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Upsilonians, a brotherhood personified

Bing Matoto

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My column last week elicited a number of reactions, primarily from my fraternal brothers in the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the oldest fraternity in Asia having been established in 1918 and, perhaps in our admittedly biased view, the foremost and most prestigious in the Philippines. Of course, a lot of other fraternities will dispute that declaration but the realities of the numerous illustrious fellows of Upsilon over the past century are indisputable.

With the kind indulgence of my readers who do not have the same emotional attachment that the Upsilonians have with our centennial celebration, I can’t help but write another article about our fraternity because the number of “the gathered lights” I cited in my column last week unfortunately missed out on a few notables that, on hindsight, I should have remembered. For example, unforgivably, how could I possibly have left out the incumbent UP president Danilo Concepcion, Cavite Gov. Johnny Remulla, Rep. Roquito Ablan, renowned economists Jose Encarnacion and Dante Canlas, agriculturist Ruben Villareal, banker Ding Pascual or businessman Norberto Quisumbing? And on a more personal note for me, from the field of medicine, my very dear friend, the late oncologist, New York-based, Mars Custodio who, without any qualms, would always unhesitatingly assist any fraternity brother in need of medical help. For instance, my co-batch, the late Ambassador to the United States Willy Gaa, who was unfortunately stricken with cancer after he had retired from the foreign service and was no longer eligible for medical assistance from the government, was attended to with generous fraternal care by Mars during his final months. This ready willingness to help out brods also goes to the likes of gastroenterologist Nanding Piedad or neurologist Bong Aquino or dentist Arnon Rivera, the usual run-to doctors of Upsilonians, particularly those in their senior years like yours truly, afflicted with typical ailments associated with the advancement of age!
And how about Dick Zamora, the musical genius, whose musical creation Aloyan and its inimitable signature song, “When You’re Away” caused the melting of hearts of many Sigma Deltans (members of Sigma Delta Phi, our sister sorority) when crooned by love-struck Upsilonians and spawned numerous Upsilon-Sigma Delta romances over the years. Some pairings that come to mind readily are the likes of Doy and Celia Diaz-Laurel, Christian and Winnie Collas-Monsod, Vic and Nenette Tiongco-Puyat, Mars and Cora Yabut-Custodio, Gari and Gladys San Juan-Tiongco, Rene and Yaying Pimentel-Dragon. And, of course, I hasten to add that I was also smitten by the charm of Sigma Deltan Eliza Lazo-Matoto while listening to the refrain of the song in a hobo party, an annual traditional rite of fun (and sometimes romance), of newly inducted Upsilonians meeting their sister Sigma Deltans for the first time.

The fraternity also has its fair share of generations of Upsilonians. Among so many, I can recall the Sese and Tayag brothers, Puyat brothers and their sons, Tiongco, Palarca, Maronilla fathers and sons, Paras, Yabes, Bayhon brothers, Llamzon, Remulla, Rivera fathers and sons, Navasero brothers. The list is endless. My apologies to those who I may have forgotten.

Finally, no piece about Upsilonians can be complete without talking about our enduring fraternal ties, regardless of one’s status in life, age or batch. My batch is no exception. Our batch’s fellowship started 52 years ago when we, “beggars seeking admission into the light,” applied for entry into the brotherhood. As early as the preceding semester, we were encouraged to organize among ourselves to prepare for the process of initiations and, on hindsight, to start bonding. With different and at times clashing personalities, despite the occasional bickerings, with the low key but effective leadership of our recognized batch leader, the late Noli Enriquez, our bonds of fraternal brotherhood would gradually jell and form during the summer of 1966. And as the first semester rolled on and the formal initiation process commenced, various pressures, both mental and physical, were constantly applied on us. The poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling with its ringing call “… to hold on when there is nothing left in you except the will which says HOLD ON …” was our source of strength and served as our inspiration to persevere and hold on through the difficult moments when the temptation to quit would creep in. Eventually, 47 brand-new Upsilonians emerged from the final rites on 2 October 1966. Looking back over the past five decades, our batch has experienced the ups and downs of life. We celebrated the successes of our storied batchmates like Canadian Innkeeper magnate Rogie Concepcion, Hercules Mayor Frank Batara, the late Congressman Jun Aniag, the late Ambassador Willy Gaa or Ambassador Jess Yabes, or reveled watching the daily image of the late, celebrated newscaster Angelo Castro Jr. on “World Tonight”, or laughed at the endless put-down jokes of DBP Chair Ramon Abad or PNOC Chair Tony Cailao, or marveled at the Ventures-type electric guitar strumming of Legal Whiz Andy Santamaria. We also mourned the heartbreaking and senseless death of Roland Perez at the prime of his youth in a stupid rumble on campus as well as 11 other batchmates who have already passed over to the light.

As we celebrate Upsilon’s 100 years in November, for batch 66, it will be the memorable months of 1966 which sparked the fires of fraternal brotherhood that will forever remain etched in our fading memories until our last breath.

Until next week folks…one big fight!

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