In the United States, college fraternities are known as clubs where like-minded individuals live, study and binge drink.
Denoted by Greek letters, American frats often engage in petty rivalries with one another, settling scores with keg races, tug-of-war matches and intramural sports. (All of which were hilariously satirized in the 1984 classic “Revenge of the Nerds”.)
But Greek-letter college fraternities are not a uniquely American phenomenon and, in the Philippines, some of them reportedly operate as violent gangs.
The Cebu Daily News writes that two Filipino fraternities – Tau Gamma Phi and Alpha Kappa Rho – are essentially at war. According to the newspaper, conflicts between the feuding brotherhoods “have become deadly.”
A injured Filipino man lies on a hospital bed after an explosion in Manila in 2008. Police suspected a feud between college fraternities was behind the explosion, which injured 15 people, two seriously. (Reuters/John Javellana)
This Philippine Star story from last year describes how two Tau Gamma Phi members were accused of murdering the vice president for external affairs of the Alpha Kappa Rho. Though the two were acquitted, the case is representative of the alleged violence between the groups.
How do young Filipino men 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, in the Cebu Daily News.
As is true at many American frats, it’s often not a pleasant process to become a “brother” in the Philippines.
Hazing is highly regulated in the East Asian country. But just as anti-hazing laws in the U.S. didn’t prevent the accidental death of a Cornell University student in February, Filipino bans on hazing don’t stop their frats from conducting initiation rituals that include “150 blows in the back of the thigh with the use of a wood paddle” and scarring pledges with hot coins. The ongoing problem has led some Filipino legislators to suggest stiffer bans.
When the newspaper asked Buscayno about Alpha Kappa Rho’s culture of violence, he said the frat has eliminated hazing: “It has been a long time that we have landed in newspapers for alleged hazing.”