"Gusto mo sumali sa frat? Dali na. Walang sakitan to," he said.
I didn't expect that, so I was a bit bewildered. Joining a fraternity painlessly? Sounds too good to be true.
He seemed to notice the suspicion in my face, so he continued, "Seryoso to. Eto nga si Mia niyayaya ko din o. Di pa nga lang siya sure. Kapag may napapayag pa akong isa, sasali na din daw siya. Dali na."
I looked at the girl beside him. I had never seen her before around the campus. She nodded at me, agreeing with Josh. I just smiled and said, "Teka, fratman ka pala Josh? At kelan naman yan?"
"Hindi pa ako kasali. Kapag pumayag ka, sabay tayong magiging applicant. Kaya sumali ka na, para magka-batch tayo nitong sila Mia," he insisted.
"Okay, sige. Text mo na lang ako regarding sa details. Nagmamadali ako, may mga kasama pa ko," I patted him on the back before I go.
Up until now, I have yet to mention another characteristic of mine. I am an adventurous person. I love the thrill of experiencing new things. Doing something for the first time gives me an unparalleled excitement. Hence, it didn't surprise me that I easily agreed on this, without second thoughts. An offer of joining a brotherhood without experiencing pain; it sounded very tempting to my ears. So when Josh informed me that our pledgeship will start the day after, I was there at the mentioned place on time.
Our baptism was held in the condominium unit of one of their members in broad daylight, which somehow amused me, because I was used to seeing frat rituals on TV and movies being done in the dark at night. I observed my batchmates; there were 7 of us, 3 freshmen and 4 sophomores. Allow me to enumerate each one of them:
- Evan (#1) - the batch leader. He's short, chinito, charming, and a very cute freshie. He looks very totoy that you would like to cuddle in bed. I knew his personality is weak when I first saw him, but I didn't mind it much.
- Samuel (#2) - another freshie. He's tall, dark, and a handsome twink. He's very charismatic. He was a basketball player in our varsity team. Good thing twinks are not my type.
- Melo (#3) - the last freshie. He's also tall and dark, but only has an average face with a chubby build. He has a cheerful and a kenkoy attitude, like a class clown.
- Josh (#4) - my first friend in college. He used to copy from me during quizzes and exams; he's very skillful in cheating. We got separated in 2nd year; I was assigned to section 1, he was in section 2. He's adorably chubby, mestizo, has kastila eyes, and he's an emo-type of guy. He's definitely my type, except for the emo-rocker thing.
- Faye (#6)- a cute and bespectacled Chinese-looking girl. Even her surname sounds Chinese. She's a very industrious student; she was in one of the upper sections.
- Mia (#7) - the girl beside Josh. She's very pretty and a fellow Dean's lister. What I like most about her is her strong will.
Afterwards, they instructed us to remove our blindfolds and to stand up. They informed us about the following rules we must strictly abide now that we were official pledges of the organization:
- We must address the members as 'Lord' for the males and 'Lady' for the females.
- We are not allowed to look straight in the eyes of our Lords and Ladies.
- We are not allowed to position ourselves higher than them. So if they are standing up, we should be standing lower, like bowing our heads down or kneeling on the floor.
- When walking, we should always let them move ahead of us.
- Each of us will be given a small notebook covered in royal blue artpaper they call a 'binder'. We are going to write notes in there that should all be memorized, word by word. We should protect our binders at all cost, treat it like it's our own life. There would be mean Lords and Ladies who will attempt to damage it, so we must not take our eyes off it when it's not in our possession. Once it's destroyed beyond repair, we cannot continue our pledgeship any longer. We will be terminated, in other words.
- We should always live by and practice the principles and notes written in our binders.
- When we are asked to report, we should be dressed in a plain white shirt, blue maong pants, white underwear, white socks, and white shoes. Our handkerchiefs should be white. We are also not allowed to wear belts; our belts should be fashioned from a long strand of royal blue yarn. Yes, they were checking every time.
- When reciting our memorized notes, we should speak in unison and it must be without mistakes. Otherwise, punishment will be given for all of us.
- We should always keep in mind the rules 'One Batch, One Body' and 'Batch Love'. Some examples are: my batchmate's hand is my hand too, my pain is also his pain, his mistake is my mistake as well, and so on. This means that we should always be protective of our batchmates. We should be vigilant to make sure no harm will befall them. Letting them get hurt is tantamount to hurting ourselves. We should also encourage them whenever they feel down or if ever they have the desire to quit.
- We should never disobey our lords and ladies, except when the task given is dangerous and can inflict pain to ourselves or to another.
- We should trust our lives to our Master Initiator (or M.I.). He is the one who directly supervise us. If a Lord or a Lady is asking us to do something that sounds like a violation, we should instantly go to him. Our safety is his responsibility; if ever we got injured for even once, it means he failed his job.
Sounds complicated and difficult, right? However, in my case, I thought differently. I was not scared, but rather thrilled. CAT was scrapped when I became a high school junior, so I have no prior experience in military training and exercises. Our M.I. told us that pledgeship is just like repeating CAT, only much more difficult. Hearing this made my blood boil in excitement. Seriously.
So our official pledgeship has finally started, and listed below are some the things that occurred:
- They would often order us to do tons of squats, push-ups, pumpings, handstands, and other difficult and strenuous exercises, all while reciting the supposedly memorized principles and notes.
- Every time we commit mistakes, they would give us punishments such as:
- more of the above exercises
- eating one whole red sili (I hate this one so much!)
- slapping ourselves
- and other humiliating tasks
- On the second week, Samuel (#2) quit. Our M.I. gave us some serious punishment for not stopping him.
- We had our reporting once at the seaside behind SM Mall of Asia. While we were hanging out on the long stone wall, our M.I. gave us a candy. Our task was to transfer the candy from Evan to Mia (by number) using only our mouths. Yes, all of us had a taste of the said treat. I hope no one saw that.
- One morning, they told us to buy 12 cups of rice, 1 Skyflakes crackers, 1 tbsp. of bagoong, 2 pcs. of galunggong, 1 can of corned beef, 1 tbsp. of banana ketchup, and a bottle of Coke. Then, they said we mist mix all of it, including the Coke, in a big bowl. Afterwards, it served as our lunch for that day; all of it should be consumed or we will be punished. They called this the 'Boodle Fight'. God, I swear I never tasted anything more awful in my life. Even though the food was clean, it was still very disgusting. *brrr*
- One night, during a reporting, our Lords and Ladies told us to recite. The punishment this time was that for every mistake we do, we will remove one article of clothing. Evan and Josh were absent at that time (Damn, those lucky bastards!). Of course, the girls were separated from us. They were taken inside a room with the Ladies, while Melo and I were at the living room together with the Lords. After several errors, we were both naked, our hands covering our shy dicks. Since we couldn't remove anything anymore after another mistake, the Lords ordered us to dance on top of a chair. Fortunately, the lights were off and the room was dark, so it wasn't that humiliating.
- One afternoon, we were all blindfolded and they gave us a glass full of Coke. We were asked to take a mouthful of it, but we weren't allowed to swallow the drink. We were supposed swish it inside like a mouthwash. Then, we spat it all out back in the glass. What happened next was very horrible. We were told this time to drink (and to swallow) another mouthful of the mixture of our salivas and Coke. I had no choice but to obliged. Deep inside, I would like to throw that glass out of the window and cringe until my disgust is gone. Ugh.
- Sometimes, they would order us to kiss (not French and no tongue, just a smack or a peck) another batchmate for a certain number of seconds. Boy to boy and girl to girl only though, never boys to girls. I only had the chance to kiss Melo and Josh. Samuel was already gone before they began telling us to do this, and Evan was always absent. Damn!
- During one reporting, they tasked us to clean the whole condominium unit of one of the Lords. I was assigned to the bathroom. Luckily, I did the task thoroughly, because one of the Ladies ordered me to wash my face thrice using the water from the toilet bowl to see if I am really confident that I did a good job. This is something I will never forget. Ever. God.
- Sometimes, we would have visitors, Lords and Ladies from another chapter (school). And they were much more fiercer, so our own Lords and Ladies were on full alert looking after us.
- Evan quit a week before our finals. Apparently, he couldn't take the pressure of being a batch leader anymore. You see, like the M.I., a batch leader is the next one responsible for all of his batchmates. It is a pretty difficult job, and I'm glad I didn't become one. Since Evan and Samuel were already quitters, only 5 of us were left, with Melo being the new leader. And since we weren't able to stop Evan from quitting, we were gravely punished again. *sigh*
Half-members are those who have succeeded passing the pledgeship sans the hazing. They are already members nonetheless, but they don't have all the benefits of being a full-pledged member, like being able to hold a position, attending certain events, registering for the organization's ID, and many more. Apparently, if we want to become a full-pledged member, we still have to undergo another initiation rites, but this time it will be shorter and they will already use hazing. Half-members are not forced or required to do this though. We may choose to stay like this forever, but that would make you look like a coward, because it means that the pain frightens you.
After we passed, our chapter now contained 11 members, but the only full-pledged member was the one on the highest position, the Chapter President (or C.P., which was also our former M.I.). So this means that my former Lords and Ladies will be our batchmates if we decided to pursue the full-pledged membership. I found it funny though. Our Lords and Ladies before, who made us suffer, will eventually suffer too, beside us one of these days.
After much preparation, and much convincing of my batchmates, the ten of us (5 from our batch plus 5 from the higher batches) took the pledgeship again on November of the same year. I was scared and excited at the same time. Scared because I might die from the injuries, and excited because it will be another new experience. Our M.I. was still our C.P., but our Lords and Ladies this time were from our mother chapter (another school), the one who supervised the initiation of our C.P.
The second initiation rites was much more terrible. It lasted a whole week, with the formal ritual as the ending. Quitting was not an option, because it was a very humiliating thing to do. Quit and you will lose all the respect you had earned. Since they did to us the same things before, we were already used to the difficulties. However, there were additional things that made it much harder:
- We were tasked to make a video that will be shown in our final night. It should be funny and entertaining. So we decided to make a music video, ala Taylor Swift. Our venue? SM Mall of Asia. The boys wore dresses and the girls wore men's clothing. I was wearing a pink spaghetti strap, a black short skirt, and a pair of pink slipper. That was the first time, and I hope also the last, that I donned women's clothes! We shot the music video in the middle of the seaside area. All the passersby were looking at us, some even stopped to watch. Fortunately, we were able to finish shooting when a security guard approached us to put a stop in what we were doing. They said we were already making a scandal. Until now, I still can't make myself believe that I had the capacity to do such a thing.
- Since hazing was used as a form of punishment, the following were rules:
- They were allowed to slap us.
- Closed fists were not allowed, so they can't punch us.
- Kicking was limited to their knees giving our thighs a good whack (tinutuhuran ang tagiliran ng binti). This was the most painful of all. You may try this if you want.
- There was another painful thing they often did to us. While we were being asked to recite, using one knuckle, they would twist it in the middle of our chest in a screwing motion. The extreme pain causes us to stop reciting, but they wouldn't stop unless we finish what we are tasked to do, so we were always forced to endure the pain and carry on. This was the most difficult thing for me, because I really couldn't stand the pain. This can definitely give you a bad bruise that will last for weeks.
- The dreaded 'Eagle Spread'. One of us will be told to kneel down, arms stretched wide open, and the face looking slightly upwards, then for a certain number of seconds, they can do a number of arm-choppings, face-slappings, and thigh-stompings. If you can't picture this in your mind, good for you. It means you are not a violent person.
- The well-known paddle. It was at least 1 meter long, 1 inch thick, and made of durable wood. Honestly, this made me cry during the initiation rites. Not in front of the Lords and Ladies, of course. It was a big no-no for us to show weakness. I cried not because of the extreme pain, but because of the emotional stress that the situation had given me. Fortunately, my batchmates understood and just consoled me in silence.
- During the initiation night, one Lord kicked me forcefully in the chest, which made me fly across the room while gasping for air. I committed one tiny mistake and that was how he punished me. That bastard.
I thought, after all that transpired, things will soon be better. However, when I got home, I faced someone much more terrifying than all the Lords and Ladies combined.
To be continued...