Albert Francis E. Domingo, MD

my flight of ideas

The Upsilon on Your Coffee Table

Posted on | November 29, 2009 | No Comments

I am an Upsilonian, and proud of it.

Such is the first line of the Credo of the Upsilon Sigma Phi, the first Greek-lettered society founded in Asia. Having been nebulously founded in the year 1918, it is only ten years shy of its alma mater’s founding year – 1908 for our dearly beloved University of the Philippines. I am an Upsilonian, and proud of it – for I was initiated into the Upsilon in the year 2004.

We gather light to scatter: Ninety years of Upsilon Sigma PhiYesterday, I got my copy of our fraternity’s latest publication – the coffee-table book We gather light to scatter: Ninety years of Upsilon Sigma Phi, edited by Gemma R. Nemenzo, and published by the Leopoldo Yabes Foundation. Around 1,000 copies have been printed for its first run. Weighing in at 2.5 kg, measuring 9×12 inches, and with all of its 424 pages in full color having been written in an engaging and dispassionate manner even to an insider, it’s no book that should be treated lightly.

The book is of course titled to obviously reflect only ninety years, for its print preparation was able to take into account the frat’s history only up to 2008. This is no reason to be smug about it, however, for the perspective of the book entices the casual reader to think about how exactly has the Upsilon been able to be both shining beacon and invisible hand in the affairs of State and University.

Ponciano G.A. Mathay ’48 summarizes all the accomplishments of the Upsilon heralded in its nine decades of existence in his foreword:

The modern history of the Philippines is deeply tied to that of its state university, the University of the Philippines; and the history of the University is intricately entwined with that of its oldest and most prestigious student organization: the Upsilon Sigma Phi.

To an observer, the above may smack of misplaced pride, but the same is interestingly contextualized when the book later reads that

Such unmitigated pride is both Upsilon’s glory and folly. It is the engine that propels each brod to attempt to excel, whether it be in academics, campus politics or in drinking sessions. It is also the major reason why the frat has the reputation of being elitist and snobbish, a perception shared by a lot of UP students through generations.

This – to an Upsilonian like myself – is perhaps the most binding theme of the book, a sobering yet simultaneously inspiring thought that it is incumbent upon our organization to not be content with isolating itself in an ivory tower, but to continue and pursue our sworn work of gathering and scattering light.

The book’s eight chapters (introduction included) are arranged to reflect Brod Mathay’s assertion of intimacy as regards the history of three entities: the Nation, the University, and the Upsilon. From the infantile establishment of institutions in the early 1900s, to the devastation of World War II, to the political infamy and salvation caused by Brods Ferdinand Marcos ’37 and Ninoy Aquino ’50, respectively, to the Centennial of the University, the history of the three are demonstrated by irrefutable evidence to indeed be indivisible.

In closing, writer/editor Gemma Nemenzo minces no words in declaring that the “Upsilon is not perfect.” She punctuates this, however, by saying that

…it is in its flawed humanity that the fraternity has found strength to forge on as new generations with differing interests (from the older brods) offer alternative approaches to fraternity unity.

We gather light to scatter: Ninety years of Upsilon Sigma Phi is in my opinion a poignantly-written piece that dutifully exposes the Fraternity to public scrutiny, elegantly done using the even keel of a non-member’s perspective.

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