This month marks the centennial of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest Greek-letter student fraternity in Asia and the Philippines.
The concept of Greek-letter student fraternities is an original American idea.
When the United States introduced the American-style college educational system in the Philippines through the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1908, it was not long before the American Greek-letter fraternity tradition caught the attention of UP students. In 1918, 14 aspiring and purposeful young men in UP organized the University Students Fraternity, which they called the Upsilon Sigma Phi. This makes the Upsilon the first Greek-letter student fraternity in the Philippines.
The only colonial presence America established in Asia was in the Philippines. That means among the many nations in Asia, the Philippines was the only one where the American-style of college education and its peripheral traditions, Greek-letter student fraternities included, were implanted. That also means the Upsilon is the first Greek-letter student fraternity in Asia.
Founded in 1918, the Upsilon Sigma Phi attracted many of the best and the brightest from the students of what was envisioned to be the foremost tertiary educational institution in the Philippines.
Its unique motto, “We gather light to scatter,” means the fraternity invites bright and promising young individuals, molds and trains them in accord with the leadership standards of the fraternity and turns them over to the nation and the world as leaders in their chosen fields of endeavor.
The Upsilon Sigma Phi is based exclusively in UP. Only UP students and, in exceptional cases, faculty members are qualified to join the fraternity. Its members are called Upsilonians. They are formally addressed as “fellows” and informally referred to as “brods.”
Its roster of illustrious members include Presidents Jose P. Laurel and Ferdinand Marcos, Vice Presidents Salvador “Doy” Laurel and Arturo Tolentino, Chief Justices Jose Abad Santos, Querube Makalintal and Enrique Fernando, Senate President Gil J. Puyat, House Speaker Jose Laurel Jr., Batasan Speaker Nicanor Yñiguez and UP Presidents Salvador P. Lopez, Onofre D. Corpuz, Alfredo Pascual and the incumbent, Danilo Concepcion.
Wenceslao Vinzons, a martyr of World War II, is also an Upsilonian.
The list of Upsilonians in the Senate is long — former senators Benigno Aquino Jr., Gerardo Roxas Sr., Estanislao Fernandez, Domocao Alonto, Juan Liwag, Mamintal Tamano, Sotero Laurel, Joker Arroyo, Richard “Dick” Gordon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan.
Fellow Antonio Quirino is the father of the Philippine television industry. Another brod, Roberto S. Benedicto, is the pioneer of commercial cable TV in the country.
Other noted Upsilonians include Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang, Manila Electric Company President Mario Camacho, Quezon City Mayor Ismael Mathay Jr., Cavite Governor Boying Remulla, former Governor Jonvic Remulla, Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu, Central Bank Governor Alfonso Calalang, Araneta Center industrialist Jorge Araneta, Zamboanga Rep. Isagani Amatong and National Bureau of Investigation Jolly Bugarin, who is also the first and only Filipino president of Interpol, the International Police Organization.
The roster of the fellowship further includes theater luminaries like Tony Mabesa, Behn Cervantes and Alex Cortez, film mogul Tony Gloria, operatic singers Gamaliel Viray and Dondi Ong and newly minted national artist for cinema Eric de Guia, also known as Kidlat Tahimik, Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, the Fashion Czar of Asia, is also an Upsilonian.
Fellows in the academe include UP Executive Vice President Teodoro Herbosa, UP Los Baños Chancellors Abelardo Samonte, Ruben Villareal, Luis Rey Velasco and the incumbent, Fernando Sanchez and UP Regents Reynaldo Laserna, Eduardo Hernandez, Ponciano Rivera Jr., Gari Tiongco and Ramon Maronilla.
Some of the Upsilonians in the media are Enrique Romualdez, Raul Palabrica, Bing Matoto, Armando Malay and his son Dick, Norman Bordadora, Rollie Fernandez, Tony Tujan, Kumar Balani, Kevin Manalo and Willie Fernandez, president and publisher of Daily Tribune. The late television broadcasters Angelo Castro Jr. and Jun Bautista are also members.
Jose Rafael Toribio, the incumbent chairman of the UP Student Council in Diliman, is an Upsilonian. The chairmen of the UP Student Council in Los Baños and Manila are fellows.
Earlier in July this year, President Rodrigo Duterte, an alumnus of San Beda law school, issued Proclamation 539 declaring 2018 as the Upsilon centennial celebration year. Heading the centennial celebration are ex-UP President Alfredo Pascual and Romeo Liamzon Jr., Upsilon alumni chairman and president, respectively. The centennial chairman is Pedro “Noy” Dy-Liaco. Kicking off the celebration was The Diliman Classics Concert X held last 26 October in UP Diliman. Upsilon Sigma Phi Batch 1968, which celebrates its golden anniversary this year, will host a big party for the fellows at the Blue Leaf at the City of Dreams in Pasay City on Saturday, 10 November. Participating in the event are the golden jubilarians of Sigma Delta Phi, the sorority counterpart of the Upsilon.
The Upsilon golden batch proudly lists celebrated high-end publicist Louie Kierulf, ex-Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, ex-Ambassador Jose Ampeso and Senator Gordon among its members.
The grand ball scheduled on 18 November will be held at the Philippine International Convention Center. At least 1,500 Upsilonians and their guests have paid reservations for the big event.
To be continued