Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Fraternities started in the Philippines?

An Unbiased Historical Account

By Louie Blake S. Sarmiento, Organizational Psychology

(Note: Writings are based on an educational research and does not aim to disrespect anyone or serve as official stand of the writer or his affiliations. This study is based on liberal and modern approaches in research.)

In all times and among all nations which have reached a sufficient level of cultural development, there have always been fraternal associations formed for higher purposes. The development of Fraternities can be traced from trade unions or guilds that emerged in England. These guilds were set up to protect and care for their members at a time when there was no welfare state, trade unions or National Health Service. Various secret signs and handshakes were created to serve as proof of their membership allowing them to visit guilds in distant places that are associated with the guild they belong.

However, many of these Guilds were suppressed in the 16th Century. In major cities such as in London, some Guilds survived by adapting their roles to a social support function. Some of these groups evolved in the 1700’s into more philosophical organizations focused on brotherly love, charity and ethical living now known as a Fraternal Order or simply, a‘Fraternity’.

By the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, many of these Fraternal Order’s were transported to America by English immigrants. At that time, these groups served important social, philosophical and insurance purposes. Later, the concept of brotherhood was established in colleges. The first among these are the Flat Hat Club (1750) and P.D.A. Society (1773) focused on literary and scholarship. The oldest Greek-named fraternity is Phi Beta Kappa founded on December 5, 1776 but this fraternity do not have any chapter in the Philippines and also converted into an honor society rather than a social fraternity. By the mid-1800's, fraternal organizations flourished in America and established lodges (chapters) in different parts of the world.

In the Philippines, Spaniards and other colonizers established several Philosophical and Fraternal Societies in our country as early as 1850's but these chapters only admitted Spaniards or their own race and did not welcome the natives (Filipinos). According to the book, History and Geography of the Philippine Islands, fraternities played an important part in letting the Filipinos realize the injustice practiced upon them by the colonizers. The book mentioned that the Fraternity of Odd Fellows spread in the Philippines in 1872. The Freemason fraternity followed in 1877 brought by the Americans. The lodges (chapters) are also established mostly by military men assigned in Manila. Most members were basically American Military men and their allies who helped fought the Spanish-American war. The fraternity established their lodges (chapters) and held their meetings in naval and military base camps.

The first brotherhood to be founded by Filipinos is the Katipunan, short for Kataastaasang Kagalangalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Venerable Society of the Sons of the People), which was founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila in 1892. The primary aim of the fraternity was to gain independence from Spain through revolution. As many of us know, the brotherhood already disbanded.

In 1899, the ties between Filipino and Americans was disrupted and the Filipino-American war emerged. When this war ended in 1902, fraternities started to rise again. Odd Fellows, Freemasons and even the Elks established lodges in Manila area.

Later, college fraternities began to form especially when American Education (philosophy) reached our shores. State Universities were the first to enjoy Fraternity Life, particularly in the University of the Philippines, when the first College Fraternity Rizal Center, a brotherhood of Jose Rizal followers and who viewed the hero in iconic fashion, was founded (This fraternity is already defunct). The first Filipino Greek Letter Fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, was founded in 1918. This fraternity is now considered the oldest in Asia and continues to exist up until today but membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman and UP Los Banos students. The oldest sorority in the Philippines is the UP Sigma Beta Sorority founded on February 14, 1932. Membership is exclusive only to UP Dilliman, UP Los Banos, UP Iloilo and UP Davao students.

The progress of fraternities was again interrupted when Japan occupied the Philippines in 1941. When the Filipino-American-Japanese war ended in 1944, Philippine fraternities started to rise up again and many Filipinos started setting up their own fraternities and sororities.

The peak of fraternalism in the Philippines was probably in the 1950's to 1990's when many fraternities where founded. Several American fraternities were also imported to the country such as the Alpha Phi Omega. Also, some locally founded fraternities made allies with some fraternities in the United States. Afterwards, the rest is history...


Coursey, O.W.(1908). History and Geography of the Philippine Islands.

UP Sigma Beta Sorority:

Upsilon Sigma Phi:

Philippine Fraternity Websites

Books on Fraternalism

No comments: