I never knew you personally, Horacio “Atio” Castillo III. I found out about your untimely death on social media, when some of my UST friends talked about you, and how you didn’t deserve to die in the hands of cold-blooded murderers.
I wish I had met you. I would have liked to talk to you and tell you that it’s okay to not belong. That it’s okay to not have an organization, a fraternity, or an affiliation. That it’s okay to be different and to stand out from the rest.
Like you, I desperately wanted to belong.
I tried so hard to fit myself into a certain mold. During my younger years in college, I applied to different orgs because I didn’t want to eat alone in between classes. I was also scared that I wouldn’t “fit in” during “DP week” (when members would change their display photos into org-related ones). I also wanted to make a lot of friends and cultivate a network of contacts, which would be very useful in my line of work (which is related to Communications).
I never got to do any of those. The reason? The cumbersome and emotionally distressing application process. I didn’t like that many UP orgs forced applicants to fill out sigsheets, fulfill so many tasks in one week, and stage an applicants’ party that would somehow involve a bit of “cariño brutal” and “good-natured banter.” I also didn’t like how org members thought they were actually above the applicants. True, there was a hierarchy to be followed in this “institutional” setup. But telling applicants to fulfill near-to-impossible or self-serving tasks is unfair and unprofessional.
The process gets worse toward the end when members berate and scare the wits out of applicants. Often, members make applicants cower in submission and feel helpless and broken. Later, they “pick up” the applicants from their jilted stupor—shaken, ears ringing from high-pitched insults, bodies quivering in fear and shock at what just happened. They then sweetly ask if the applicants trust them, then congratulate the latter for “surviving the ordeal.”
That’s why I deferred both of my org applications. With respect to my friends who are members, I appreciate the purpose of UP orgs. But I really think members should do something about their application process, or make it more inclusive and humane rather than gruelling, torturous and downright ridiculous.
I won’t be a hypocrite. I sometimes hang out in the orgs to which I previously applied. I’ve made a lot of friends there, but I feel that the application process instantly opened a huge chasm between them and me.
I thought there was something wrong with me. Was I being too sensitive? Was I overreacting, because it was all so new to me? Was I an outcast doomed to be forever alone, both in love and in socials?
For three years I was lost and confused. It only recently occurred to me that I could use my present situation to my advantage. Instead of moping, I decided to look for other ways to pass the time. I dabbled in writing stories (fiction and nonfiction), singing, playing the piano, studying, and hanging out with my UP Manila friends. Soon I met people like me, who always felt different and “weird.” I told them it was okay to be weird. I reassured them that org life wasn’t for everyone, and that they had nothing to be ashamed of.
I really wish I had met you, Atio. I really wish we could have talked about how ridiculous the world is. We could have agreed that all we have to do is to forge our own paths and find our own destiny. I know how difficult it is to blaze a trail, especially in a world that favors the powerful and rich. But it does help to have a strong support group.
Those who say that you shouldn’t have joined a fraternity in the first place are wrong. There is nothing wrong with wanting to belong, to actively search for a group of friends who will love you for who you are.
Aegis Juris lied about its application process. Its members said there wouldn’t be any form of hazing, but they did not honor their word. Instead, they beat you up and killed your body and your dreams. I cannot find it in my heart to forgive them for doing that to you. No one in this world deserves to be treated like that.
The org application process in my school doesn’t hold a candle to what you experienced. On behalf of all the “org-less barbarians” out there, we are so sorry for our silence. We should have spoken up more about this culture of cliquishness and impunity plaguing the academic sphere.
Now that your name has made it to the national news, everyone is giving their two cents on what happened to you. I’m bothered that people start to talk about an issue only when someone pays a hefty price for it.
It infuriates me that this has been happening for a very long time yet members of fraternities, sororities and orgs keep mum about the atrocities they experienced. Many of them would credit their silence to “brotherhood,” “sisterhood,” or whatever pact of secrecy they were sworn to. But no one should be subjected to what you experienced.
Based on what my friends said in their social media posts, Atio, you were a warm and friendly guy who had big dreams.
You will be sorely missed. The world did not deserve a kind person such as you. Aegis Jvris did not deserve you. You deserved better. You deserved a life full of love, hope and acceptance. I’m truly sorry that we were never able to give that to you.
This is a wake-up call for all Filipinos. We must not let something like Atio’s death happen again, nor must we allow a culture of impunity to continue to plague our society. We must accept that it’s okay to be different, that it’s okay to not conform to the standard.
Being different is awesome. Living in a society marred by cliques and inhumane application processes is not. Let us remember that as we wait for justice to be served.
But not even justice can bring back Atio, the young man whose blood will forever stain the hands of his killers.
* * *
Angelica Y. Yang, 20, is a journalism student at the University of the Philippines Diliman and a freelance correspondent of Inquirer Lifestyle and other media outlets.
Critical thinking is best antidote