Hazing: Every Mother’s Nightmare

You carried the child in your womb for nine months, enduring excruciating morning sickness, back pains, weight gain, and trivial aches here and there. Then you went through the pains of childbirth and slowly traipsed through stings on your way to recovery. But just as you were up on your toes again, you realized: motherhood has only just begun.

Then came sleepless nights, endless nappy changes, cyclic lullabies, trips to the pediatrician’s office, scheduled shots, and the list goes on and on. Parenting, you figured, is a never-ending process.  From infant to toddler to preschooler—you try to spend as much time with your child, nurturing him, shaping him into the man he’d grow up to be someday.

Then you sent him to big school. Suddenly, everything changed. Mommy is no longer his can’t-leave-without accessory. He started making friends. From then on, you were relegated to the backseat. Mommy’s kisses can no longer drive the blues away, a round of hoops with Steve and the gang can. A phone call from some giddy girl from another class trumps your to-die-for spaghetti.

Then came high school. Family trips saw an empty seat in the car; your little debonair gives up road trips to spend the weekend over at some friend’s house. Sleepovers became the norm.  He deliberately walks two steps behind when you’re together in the mall.

He’s all grown up. You wonder; is he leaving me soon?

And he did. He set off for college. You booked his dorm, pasted your rules on the fridge door. It explicitly said: no drugs, no alcohol. Plus a gazillion more DON’Ts with letters all in bold. You heaved a sigh and hoped—may he follow everything you always remind him of.

But college presents a spectrum of choices, a plethora of options. Suddenly your big man sees in front of him an array of endless possibilities, all waiting to be explored. Some are good, some, worse than bad.

If in grade school, you had to teach him that sticks and stones may break his bones but words will never hurt him, and in high school you had to educate him about the perils of giving in to peer pressure, in college, you’re up with a bigger enemy: persuading him not to be talked into getting into fraternities.

You’ve heard enough of the morbid tales of hazing. And in silence, you pray hard that your child will never fall prey to such kind of violence.

There’s no telling the depth of pain Myrna Reglos, mother of hazing victim Marvin Reglos must be feeling right now. The son she gave birth to, nurtured, and dreamt of providing a better future for died in the hands of his fraternity ‘brothers’.

Myrna, who works in South Korea, has not seen her son in three years. She never would have imagined that her homecoming would be a painful one. She returned to the Philippines perhaps hoping for a blissful reunion with her family. She came home to attend her son’s funeral.

Marvin, a freshman San Beda law student, was declared dead on arrival at the Unciano Medical Center in Antipolo City on February 19, Sunday. He died of injuries sustained from an alleged hazing incident during initiation rites of the Lambda Rho Beta fraternity.

As a mother, nothing scares me more than the thought of my child being hurt by others. Just this morning, I went ballistic when I learned that my daughter’s 5-year-old cousin hit her head with a book. The nanny said she wasn’t hurt. Still, I yelled and lost it. I forbade my daughter from playing with her cousin. Childish, my reaction was. But I was being protective. I am a mother; my instinct is to protect my child.

As the song goes, “Nothing’s gonna harm you; not while I’m around. Nothing’s gonna harm you; no sir, not while I’m around. Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays. I’ll send them howling, I don’t care, I’ve got ways. No one’s gonna hurt you, no one’s gonna dare.”

But sometimes, people dare to hurt others.

In my case, my nephew innocently did.  In Myrna’s case, a couple of cowards who brandished power and authority over a student who so badly wanted to belong did. My child went home unscathed; Myrna’s son will never be home again.

Hazing, like bullying (which is another sore issue every mother wishes not to ever encounter), is an intractable problem that is deeply rooted into most organizations, recognized or not, by schools that our children attend. It is essentially dangerous and sometimes fatal. It has claimed the lives of a many a student who have gone to great lengths to belong.

There were many before Marvin. Lenny Villa, a neophyte member of Ateneo law school fraternity Aquila Legis Juris died under similar circumstances 21 years ago. His death and the demise of six others due to hazing-related violence led to the enactment of the Anti-Hazing Law in 1995.

Despite the existing law, hazing continues to exist all over the country. The perils it presented were discussed out in the open. Every time a victim surfaces, dead or alive, people are abuzz with anger. Everyone seems to be aware that hazing was against school rules and against the law.

But when the dead gets buried and the media attention fades, we’re back to where we were. We go back to our lives and turn a blind eye on the glaring truth that hazing kills. That it robs mothers and fathers and siblings of a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister. We go back to shrugging our shoulders, seemingly resigned to the fact that well, hazing happens because it had always been done. It’s ingrained in a culture we perceive as normal.

Hazing thrives because victims who survive keep their silence, and in a few years, assume the roles of the leaders who administer the rite of passage in a brotherhood that offered benefits wide-eyed students couldn’t say no to.

Years from now, my daughter will be off to college. I’ve enough time in my hands to educate her about this barbaric practice. I’ve enough time to pray that these brotherhoods will soon realize that violence is not the sole means to test one’s mettle. That they can’t break bones without breaking one’s spirit. That soon, they will have children, too, and that without their knowledge, they might just sneak out of the house one day, go to some secluded place, and fall prey to the violence of ‘brothers’ lost in a frenzy, slapping paddles against flesh, driven by groans of pain and fueled by the influence of alcohol, and maybe even drugs. And then the next day, they will find them. Dead.

Hazing kills. It has to stop. It needs to be stopped. How many more Marvins and Lennys do we need to wake up?

As a mother, I have one fervent wish—that the world be void of violence. That other mothers like Myrna can sleep soundly at night without a tinge of worry or fright that their children may be in danger.