1933 was a year of both successes and failures, of triumphs and shining moments.In January of that year the construction of the famed Golden Gate Bridge was begun. The year also saw the rise to power of the infamous Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, its concentration camps being built all across Europe. Economies around the world were still entangled in the repercussions caused by the disastrous Great Depression of 1929, and United States (US) President Franklin Roosevelt was to implement his“ New Deal” legislation in an attempt to reverse the unfavorable worldwide economic crisis.

 

1933 also heralded a revolution in India, with Mahatma Gandhi beginning a 3 - week hunger strike in support of the discriminated lower castes.

 

The Philippines, being an American colony, was inevitably affected by the economic crisis of the day. Nonetheless, it was in January of 1933 that US Congress voted favorably for Philippine independence, a cause for celebration form any patriotic Filipinos who yearned for the Philippine flag to be raised once more on Philippine soil.

 

It is this mosaic of events that surrounded the Filipinos of that era: an era marked by jubilation over then earing prospect of Philippine independence and the hardship brought about by the Great Depression. Most of all, the awakening of social conscience in South Asia began to be felt throughout the world, and the Philippines was no exception.


There it stood.


The UP College of Medicine.


On 547 Calle Herran rose the modern reinforced concrete edifice with a total frontage of 68.54 meters, embracing the main entrance and flanked by general offices and faculty rooms.


There were hints that 1933 was going to be significant for the University of the Philippines. Her 7th President Rafael Palma was pushing for more financial support from the government, acquiring better faculty, and expanding its academic horizons... The scientific community too, was alive and kicking. Alarmed at the increasing incidence of venereal disease, it even commissioned the Philippine General Hospital to conduct a research into this grave matter.


The actual dean of the UP College of Medicine, Dr. Fernando Calderon was on special detail abroad and acting in his place was Dr. Sixto Angeles, who now headed the very first unit of the University. It had produced its first batch of medical graduates (all eight of them) in 1909 and had just graduated the silver batch of physicians early that summer.


The faculty included prominent practitioners in their respective fields. Dr. Jose Eduque was chairman of Surgery, Dr. Luis Guerrero headed the Department of Medicine, and Dr. Arturo Garcia was the head of the Anatomy Department.


A new concept of the academe had been introduced that year. The honor society had invaded the UP Campus. Of much regard was the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, an American institution. Its base in Louisiana had decided to extend its recognition of academic excellence outside the United States. Among its first Filipino members were then intern Jose Barcelona.


It was indeed prestigious to be invited to this honor society, but most people did not seem to make a major fuss about it. If one was invited well and good, if not...


There were enough people to associate with. Various ethnic groups banded together, forming their respective cliques. The two most prominent groups were the Tagalogs along with the Ilocanos and the rival Pampanguenos. The Tagalog-Ilocano faction included Luis Torres, Jr., Pedro Lasig, Patricio de Dios, Nicanor Padilla, Jose Barcelona, Antonio Cañiza and others.


Cliques were for fun, for enjoyment, and for making the humdrum academic routine in the college a bit more appealing to the vibrant attitudes of the studentry. Gangs and clubs dominated the social life, holding regular outings, picnics, and sports activities whenever the rigorous successions of exams permittedit. The mental bridge that spanned the differential gap between a gang and a fraternity was not constructed overnight.


The thought had been wandering haphazardly through the minds of the lecture-weary students. Intern Luis Torres was one of them. it would have to be an unprecedented move...the thought intrigued them more...Greek lettered organizations...a formalization of an already strong bond of friendship...a consolidation of the spirit of camaraderie...a realization of the vague concept called brotherhood... the supernatural spark of inspiration came to members of the 3rd year class - Nicanor Padilla, Jr., Jaime Barcelona, Leopoldo Vergel de Dios, and Benito Reverente. They were already good friends and were close to Torres, Barcelona, and Cañiza of the intern’s class; Nicasio Sahagun of the senior’s class; Enrique Garcia, Victor Nañagas, and Jesus Lava of the lower years. Working through personal contacts, the juniors were able to form a core of 35 spirited men.


And so they met...


Thirty-five apprehensive yet confident medical students filed inside the familiar amphitheater just above the morgue. They were now to hallow the empty classroom by sealing the pact of brotherhood. There were 6 interns, 6 seniors, 4 juniors, 9 sophomores, and 10 freshmen gathered. The very act of gathering together - that represented the quantum leap from clique to fraternity, from transient, nodding, casual acquaintances to permanent, red-blooded, closer-than-brother brotherhood. Once inside the amphitheater, the rest of the work was just a matter of fleshing out the bare but strong framework of friendship. The juniors presided. The creation of a fraternity was formally declared. Then came the long, feverish hours of deliberations. Phi Kappa Mu - Fraternity of the College of Medicine. It was Torres who suggested the name and, after a heated discussion, it was finally approved. The official seal was agreed to be a seven- cornered golden sunburst of 49 rays with the Greek letters across the middle. The constitution and by-laws were ratified, mainly through the efforts of Leopoldo Vergel de Dios. The Seven Cardinal Virtues were to come much later and so did the candlelight rituals that climaxed the initiations. The founders emerged from the amphitheater drained and bleary eyed. But their souls were aflame. And they quivered with awe and wonder over the discovery of a concept, a spirit, a fraternity to which they could now belong to. It was an adventure of a lifetime.


They were brothers to each other now. They had presented the recognition papers to the college administration which reluctantly obliged. The Phi was the first...


The first activity of the Fraternity was the dance at the Metropolitan Theater on December of 1933 and the first official picture-taking at the Sun Studio of which only 23 showed up. This photograph had appeared in the UP Philippinensian of 1934. There were regular meetings held at the college and at the hospital. These were both sessions of serious business and of rowdy horseplay as giving light to the diversity of the essential Phi Spirit to enjoy and appreciate life in the college.


The first year after its founding was the simplest of them all. It was a time of being true to one’s idealistic dreams, a period of continuing growth and change, an era of consolidating one’s own thoughts and beliefs.
Came the formative years...


Nicasio B. Sahagun was the second Superior Exemplar of the Phi Kappa Mu. To him was handed the delicate task of acquiring new members for the year-old brotherhood.


The first initiations lasted approximately one hour. A screening committee evaluated each candidate’s
scholastic background and his capacity to integrate himself with the rest of the members. The lofty ideals of the fraternity were then introduced to the hopeful neophytes - academic excellence, moral integrity, and the personal desire to belong. Next, they were made to take pledges of loyalty and the oaths of secrecy. More intensive indoctrination followed. Finally, the initiations ended and they were inducted as full-fledged fellow of the Phi Kappa Mu.


And so it passed that during the first fraternity initiations, not a finger was laid on the neophytes, not a strand of hair lost, not a tear shed, not an ego bruised...a notable birth of what was to be in the coming years a tradition within a tradition.


The succeeding batches were small in number, relative to the male population of the class. But this hardly mattered. The Phi was after quality. Better a tiny band of fiercely loyal zealots than an army of misfits. Pretty soon, the fraternity acquired notoriety for elitism, for exclusivity; it was inevitable. Brotherhood, as the founders envisioned it to be, was not for general consumption. It was to be deserved. And thus the later initiations, without losing the rituals of indoctrination and oath- taking, became more difficult and trying. Still no physical harm was inflicted.


It was sometime in 1939 when Cesar Villafuerte dreamt of the fraternity song. He dreamt of it one hot, humid post- duty summer night. But he didn’t dream the entire song in one night. He dreamt of only the first phrase. It woke him up in the dead of the night and sent him scrambling for the saxophone under his cot. He slept well after making sure he remembered the fingering. He couldn’t note down music very well. Herminio Velarde, Jr. couldn’t note down music either. But he had the gift of melody. Cesar Villafuerte wrote some verses and the real work began. Marrying the word to the music was a job both men welcomed. It was tedious but it lifted their lives above the daily 3-years-prior-to-consultation routine. It allowed them to breathe the rarefied air of the creative process. Te song was hammered out in fits and starts. Villafuerte’s years in the UPROTC band had served him well. In the end, the composer and lyricist and composer went to the celebrated Felipe Padilla de Leon. Boldly, they sang the hymn and dutifully the old musician noted it down. His piano arrangement was finished soon.


One general meeting, Villafuerte and Velarde announced that they had composed a song for the fraternity. After the expected bantering and raillery, the two men sang it in unison. Guazon Hall resounded with the melody and the brods grew silent. It was still silent a few minutes after they finished and the spell lingered on uneasily. The Superior Exemplar came to the rescue. The fraternity song was born. Since then, it has been sung after every general meeting or fraternity affair. It climaxed the founding years, reflecting the exuberance and boundless energy of the seven-cornered sunburst, warming and illuminating the lives of those who chose to share a piece of themselves with the Phi Kappa Mu.


The foundation had been laid for the fraternity. It had been solid, layered by enthusiasm and aspirations, weathered by trial and error, and gilded by men who believed that the honorable ideals by which the Phi Kappa Mu stood for would be upheld by the coming generations. For those to be, it was a belonging worth a hundred.

 

Established in August 1933 by the UP College of Medicine's best medical students, the PHI KAPPA MU (Fraternity of the College of Medicine) continues to uphold its tested tradition of Excellence, Leadership, Service and Brotherhood in the College, University and in our country.

Through the Fraternity's ideals and pillars, her Loyal Sons continue to lead, innovate and excel in the practice of medicine worldwide and in preserving the honor and integrity of the medical profession.

Flagship Projects