"Is this how the fraternity would like its centenary to be marked?"


The century-old Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity found itself in a hot mess, and not in a good way, when controversial conversations of younger members of the group were recently leaked on the Internet.

Upsilon, founded in 1918, is the oldest fraternity and Greek-letter organization in Asia and the oldest student organization in UP. The group celebrated its centenary last Nov. 18. Its diverse membership includes Ferdinand Marcos and Benigno ’Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. Many other ‘brods’ (brothers) are wealthy, powerful, and influential in society, business, and politics.

The young brods involved in this latest incident made derogatory comments about women, indigenous people, LGBTQ+, the poor, and Muslims, among others.

Among the most objectionable ‘lonsi lines’: “Nagpresidente pa housewife lang naman [referring to Cory Aquino]. Nawalan lang ng tite ng lonsi [Ninoy’s] nabaliw na e. Kaya ang babae, sa kuwarto o kusina lang dapat.” Also: “Pinapatay din dapat yung lumad to be fair.” “Kung ang sabon ay inimbento para linisin ang katawan, ang bomba ay inimbento para linisin ang Mindanao.” 

There are many such more disgusting and hurtful words, frightening for their violence and hatred of marginalized sectors. 

Among those who made public their condemnation of these particular students is writer and UP lecturer Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza, who said on Facebook: “What happened to these young men that they have chosen the dark road to psychopathy?... these frat men have become so empowered for being sheer members of Upsilon, perceived as an elite fraternity in UP, that they have become overconfident to the point of brazenness and shamelessness… 

“These young men have been exposed for who they really are—misogynists, racists, anti-poor sociopaths.” Mendoza called upon the Upsilon and UP leaderships to “fix this.”

Commenting on Mendoza’s FB post, Wilfredo G. Villanueva, who edited the book ‘One Hundred Years of Light: Anthology of Upsilon Writing,’ said, “I am an Upsilonian and proud of what I have become. My wife and children, sons-in-law, and close friends (they are many, including cherished brods) know me and are happy for what I have become. 

“I have read the chat lines. You have read them too and are now aware of our imperfections. I can only say that: 1. I will participate in the processing of this issue; 2. We will turn this into a learning experience; 3. I will stand against any brod who actually said these things just as I will stand against anyone who want to color us in a single brush stroke using a single color.

“I had an interview recently with Erin Tañada. He was 20 y.o. when Ninoy was shot. There were less than 20 kids in the group of Aquino, Tañada, Diokno, Espina, Estrada-Kalaw, Laurel at that time. They were assigned to man the lines forming in Times Street & Sto. Domingo. A UP organization came to help. He said it was Upsilon.” 

Villanueva also said, “So please be patient with us. We are there when the nation needs us, so please don’t strike us out for the alleged sins of some of our testosterone-laden young brods.”

Much has been said on both sides, but what is clear so far is that Upsilon is not disavowing the chat. So any future spin that might be made claiming hackery or that it was only a joke will not be credible. 

Upsilon was also in the news recently for engaging in a frat rumble with a rival fraternity following the collegiate basketball game that saw the UP Maroons enter the Final Four after two decades of drought. Is this how Upsilon would like its centenary to be marked?

While frats and sororities swear to uphold high standards of morality and hew to right values and conduct, over the decades they claimed superiority over out-groups and instilled elite mindsets in its members. Much of frat culture is marked by violence, such as hazing and frat wars.

It’s time to bring back the service aspect of frats; otherwise, if they cause more harm than good, they should be abolished. There is no justification for the inculcation of toxic masculinity and misogyny in young people, who are supposed to be our hope for a better society of the future.

Dr. Ortuoste has a PhD Communication degree from UP. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Upsilon Sigma Phi , Fraternity , Ivy Lisa Mendoza , Erin Tañada , Wilfredo Villanueva
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