AS THE BAMBOOS SWAY | The Betan Paddle


Five decades or so ago, a bunch of teens dedicated themselves to a bind – beyond blood, beyond ideologies – with just brotherhood and sisterhood obsessed in their minds. They shared laughter, they shared pains, they shared a mainstream time that was also embroiled in political turmoil and hallucinogens in the time of Aquarius. Beyond all, their lives were entwined with a kind of love, a love they never knew would last beyond then to the present time. From those decades or so ago, they went their separate ways to fulfill their niches in society, bound to the greater humanity they pledged to serve but through those years, their hearts and minds go back to their kind of love for their youthful bind with a fraternity and sorority known as the Beta Gamma Phi.

For endearment, they simply call themselves Betans.

And Betans, after five decades, rekindled their kind of love where they rooted from – The University of the Philippines Baguio and reiterated their pledge that “Once a Betan, always a Betan” though they might have come from Saint Louis University, University of Baguio, the Baguio Colleges, now University of the Cordilleras, or other academic institutions. As Betans their voices rang that the brotherhood and sisterhood will never die or in the Ilocano word expressed by Sister Lydia Limpin Dacanay – “Ipatay.”

In the opening program of the February 2-3, 2019 reunion, Brother Pat Gonzalez also reiterated why and how such love developed. Raising the Fraternity and Sorority Paddle which has survived the decades under the care of Chancellor Matt Dacanay, Pat reminded everyone of the significance of the Paddle. Once, perceived as just a piece of wood that was feared by neophytes as masters whacked candidates’ behinds, during the reunion, it evolved to be a compass that helped guide every Betan’s life.

Pat said “this paddle did not spare anyone’s behind. It has whacked everyone” who wanted to be worthy to become a member of the Beta Gamma Phi, rich or poor, belonging to any belief, ideology, or what not. “It has made all of us equal.” When applied, everyone was then made to ‘assume’ (standing with spread feet and bent knees, a neophyte is made to cover with his/her hands his/her genitals to ward off any accidents when masters whack him/her with all their might) and the whacking could be continuous with the neophyte screaming “I love the Beta Gamma Phi, some more, master.” Tears from the neophyte is an ordinary flow and is expected. Typical exchanged also involves the master goading the neophyte to quit for him to avoid more pain. While there are those who quit, majority screamed “No, master. I am not quitting, master.” The master only stops when convinced that the neophyte is ready to give all for the Betans. And whacking can happen anywhere, anytime when neophytes cross paths with any master.

“The pain,” continuous Pat, “inflicted with this paddle led us to endure any challenge that we met as we sailed through life even without us knowing it. Most importantly, it taught us, when we set goals on any endeavor, never to quit.”

It should be noted that neophytes also underwent other trials in the hands and whims of masters – too many angles that could be mentioned here. Suffice to say that they ranged from asking neophytes to fetch masters’ girlfriends and doing research for the masters.

To remind each other of the pledge they have made in the past, the Betan reunionists undertook a ceremonial paddling. One by one, each Betan brod and sis took a slight whacking while saying, “Once a Betan, always a Betan.” Scholars of the fraternity and sorority also took ceremonial whacking to induct them as new members of the Betans.

Executed by Brother Randy Selga with donations from brods and sisters and administered by Matt and Lydia Dacanay, the Betans had helped scholars graduate as Cum and Summa Cum Laudes with grades ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 within the UP-rating systems. The soul concept of the scholarship program was outlined by late Brother Cesar Liporada based on a vision of late Brother Glen Baquiran.

The two-day program of the reunion included a visit to the University of the Philippines Baguio where the Betans were awestruck with how the campus has grown over the decades; lunch at Rose Bowl and a dinner dance on the first day. The reunion was capped with a bonfire on the second day which was emotionally charged with open mike singing of mostly songs of yesteryears. After all, most of the Betans are now in their middle sixties.

Established in the late 1960s, recruitment of new Betans stopped years shortly after deposed President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972.

It is hoped that the Beta Gamma Phi will reestablish itself with the new members, the scholars, carrying on with the fire. A call for another reunion was also expressed during the closing ceremonies. The vote was in two years.

This could happen, as to reiterate, the paddle helped the Betans pursue goals and never to quit. #


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.