A friendship ended in tragedy as two teenagers suffered the deadly pains of hazing from a fraternity that promised them protection and a lifetime of brotherhood.
Jun, not his real name, and Noel Borja Junior were practically brothers. They both grew up at the Parola Compound in Tondo, Manila.
“Close na close kami, parang kapatid na talaga ang turingan namin,” Jun said. “Kapag may away, lagi kaming magkasama. Nagtatanggulan kami.”
And as the years flew by, their friendship became stronger. They were inseparable.
But one day, Noel decided to join a fraternity, which promised them protection and a lifetime of brotherhood—the Tau Gamma Phi Fraternity Triskelion.
At first, Jun refused to go with Noel. But when the day of their initiation came, he had no choice but to accompany his best friend. On October 24, 2010, Jun and Noel went to their initiation rites.
“Wala nang atrasan, nandiyan na tayo eh,” Jun recalled saying. “Bale isang tao ang sumundo sa’min. Dun sa eskinita ‘yung bahay. Bale ipinahinto muna kami dun hanggang sa pinapasok na kami. Pagkapiring sa’min, sabay parang isang dasal, dinasalan muna [kami].”
“Sabay sinampal na ako,” he said.
That was only the beginning of the night’s series of tortures.
A night of torture
“Tapos umpisa na ‘yung paddle, bale siya muna bago ako. Sa hita, sa likod, dun talaga pinaka-ano ng paddle, sa hita,” Jun said. “Siyempre, nakaramdam [ako] ng sakit. Tiis lang, tiis.”
At one point, the pain became almost unbearable for Jun.
“Naba-blank na ‘yung isip ko, tapos naisip ko ‘yung sakit, hapdi, ‘yung hilo,” he recalled. “’Yung hilo atsaka kaba, nagsama na, atsaka ‘yung panghihina. Pero inisip ko pa rin na kakayanin ko ito.”
Since they were blindfolded, he could not see his friend Noel. But he was sure his friend was also trying to bear the excruciating pain.
“’Pag pina-paddle siya, parang ‘di naman siya umaaray. Wala naman akong naririnig na umaray,” Jun said.
After almost an hour of hazing, Jun and Noel were finally welcomed into the group.
|Re-enactment. On October 24, 2012, Jun and his friend Noel Borja Jr. endured almost an hour of physical torture from the members of the Tau Gamma Phi Triskellion fraternity.
“Bale pagkatapos ng paddle, kinantahan nila kami ng song ng grupo nila,” Jun recalled. “Kinantahan nila kami ng welcome. Pagkatapos nun, pinaso kami agad ng kandila sa likod. ‘Yung pangalan ng grupo nila, ayun ang inilagay sa likod namin, patak ng kandila.”
Finally, it was over. Or so they thought.
Despite their weakened state, Jun and Noel were made to walk around the house. After a few
seconds, Noel collapsed.
“Ako, parang nanghihina rin ako eh,” Jun said. “Parang wala na ako sa sarili, hanggang sa nahimatay na rin ako.”
When he woke up the next morning, the house was empty. Everybody was gone, including his friend Noel.
The search for Noel
He could barely pull himself up, but Jun knew he had to leave the place right away. With the little energy left in him, he dragged himself home and locked himself in his room.
Meanwhile, Noel’s parents began to worry and went searching for him.
“Mga 11:00 p.m., may dumating sa’min na isang lalaki at isang babae. Nagmamakaawa sa amin at humihingi nga ng tulong. Sabi nung lalaki, ‘yung anak niya, isang araw nang ‘di umuuwi sa kanila,” former MDP Station 11 chief Police Superintendent Ernesto Tendero recalled.
On October 27, while the Borja family continued their search for Noel, two boys spotted a green drum floating in the Pasig River.
“Tiningnan namin. Pagtingin namin, may tao,” John Rex Cabillius said. “Natakot ako, umatras kami.”
The incident was immediately reported to the Manila Police District Station 11. The authorities were aghast upon discovering the contents of the drum.
“Nakita nga namin doon, isang batang nakasilid sa drum na green,” Tendero said. “Parang sinimento kasi. Makikita mo sa simento, ‘yung ulo nakausli na namamaga na. Tapos ‘yung mga buhok-buhok, nagkakalagas-lagas na eh.”
The victim was barely recognizable, but Tendero remembered a missing person report on a certain Noel Borha Junior.
“Ipinatawag namin ‘yung nag-report sa amin nung gabi, pinag-identify namin,” he said.
After seeing the body, the Borja family positively identified the victim as their son, Noel.
|Found. The Borja family positively identified the body inside the green drum as their son, Noel Borja Jr.
|The victim. 15-year-old Noel Borja Jr.
Justice for Noel
“Bale tandang-tanda ko na may sinturon [siya] na bandilang buckle dahil dalawa kaming nagtahi [nun],” Noel’s father, Noel Borja Sr. said.
“Nawalan ako ng malay, siyempre,” Noel’s mother Lourdes said. “Isipin mo, pag-alis niya dito sa bahay, buhay, tapos mababalitaan mong patay na.”
Based on a post-mortem examination, Noel died due to bunt traumatic injuries to the pelvic area and lower extremities.
Jun was shocked when he heard the news.
“Ayun napaiyak din ako siyempre, nawalan ako ng isang kaibigan, nawalan ako ng isang itinuturing bang kapatid,” he said. “Sumagi sa isip ko kada natutulog ako na sana ‘di na lang kami tumuloy dun, kaso siya kasi ‘yung may gusto din.”
Jun still remembered their last moments together.
“Nagyakapan kaming dalawa tapos hanggang sa umupo kami sa sofa,” Jun recalled. “Pagkaupo namin sa sofa, kinausap ko siya kung kaya niya pa. Sabi niya, oo.”
Because of what happened, Jun was determined to seek justice for his friend. However, he did not know who the perpetrators were, as they were blindfolded during the initiation rites.
The authorities thus conducted a background check to trace the members of the fraternity.
“Itong napasukan ng biktima, sa pagkakaalam ko ay local fraternity sa lugar na ‘yun,” Tendero said. “Ibig sabihin, ang mga miyembro nito, mga kapitbahay din nila. Usually, ito ay mga out of school youth na sila-sila mismo magkakabarkda lang. Magkakakilala sila, ‘yung nagbuo ng local na triskelion na under ng umbrella ng Tau Gamma. Usually, ang pinakabata nito ay katorse.”
They were able to track down some of the members, but they all denied participating in the hazing of Noel.
Just as they were about to run into a dead end, one of the fraternity members turned himself in—a one Hernan Palacio.
According to Palacio, they did not intend to kill anyone.
“Nakokonsensiya siya,” Tendero said. “Alam naman natin kasi na itong fraternity, brotherhood ito eh. Parang mabigat din sa loob nila ‘yung nangyari sa kinikilala nilang brother. Marahil kasi mga bata pa.”
On November 2010, Palacio was charged with violation of Section 4 Republic Act No. 8049 of the Anti-Hazing Law.
He is currently detained at the Manila City Jail while the other frat members remain at large.
Because of the incident, the Manila police warned anyone thinking of joining fraternities to reconsider.
“Walang ipinagbabawal sa batas na pagsali sa mga asosasyon o organisasyon,” Tendero said. “Subalit ang masasabi natin, kung sasali man ‘yung mga kabataan, dun na sa organisasyon na walang tinatawag na pagpapahirap para lang maging miyembro ka.”
Jun said he has learned his lesson, and said that he hopes others will not have to go through what he and Noel did.
“Sana, ‘yung ibang kabataan, mag-isip din sila kasi mahirap sumali sa ganoong bagay sa fraternity,” he said. “Marami pa akong gustong gawin kasi gusto ko ring maging malaya [mula sa] mga pagkakamali ko dati. Gusto kong samahan ngayon ‘yung mga tropa kong tunay. ‘Yung mga totoo talaga.”