Filipino college fraternities: high stakes

Ben Taub

10 July 2012

Fraternities and Sororities operate on most college campuses in the United States, forming bonds between like-minded individuals through community service, sports, debate, and various other euphemisms for binge drinking.

Typically denoted by an arbitrary set of three Greek letters, its not unusual for frats to be engaged in petty rivalries with one another, scores to be settled in undertaking keg races, tug-of-war matches, and intramural sports.

But Greek-letter college fraternities are not a uniquely American phenomenon, and in the Philippines, some of them operate as violent gangs.

The Cepu Daily News reports that two Filipino fraternities – Tau Gamma Phi and Alpha Kappa Rho — are engaged in somewhat of a war.  According to the paper, some of the interactions between these feuding brotherhoods “have become deadly.”

Both organizations are approximately four decades old, but they already claim an impressive combined alumni roster of over 1.3 million men.  That’s a lot of hate going back and forth.

But how do young Filipino men even get mixed up in this feud?  Mostly it’s just a desire to belong.  “You can have instant friends if you join the fraternity,” says Richard Buscayno, former president of Alpha Kappa Rho (Akrho).

As is true of many frats at American universities, however, it’s no pleasant process to become a “brother.” Hazing is highly regulated in the Philippines – and in the United States – but just as anti-hazing legislation  didn’t stop students at Cornell in February, the law doesn’t scare Filipino fraternities. This is true despite legislation that could soon instill a lifelong prison sentence for hazing at Filipino universities.

Both sides in the Filipino frat war allegedly require beatings with a wooden paddle to become eligible for brotherhood, which is then sealed in a branding ritual using a hot Filipino coin.

But when Richard Buscayno of Akhro is asked about hazing, he answers opaquely.  “It has been a long time that [sic] we have landed in newspapers for alleged hazing.”


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