By Ellen Tordesillas
THE death of San Beda Law student Marc Andrei Marcos due to hazing once again causes pain and frustration to many who can't understand why fraternities have to be brutal and violent in the screening of their members.
Raymund Narag, a member of Scintilla Juris fraternity when he was studying at the University of the Philippines, was imprisoned for almost seven years in connection with the death of another fratman, Dennis Venturina of Sigma Rho, during a rumble at the U.P in 1994.
He has written several articles posted in his blog (www.raymundnarag.wordpress.com) which he shares to the public for a better understanding of what he calls "the brotherhood".
Hopefully, these senseless deaths would stop.
The introduction of one of Narag's articles, titled "My Honor," gives a glimpse of how his life had been turned upside down by the tragedy:
"I will graduate with honors. This April 20 and 21, 2002, the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) and the University of the Philippines will confer upon me my bachelor's degree Cum Laude. I will march tall and proud together with other graduates seven years younger than my batch.
"I should have graduated April 27, 1995. Unfortunately, just three days before the commencement exercises, a warrant of arrest was issued against me. I was allegedly part of a youthful brawl that caused the death of a young promising man. Together with other 10 other accused, I voluntarily surrendered to police authorities and submitted myself to the courts. Instead of a diploma, I showed my parents the papers taking me away from their custody and placing me under detention. Instead of marching to the stage with the applause of friends and relatives, I dragged my feet to the prison cell. My parents figuratively died. My family uprooted.
"I languished in jail for six years, nine months and four days. I endured the full length of a criminal prosecution, or more appropriately, persecution. I patiently waited for the day of freedom, counting the days, weeks, months, and years as they come one by one. I silently bore the humiliation of getting out of the cells with handcuffs. I chivalrously let go the love of my life when she asked a time out because she had been too pressured to defend our situation. I accepted my fate peacefully— knowing that there is a reason for everything."
In his article, The Brotherhood", Narag said, "the fraternity system has become a big black hole that sucks these young promising men to their graves. The fraternity as an institution, despite its noble and lofty ideals, has degenerated into becoming a barbaric gang. Internally, its organizational structure has become so hierarchically feudal, with the head becoming the law and the members losing their individuality. Externally, it has imbibed the culture of the tribesmen and treats other tribes as an unforgivable "enemy".
More excerpts: "The seeds of violence are sown into the heart of a frat man the moment he enters the fraternity. The rites of passage required before an applicant can be considered a "brother" is a ritual replete with physical and psychological violence. By testing the mettle through pain and humiliation, the new members are inducted to become blood brothers.
"The physical violence impinged on frat member during initiations becomes the rational for the acceptability of the other forms of violence. The members accept the violence as a normal practice. "
Narag said discussed the Code of Silence among frat members that makes difficult making accountable those responsible for the death of the those young men due to hazing.
"The fraternities anchor their strength on secrecy. Like the Sicilian code of omerta, fraternity members are bound to keep the secrets from the non-members. They have codes and symbols the frat members alone can understand. They know if there are problems in campus by mere signs posted in conspicuous places. They have a different set of communicating, like inverting the spelling of words, so that ordinary conversations cannot be decoded by non-members.
"The code of silence reinforces the feeling of elitism. The fraternities are worlds of their own. They are sovereign in their existence. They have their own myths, conceptualization of themselves and worldviews. Save perhaps to their alumni association, they do not recognize any authority aside from the head of the fraternity."
Narag said "Not all frat members however share the inclination or penchant for rumble and violence. In a fraternity there are more cool heads than hotheads. Perhaps in every ten members, there could be eight cool heads and only two hot heads. However, the cool heads are the silent majority in the fraternity. They seldom speak during meetings and are not elected during frat elections. Their opinions and views on how to run the affairs of the fraternity are not properly and openly articulated. The cool heads have no identity in the frat. They are lost in the multitude. They do not know each other. They do not even know that they exist. Their longing for peace is gobbled up by the voice of the hotheads."
He encouraged victims to speak now.
" The victims are not mere accidents. They are flesh and blood who would carry the bitter experience throughout their lives. They should break the code of silence and voice their concern over the growing barbarism of the institution that they belong. The victims should speak saying that all those who ever held a paddle and lead pipe are all guilty to the fate that had befallen them. The victims must initiate the voice: the enemy here is not the "other" fraternity, the enemy is ourselves. The culprit is the culture of violence that engulfs the fraternity system."
He ended his article with "Here is the first voice."
Last May 4, 2012, I marched in the graduation ceremonies of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Pending the successful defense of my dissertation, I will receive a doctoral degree in criminal justice. From a maligned ex-detainee in one of the most crowded jails in the Philippines, I will be called "Dr. Narag," with specialization in prison administration. I wish to share my story as testimony to the triumph of the human spirit. It is a testimony of God's love.