Hazing News

Hazing in the Philippines: One columnist’s story (Ramon Farolan)

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We must recognize that there are two forms of hazing. One consists of ridiculing, humiliating, and even harassing candidates for membership in some organization, usually a fraternity or sorority. The other involves physical abuse and violence that may, at times, take a dangerous turn leading to the death of an individual.

When I was a plebe (first year cadet) at the Philippine Military Academy, I and all my classmates, were subjected to both forms.

Each day that I reported to one of my upperclassmen, my first action upon entering his room was to bow down at the picture of his latest girlfriend that was displayed in his wall locker. This was accompanied by loudly proclaiming her as the most beautiful woman in the universe. Then only could I address the upperclass cadet.

Now if you happen to be the son of a general, you would most likely receive some form of special treatment. When Gen. Fortunato Abat, Class 1951, was commanding general of the Philippine Army, his two sons, Victor and Tito, both entered the PMA one after another. An “Abat menu” was concocted by their upperclassmen. It was a special “treat” just for the two Abat boys. As an appetizer just before the regular breakfast meal, a cup of coffee was provided to help push the news clippings about General Abat through the digestive tract of the human body. According to the general, there was not much he could do but to “minimize newsmaking” in any form, fearing the consequences for his sons.

The other form was also part of the rituals, particularly when a plebe was unable to carry out certain orders that were given him. The rationale behind this action was to provide punishment for failure to comply with instructions.

In March 2001, fourth class cadet Edward Domingo collapsed unconscious and was pronounced dead on arrival at the PMA hospital. Two upperclassmen were charged with homicide for his death and were sentenced by the Baguio Regional Trial Court to 12 years imprisonment. It was the first time cadets involved in hazing were dealt with by a civilian court.

In the case of the PMA, a number of initiation rituals were adopted from West Point practices at the turn of the 20th century.

In his book “American Caesar,” William Manchester narrates some of the abusive treatment that were carried out at the US Military Academy. Plebes were subjected to “merciless hazing… any newcomer who refused to cooperate was subjected to a bare-knuckle beating by the huskiest prizefighter among the upperclassmen. Over a hundred methods of harassment were employed. Among the most popular were scalding steambaths, ‘crawling’ (being insulted by an upperclassman whose jaw was one inch from the plebe’s nose), ‘bracing’ (standing at rigid attention for long periods of time), ‘eagling’ (deep knee bends over broken glass), paddling, sliding naked on a splintered board, and running a gauntlet of upperclassmen tossing buckets of cold water on the plebe.”

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer, former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird, finished a stint as managing editor of the Celina Daily Standard to accept a new position as managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--

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