based in a univer­sity in La­guna, agrees to a con­ver­sa­tion with us on one con­di­tion: We had to do it in his fra­ter­nity’s HQ, with no cam­era in place. “Dito tayo para kung sakaling may mal­ing galaw ka, bug­bog ka… joke lang, bro! Mahi­rap na kasi eh, mainit ang mata ng pub­lic sa frats.”

The two frat men’s con­cern with their anonymity is un­der­stand­able. Last Septem­ber, Ho­ra­cio To­mas “Atio” Castillo, a law fresh­man at the Univer­sity of Santo To­mas, died af­ter undergoing haz­ing rites for Aegis Juris, the fra­ter­nity heav­ily linked to his death. Castillo was just 22. Po­lice re­ports showed that Castillo had bruises on his arms and signs of candle wax drips on his body.

Since then, the news out­lets have writ­ten much about the in­ci­dent, as they should, mostly ques­tion­ing the prac­tice of vi­o­lent ini­ti­a­tion rites to seal broth­er­hood in fra­ter­ni­ties. It's im­por­tant to note that haz­in­gre­lated deaths have been recorded in the coun­try as far back as 1954; to date there have been roughly more than 30 fra­ter­nity-re­lated deaths on record. In 1995, Repub­lic Act No. 8049, the Anti-haz­ing Law was en­acted to hold ac­count­able fra­ter­ni­ties and their mem­bers who use vi­o­lence as an ini­ti­a­tion rite (though it does not crim­i­nal­ize haz­ing per se).

Ob­vi­ously, the Anti-haz­ing Law is not work­ing as a de­ter­rent to end vi­o­lent frat haz­ing. And be­cause it ap­pears that they will still do what they do re­gard­less if vi­o­lent haz­ing is a crime, to make sense of this lat­est death we sought out Mr. 1925 and Golden Phoenix to get in­sight on two things:

First, how do fra­ter­ni­ties re­ally run their ini­ti­a­tion? It would seem that univer­sity fra­ter­ni­ties, founded on the prin­ci­ples of broth­er­hood and ex­cel­lence, should be run by smart peo­ple. Aren’t there prepa­ra­tions and pre­cau­tions taken to min­i­mize in­jury, or worse, death?

Sec­ond, if some­body does die, what are the rules of their cri­sis man­age­ment? The ini­tial re­ports on Atio’s death may seem to point that the Aegis Juris mem­bers acted in dis­ar­ray, but did they re­ally? It would make sense to think that ev­ery move the sus­pects in cus­tody were made upon the ad­vice of their su­pe­ri­ors, who by the way, are mostly lawyers. In other words, they should know ex­actly what they're do­ing in times of crises.

What we are af­ter, then, are the pro­to­cols of the so-called broth­er­hood.


“Una, may med­i­cal his­tory ka ba? May nararam­daman ka ba ngayon?”, says Mr. 1925. The neo­phyte is re­quired to not smoke and drink liquor, and to have more than eight hours of sleep prior to haz­ing. I-che-check namin yung mata kasi kung ku­lang tu­log mo, sasabi­hin namin, ‘No go yan, tol, no go.’”

Mr. 1925 says that in their fra­ter­nity, they al­ways have doctors and nurses in the ini­ti­a­tion venue who are, of course, their brod and sis. “Sasabi­hin namin, ‘Brod, sis, baka pwede pa-check na­man yung ap­pli­cants namin.’ Ganu’n kami kapran­ing na kailan­gan wala ta­la­gang magig­ing prob­lema.”

Mr. 1925 says that there is al­ways an of­fi­cer who is des­ig­nated to over­see the ac­tiv­i­ties. Think of him as the mas­ter of cer­e­monies.

“Siya yung kadalasang pinaka­pagod. He over­sees yung se­cu­rity ng venue, yung health ng neo­phyte… yung pi­naka-pro­gram mismo,” says Mr. 1925.

Mr. 1925 ac­knowl­edges the cru­cial role of the masters not just in the re­cruit­ment of new brods, but also in keep­ing their neo­phytes safe. “Kam­ing of­fi­cers mismo, yung paa namin ang nasa red line lagi. Ka­pag may nang­yaring masama, alam namin na kami ang man­anagot.”

Mr. 1925 ad­mits that there could re­ally be some masters in ev­ery frat who hit a paddle harder than they’re sup­posed to, which may be be­cause of ex­cite­ment. “Min­san sig­uro, ayun, ex­cited, kasi syem­pre may bago kam­ing magig­ing ka­p­atid eh.”

But what if a prospec­tive brod raises the white flag while be­ing pad­dled? Would they con­tinue hit­ting him?

“Sa amin kasi, hindi namin hini­hin­tay na bu­magsak yung puno bago buhatin. I-che-check namin yung heart­beat niya. Kaya lagi da­pat may med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als na naka-standby. Kun­wari sasabi­hin, ‘Okay pa po ako,’ pero hindi kami pa­payag na ga­nun lang. I-che-check pa rin namin siya. Ka­pag hindi mo na kaya, pahinga ka muna. Tapos kung kaya pa ng isang [ap­pli­cant], tata­nun­gin namin, ‘Kaya mo ba sumalo para sa kanya?’ Kum­baga, tine-test mo pa rin sila. Doon pa lang, makikita mo na kung sino yung may po­ten­tial na mag­ing loyal brod.

“Al­though we are usu­ally al­ways 100 per­cent sure that noth­ing bad would hap­pen dur­ing a haz­ing, syem­pre may safety pre­cau­tions pa rin kami,” says Mr. 1925. “Unang-una dyan, da­pat may naka-standby na auto. Parang am­bu­lan­sya, kum­baga. Ka­pag may nang­yari, madadala agad sa os­pi­tal.”

But what if you’re al­ready in the hospi­tal, would you ad­mit that you’re from a fra­ter­nity? That the guy you're tak­ing to the ER is a haz­ing ca­su­alty? “Kadalasan, may­roon na­man kam­ing mga brod at sis sa os­pi­tal. Sila ang una mong ha­hanapin kasi una, for se­cu­rity pur­poses din bi­lang mem­bers ng frat, di ba?” Mr. 1925 is proud that many alumni of his fra­ter­nity are pro­fes­sion­als, thus as­sis­tance is not a prob­lem. “Kaya nga sinasabi ko, ang pagig­ing brod at sis, hindi “yan natat­a­pos pagka-grad­u­ate mo ng school. Tu­luy-tu­loy ang tu­lun­gan ninyo kahit pro­fes­sion­als na kayo.”


While Mr. 1925 is con­fi­dent to say that his chap­ter has never had any record of haz­ing-re­lated deaths or ac­ci­dents in re­cent his­tory, the same can­not be said with Golden Phoenix’s fra­ter­nity.

“It was just last year. While a prospec­tive brod was be­ing pad­dled, he col­lapsed on the floor. It was my first time to see a body give up dur­ing a haz­ing. It looked so bad; we could barely feel his pulse, and we re­ally thought for a mo­ment that he stopped breath­ing,” re­calls Golden Phoenix. “So what did you do?” “At first, of course we had to stop the ac­tiv­ity. We had to va­cate the area and make sure that we left no trace. Mahi­rap na. Ma­bilis lang yun. I guess we were able to leave the area in three min­utes max,” Golden Phoenix re­calls. “And then the car of an alum­nus, nan­dun din. Doon isi­nakay yung body. Then there were two mem­bers there; I tasked them to bring the body to the hospi­tal.

“Yung dalawang brod na yun [the ones who took the neo­phyte ca­su­alty to the hospi­tal], pinagsas­apak din namin para magka­pasa sila. So ayun na yun, when they reached the hospi­tal, they said that they got in­volved in a gang fight. They were just walk­ing when a group of men at­tacked them. That was the only info that they dis­closed. ‘Yun ang no. 1 na sin­abi ko sa kanila be­fore they went to the hospi­tal.”

Golden Phoenix, his fel­low masters, and the neo­phytes all drove to his res­i­dence in Makati. They locked them­selves in for 24 hours, watch­ing the lo­cal news and brows­ing through their so­cial me­dia feeds to see whether the in­ci­dent had made it to the head­lines. They took the mo­bile phones of their two fall guys as well as of the neo­phyte so that the po­lice wouldn’t be able to use them for in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “Kaya wala rin kam­ing way to know kung ano na ba ang nangya­yari.”

Golden Phoenix says that while they were hop­ing that the news wouldn't get big, they also had a backup plan in case the po­lice would be able to lo­cate

them. “We have frat alumni who are now lawyers. I guess this goes the same na­man with other frats,” says Golden Phoenix. “Syem­pre we would bank on that fact that we have con­nec­tions, of course.”

“So would you say that the rea­son why the prac­tice of haz­ing doesn’t seem to stop is be­cause frat mem­bers and of­fi­cers can eas­ily get away with it, be­cause of con­nec­tions?”

Golden Phoenix re­fused to an­swer, but he gave a know­ing look.

“I have to say that we were ex­tremely lucky to have got­ten away with it. Seryoso, bro.”

The neo­phyte lived and kept mum about it. He is also now a fullfledged meme­ber of Golden Phoenix's fra­ter­nity—af­ter go­ing through ini­ti­ta­tion rites again. The two frat mem­ber who took him to the hospi­tal left the scene. “Sig­uro in­isip nila na usual away-kanto lang yun kaya baka hindi sin­eryoso. We were so close to hell. Hindi kami pre­pared nu’n for cri­sis eh. I was so fuck­ing pre­pared for jail. So what, ex­actly, did he learn from it? “‘Yung sa mga sumunod nam­ing ini­ti­a­tion rites, we al­ready have lawyers na on-call. They know all the de­tails of haz­ing--where it will hap­pen, who’d be con­duct­ing it, every­thing alam nila da­pat.”


Mr. 1925 says his fra­ter­nity feels bad for Atio. No neo­phyte should ever die be­cause of his de­sire to be­long in a broth­er­hood. Af­ter all, a broth­er­hood is a fam­ily, and you should feel safe and se­cured in the com­forts of your kin.

“Ang nakakasama lang ng loob, tuwing may haz­ing sa news, ang mga tao, galit na sa la­hat ng frats. Nakakasama lang yun ng loob kasi kun­wari, kami sa frat, ang dami nam­ing safety pre­cau­tions lagi para mai­wasan yung mga pagka­matay nga and also be­cause we re­ally care for the neo­phytes, pero dahil sa isang frat-re­lated news nadadamay pati ibang frats.”

Mr. 1925 still de­fends haz­ing as a solemn and im­por­tant cer­e­mony in a broth­er­hood. “How can you share the same prin­ci­ples if you don’t share the com­mon process? Kun­wari tatlo tay­ong puma­sok pero ako lang ang nag­buhat, tapos sin­abi ko sa inyo na mabi­gat. Pag sin­abi ko ba sa in­y­ong mabi­gat, masasabi ninyo rin na mabi­gat? Ga­nun siya. All of you have to know what the in­sti­tu­tion is all about by hav­ing a com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence. Brods kayo eh. Sama-sama kayo sa hi­rap at gin­hawa.”

Dur­ing a Se­nate hear­ing on Atio’s death, sev­eral se­na­tors ad­mit­ted to be­ing former mem­bers of a fra­ter­nity and to have un­der­gone haz­ing dur­ing their time. Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Franklin Drilon re­called be­ing pad­dled back when he was still a neo­phyte of Sigma Rho at UP in 1966. Sen. Fran­cis Es­cud­ero also ex­pe­ri­enced it upon join­ing Al­pha Phi Beta in UP when he was still a law stu­dent. Se­na­tors Richard Gor­don and Fran­cis Pangili­nan (Up­silon Sigma Phi) and Sonny An­gara (Sigma Rho) were also among the solons who ad­mit­ted to have been hit by a paddle.

De­spite this, they said that they wish haz­ing be com­pletely banned. “Haz­ing is not a re­quire­ment for broth­er­hood, much less loy­alty to a broth­er­hood. It is an un­nec­es­sary and il­le­gal act which seeks to in­flict pain on a fel­low hu­man be­ing and sat­isfy the crav­ing for sadism and bru­tal­ity in some peo­ple,” says Sen. Es­cud­ero.fhm

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