I was a freshman. I was honored to be invited by a group of “cool” girls to be one of them. I was flattered, yes. But I can’t remember saying my final “yes” nor remember setting a date to start our initiation rites. But they never failed to emphasize that if one quits and never finishes the initiation, one would be tagged a “Quitter” for the rest of her college days in UP, if not for the rest of her life. And being tagged a “quitter” is an embarrassment.
And one night, two other girls and I found ourselves in a dinner party by the beach. Before we even realized what was happening, the slapping began. I can’t remember everything. Too psychologically scarred to have remembered everything, maybe. But we must have finished our dinner before the “rites” began. For the first time in my life, I was slapped in the face. Repeatedly. By different would-be “sisters”. Every question and every answer was paired with a slap in the face.
I cried easily. For each slap, tears uncontrollably rolled down my cheeks. One of us showed strength. She never cried the whole duration of the first stage of that initiation. But while I was sleeping from exhaustion that night, she remained awake and cried and cried.
The thought of being called a “quitter” individually haunted the three of us. We were freshmen. We can’t go on for the rest of our days in the university labeled as a “quitter”. Or can we?
It didn’t take 24 hours for the three of us to talk about our inhibitions. Despite the doubts and the fears, we knew we can’t go on. We just had to endure the “quitter” label. And we made our decision known.
Did I ever feel that I had the “quitter” label plastered on me while I was walking around the university campus and the UP dormitory grounds? Nah. Was I too dense that I didn’t feel it? I don’t think so. The fact that that night happened may even just have been known to a limited number of people until now. The girls and I never talked about it after we made our decision known. I didn’t talk about it to my friends. I did talk about it to my former professor recently, more than 20 years after it happened.
Did the sorority girls talk about it? Among them, absolutely! Outside of their sorority? Maybe. Who cared? I don’t know of anyone who did.
But I did go on with my life in UP. I got friends, some of them temporary, some of them became friends for life. I went on with my academic struggles in a degree known to have produced no graduates who have graduated on time (B.A. Political Science is a 4-year course but had students graduate 5, 6 or more years the reason largely attributed to professors, a view I didn’t share). I broke the curse, so to speak. I graduated on time. I made it in 4 years. Alone among my batch. The last person to have graduated on time was 7 full years before I did and became an esteemed lawyer in the city. Some of my batch mates graduated a semester, some years, after I did. And most of them are practicing lawyers these days. I am proud of them. And despite the ambitious and driven persona that I used to exude, I am pretty sure they would be happy if they know where I currently stand.
Belonging to a sorority or a fraternity may be valuable for others but that doesn’t make it good for everyone. To each his own, that much I have learned after what I went through.
But to this day, I cannot fathom the logic behind the humiliation of initiation rites to gain the “honor” of becoming a “brod” or a “sis”.
When my little boys enter the university, I hope to share my story so they won’t feel the need to be part of a “brotherhood”. I take care of them and I would be proud to see them dignified men someday. It will break my heart for them to go through the physical and psychological humiliation just so they will be declared by a group of boys “worthy to join their brotherhood”.
“Let not a man guard his dignity, but let his dignity guard him.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
(my condolences to the parents and relatives of all hazing victims)