ASIDE from academic pursuits, membership in organizations is a key component of a college student's life. Whether these organizations are based on academics, fraternities, culture, chess, honor societies, sororities, scouting, mountaineering clubs, biking groups, or weekend walking groups, these are meant to enable the student to live a more balanced social life and foster better interpersonal relationships among them, their campus colleagues, professors, employees and administrators.

The Sixties and Seventies

I remember the turbulent 1970s in UP Diliman where organizations, especially fraternities and sororities, flourished. To be a member of one instilled a deep sense of pride, belonging and camaraderie. It became the extended version of family.

However, it was always the bad news, usually of the violent type, that traveled and spread like wildfire around the campus: how an outnumbered group would be beaten up badly and sent to the hospital by a rival group instigated by petty causes like dirty looks, a left-handed comment about someone's girlfriend, someone who bullied the member's brother, etc., the gang mentality in short. Unbecoming of a student belonging to a prestigious university. The bigger the attacking force, the better advantage, aided by ordinary materials such as stones, pieces of wood, even the deadly pillboxes and, later on, guns. McGyver must have been a bad role model for these people.

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Cases would be filed, connections counted a lot, and even non-resident members would be called in for reinforcements.

Off-campus gangs also proliferated. At birthday parties, debuts, concerts, etc., I had the impression that their clashes and skirmishes were the most violent, including the destruction of property and vehicles.

Campus-wide, hazing was a tradition. But, as human beings are wont to do, many rituals would get out of hand, ending in tragedy. Imbibing alcohol only made it worse.

The mood during those days was extreme — many espoused peace, love, religion, enhanced by drugs and rock n' roll, while others resorted to campus violence using the very organizations that were supposed to guide them through life.

Today

Today, I see students focused on academics showing a keen desire to excel and achieve. Their concern is having the right means of campus living, for dormitory rentals, meals, transportation, books, and other educational materials.

Fraternities have evolved. The campus fraternities no longer tolerate hazing. They instead focus on community service projects, the single guiding principle next to the pursuit of academic excellence.

The resident members, now alumni, are professionals in their respective fields. Some may have lost their way, but most stayed despite their political exposure and pursued their own dreams in life. Many enjoyed success. They got married, had children, and raised their families well.

They created alumni associations to help the students embrace productivity and civic consciousness. What is the use of experience and wisdom if not to give a better direction in life to the younger ones?

Did our parents encourage us to shoot and kill, and hoard goods because they were exposed to the horrors of World War 2?

On the contrary, they taught us how to fend for ourselves, using the brains that God gave us. They showed us how to be productive. They did not want us to go through what they did. They taught us to learn as many things as possible, the lessons which have evolved into the catchphrase "Do-it-yourself." In short, they taught us how to survive. This included moral values, respect, consideration for others, thriftiness, cleanliness, good manners and right conduct (GMRC). This is why foreign employers love Filipino overseas workers.

Today, these fraternity alumni associations serve to guide the younger generations and foster goodwill as their elders. Almost all of these fraternity alumni associations at UP Diliman have, in fact, grouped together in sports, fellowships and cultural undertakings. The present major alliance is called the UP Barkada which grew from a golfing club of UP Campus-based fraternities, into a socio-civic organization. They serve to help and assist each other's civic and community projects. Like the APO Golf Club of which I am a member, they also have an online prayer group for people in need. They give financial assistance to the golf caddies and other employees annually.

Their medical professionals created a virtual medical consultation site for members and their families (now expanded to cater to the public for a minimal fee).

They encourage sponsors and conduct cultural events like art exhibits and musicals aside from civic fund-raising activities.

As I know it, the early beginnings of these very productive alliances emanated from the legendary Sabaka, notoriously popular because of their hilarious campus shenanigans. Ask the 1970s to 1980s generation in Diliman about them.

Gone are the days of jungle warfare/violent gang mentality.

The image and practices of today's fraternities have changed for the better a million times over.

I am proud of them.