It is said that the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water from the womb. It is in that regard that the sanctity of brotherhood is so revered in society. We as humans naturally seek companionship; longing to be able to share our lives with others.
For some, loneliness is satisfied by making friends, finding lovers, and meeting new people. For others, they long for something more. It is these people that often find themselves in fraternities. Fraternities, in their barest definition, are a group of people sharing common interests and goals in life. While on the surface level, this may seem like a normal group of friends, modern fraternities have evolved to more than just that.
There’s a devoutness associated with fraternities, which are now more in line with brotherhoods or kinships. These groups carry an air of mystery, with many having negative ideas about what they might be. However, there is something about these bonds that captivates yet induces, and confuses rather than enlightens. To most, it is close but no cigar; to the learned, it remains to be recherché.
First test: Perception
*Daniel, a student who joined a fraternity less than three years ago, often gets asked about his place in a fraternity by those he’s trusted enough to divulge that information with.
He’s well aware of the negative connotation surrounding him and the group he’s found a home in. “There’s definitely a negative perception. Schools are always trying to keep students from being part of frats. We’re seen as troublemakers and all that. So I don’t really tell too many people,” Daniel says. “Telling people I’m a member of a frat is painting a target on my back in a way.”
Chris, on the other hand, joined his fraternity during the early 90s. He admits, however, that joining a fraternity was a usual thing to do during that time in his campus. “You are the outcast if you do not have a fraternity during our time,” he says in Filipino. Nonetheless, he also acknowledges the fact that fratmen like him can also carry the stereotypical notion of being feared by other students. “Yes, there are some people who think we are something meant to be scared of even if we meant no harm. Our fraternity takes pride in keeping a non-existent culture of fratwars up to this day, but that is something not a lot of people see.” he adds.
First perk: Abet a friend
“In a way, the negative stuff gets some things right,” Daniel admits. “We do party a lot. You’ll see a lot of alcohol stuff in the movies, and that’s definitely a thing. However, this stuff is kinda overplayed. That’s not all we do, and a lot of the time it’s not even that bad.”
“The fraternity system is built on furthering education in a way,” Daniel says when asked about how being in a fraternity influences his education. “You get a lot of help from your brothers when trying to study, because they actually want to see you get somewhere in life. You also get to meet a wide variety of people there. There are a lot of ways of thinking you can see in a group, as you’re surrounded by different minds and all.”
The same sentiments were echoed by Chris. “Our fraternity stemmed from the Engineering College of our school. They were just starting to open up to other colleges when I got in,” he recalls. When asked if the fraternity was beneficial to his education, Chris laughs and says in Filipino, “Well, most of our seniors are from Engineering. When we need help in Math, they give us books. They even teach us sometimes. Then I guess it’s beneficial.” Chris even adds, “I’ve had professors that were my sisters and brothers from the fraternity. You still make an effort to study, but you know you are kind of in a good place knowing that the professor is from your fraternity.”
Last test: Revenge
As someone who has seen it all, it was only customary, if only out of circumstance, that Chris was asked about the somewhat never-ending culture of initiation rites. “During our time, our fraternity started lessening the intensity of the initiation rites. As young as we were, we didn’t want that to happen,” When asked why, Chris answers in Filipino, “It happened to us, then why wouldn’t it happen to them? As simple as that. It was our mentality.”
Chris further explains the Filipino idea of gantihan, saying, “That’s how it is. During our time, we didn’t want the fraternity to change the initiation rites because we wanted the neophytes to go through the same thing as we did.” He believes that the said mentality is the main factor as to why initiations are still somewhat rampant despite the existence of a law that penalizes hazing.
For some, initiation is more than just a symbolic act of joining the fraternity and brotherhood—it has become an avenue for many to prove to themselves that they belong. However, Chris says, their fraternity was never that intense as compared to others, “We’re not really known for being merely reckless and violent even in the initiation”. But Chris knows the reality—not every fraternity is as careful as they are.
Last perk: Brotherhood
When asked how he would define the term “brotherhood” Chris says, “Simple. Right or Wrong. That’s it. At least for me.” He acknowledges, however, that it may differ from one person or fraternity to another. To most, having a fraternity is like having a large pack of wolves ready to be with you in any situation, whichever side you may be. However, being in something as significant as a fraternity also means making some sacrifices, especially back in his college days where his studies had to come secondary when he was a neophyte.
“I’ve had to think about my fellow brothers a lot more often,” Daniel began. “When making decisions in life, it’s not really about me anymore. I’m thinking of a large group of people too. This is technically a sacrifice, but I’m not suffering for it. I’m happy to do things like that for these people, because I know they’d do the same for me.”
In both Daniel and Chris’ cases, being part of a fraternity meant having brothers you could always rely on; for college days and beyond. When asked whether he would advise someone to join a fraternity or sorority, Chris replies, “Yes,” then jokingly continues, “as long as it’s my fraternity.”
But joking and humor aside, he left some words to remember for those who are new or are planning to join a fraternity, “After college, not everything is about the fraternity anymore. It will exist in your life and it’s just there, but there’s more to life than the fraternity you have come to know during your college days.” he explains in Filipino.
Speaking as an individual who believes he has achieved a level of contentment for himself and his family, Chris emphasizes that the connections he’s made because of his brotherhood after college helped at times, but there are treasures in life that one must face beyond the borders of their brotherhood.
In the end, for Daniel and Chris, the brotherhood and friendships made within the confines of their fraternity will live on as long as they choose to, but life has something to offer outside of it as well. For most of us, the idea of association rises and falls on expanding horizons and reliable networks, but for Daniel and Chris, and perhaps all those who have traversed the same road, they were a means to an end. No, they were a covenant promised to give meaning to whatever end they choose.
*Names with asterisk (*) are pseudonyms