Letters for the Philippine ‘Merciless’ Academy
Seven years ago, I wrote a column with the title “Hazing victims, willing victims.” It was a cruel thing to say while a family was mourning the loss of a beloved—that hazing victims are partly to blame for their own deaths. It is not nice to blame the dead, but some things have to be said.
I received emailed reactions, and two of them (from a mother and from a fratman) I published. I use them again now, even as three Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets are still in the hospital, while Cadet Darwin Dormitorio has already been buried.
(Two of my childhood playmates while I was growing up in Iloilo were surnamed Dormitorio.)
First, let me get this off my chest and direct this to the military institution and the PMA in particular: So the PMA is where you learned the cruelty that you inflicted on political dissenters during the dark days of martial rule under the dictator Marcos. So that is where you learned how to use many forms of torture, from electrocution of the genitals to water cure. An academy where you learn cruelty. Shame!
Excerpts from the letter of a wife and mother: “I read your article and I could not help but cry. I have been wanting to write this for over a decade now… I am keeping [myself] anonymous due [to] the sensitive intricacies in the fraternity to which [my husband] belongs.
“Your article struck a very raw nerve because my husband is a victim of hazing, a willing victim. He entered law school and joined his fraternity after our children were born. As if he didn’t have enough brothers and sisters, he sought the brotherhood of more…
“There were telltale signs, albeit few and far between — his repeated requests for ‘permission’ to join, and his suddenly wearing, for two straight days, his one and only jogging pants which he had never worn before.
“We were happily married. We had beautiful kids. We were a picture of a happy family. Were we not enough for him?…
“And as I read your article the memories of that day when I first caught sight of his ube-colored thighs and arms came rushing back. His story did not end the same way that the lives of Marc Andre Marcos, Lenny Villa and a long list of neophytes ended…
“It took a while before we spoke again, and before the words ‘fraternity’ and the name of his fraternity were ever uttered in my presence.
“The Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 is one big lie. And the elders, the so-called senior brods, some of [whom] were part of the Congress that passed the law, all know that there is still hazing.
“But you are right [in saying] that grieving families should ‘tell the bright but gullible young — in the strongest, un-coolest words — that it is stupid, katangahan and kabobohan to allow one’s self to be beaten black and blue.’”
And from the fratman and professor: “I am a fratman. There was a time when we, the alumni of the frat, debated on the matter but for some reason the debate lost steam… It could resume anytime.
“Physical initiation is a tradition that would be difficult to abolish but it is possible at least to minimize it. There are in fact proposals and proponents in our frat for alternative modes of initiation.
“Pending the changes, we have so far avoided deaths or life-threatening injuries. This may be because we had exercised certain measures to protect neophytes from the more serious dangers that could result from initiation.
“Here are the measures we follow: 1) A responsible officer must be present during the rites. His responsibility includes making sure that the initiation does not go out of bounds; this includes putting a stop to the initiation if it endangers the neophyte, even if it is unfinished. Another member, the recruiter, takes care of the neophyte. 2) Strict limitations to [the] physical initiation could apply — never on the head, torso and other critical parts. 3) No alcoholic drinks. 4) Constant checking of the neophyte’s status, including asking him directly [about] his condition. 5) Readiness to see a doctor and report to alumni leadership of any problem.
“Please take note that this does not seek to sustain having physical initiation. As I’ve said, there are moves to abolish or minimize it…”
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