Thursday, May 26, 2016

FIFTY YEARS: The First National Convention of the Omega Pelta Kappa

I WALKED INTO A PLACE where the Omega Pelta Kappa Fraternity and Sorority are celebrating today, September 5, 2015, their 50th Anniversary - a golden – and their First National Convention. An event that comes once in a lifetime for everyone, including me. I would not see it happen again and I came to touch base, to see and shake hands with my long-lost fraternity brothers and sisters and to sing once more the Peltans Hymn.

I am a Peltano by virtue of surviving a rite of passage that my upperclassmen had willed on me in March 1981. I now claim that right and that seat assigned to me inside the Sacred Heart Center. Proudly, I wear my fraternity's commemorative black t-shirt for this occasion but I feel uneasy. Unsure. Faces whose names I had forgotten or whose name I cannot relate to someone else's face questions my confidence. Of my right to belong.

I see a small yellow paper on everyone's breast and it has their names. My tenseness is gone and my smile becomes loose and natural. Time to paste a yellow paper on myself also. The legendary banners of the original chapters are hung side by side with the recent ones. Alpha of the University of Cebu. Beta of the University of San Jose-Recoletos. Gamma of the University of San Carlos. Delta of the Cebu Institute of Technology.

Brod Jerome Noel of Beta Chapter is on the stage providing insight into this historic event as all ears are lent towards him. I walked proudly to the place of the Delta Chapter banner, which I belonged, when it was mentioned. It seems I am alone at first and I looked around the crowd to give me company when, at last, Brod Dondie Gabutan stood and walked to join me. Oh God, we are a dying breed and so most of the old chapters.

We need new blood to keep the flame burning. Here in Cebu, the place where OPK was founded, only the chapter of the University of Cebu in Lapulapu and Mandaue carried the torch of our existence but, even with that, it cannot hold even the smallest candle to what we once were, population-wise, during OPK's glory years. I am saddened at this thought. We cannot turn this tide unless OPK will reinvent itself to suit to the times.

I reminisced in my seat when OPK was a very vibrant fraternity of the early '80s. It was a time of the dictatorship and the rise of adrenaline was very much appreciated by the youths of our time by joining student organizations, legal or underground, and then engage in extracurricular activities. It was also a time of turmoil but youth militancy was at its height and my heart was swept onto its revolution.

OPK was part of my growth and had been part of the driving forces to what I am now and I never regret the process by which they had imposed on me, even with blindfolds. It may be harsh to most who had never ever been there but it is bittersweet and special for the few who dared. I am one of the few who can rightly say the “been there done that” phrase with credibility. Scotch on the rocks, please. And make that two. I believe, swapping stories with a peer are better with that.

I am with my contemporaries inside this big room. The alpha males and the alpha females of their time but now very docile and warm and aging. The youthness had surrendered to the grayness and the baldness and the accompanying body aches. The pillars of the OPK sat on the front table. The gatekeepers. Soon they will pass the shield to the Council of Elders that they will soon chose from among those who are fit to lead OPK to the next level.

On discussion is the official OPK Logo. Our Coat of Arms. Brod Edward Cilocilo (1977 UC) emphasized that all the chapter leaders and members should adhere to the original concept of the seal that the original founders had designed. Adding other details which does not pass the scrutiny of all chapters is hereby discouraged. The OPK identification tattoo, the whistle, the challenge-and-password system are also explained in great detail by this esteemed gentleman from the third generation.

The Omega Pelta Kappa may have had lost its zest and appeal to the younger generations as the anti-hazing law is implemented by the government to its fullest meaning which dealt the dearth of new blood through the traditional lines of recruitment, not only on us but on the rest of school organizations with Greek letters. Nevertheless, OPK will adapt to the times and it will have to undergo radical changes in its organizational structure, name, rituals and processes so it would survive and entice new members.

The only bright spot that OPK is enjoying right now are the chapters of Pi Alpha and of Zeta. The latter had metamorphosed into different sub-chapters that are distributed in Davao City, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental and, that is why, six slots are entitled to Mindanao to the Council of Elders. On the other hand, the chapter of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental is a force to reckon with, with two slots graciously assigned to them.

Saving face, because of its large alumni population, Cebu was able to snare two slots for the Council of Elders. Manila gets one, as a special concession to the efforts of Brod Rey Mabasag while Iloilo gets a slot, despite not being represented. The Council of Elders would formulate the drastic changes that Omega Pelta Kappa will have to painfully undergo in order to breathe above the water line. This would not be easy.

I believed there had been behind-the-scene debates regarding these. As always, there are the pros and the cons and there is communication and dialogue. A very long process but it came nevertheless on a silver platter. Never too late and never too early. It is aged. It is wise for its time. It is ripe enough for the picking on this 50th year. How appropriate. It has its rough edges but it will soon be smoothed soon to a shiny sheen. Trust that to the Council of Elders and to the Grand Chancellor.

Representing Mindanao are Brod Alandele Pacquen, Brod Romeo Uy, Brod Raymund Galot, Brod Daryll Huesca, a sister and another brother. Kabankalan City will have Brod Michel Miran and Brod Mark Dorado. Brod Jerome Noel and Brod Glyx Gallego represent Cebu while Manila will have its lone representative in Brod Rey Mabasag. Absent but highly recommended, is Brod Kenneth Apuhin, who would be Iloilo's own. Elected by this body as Grand Chancellor is Brod Jerome Noel. All would serve two years and shall be replaced (or could continue for another two years) on the next national convention, which will be hosted by Davao City.

Henceforth, the Omega Pelta Kappa Fraternity and Sorority will be given a legal personality with the creation of the Peltans International Society of Professionals Incorporated (PISPI), pending approval before the Securities and Exchange Commission. OPK shall remain as it is - as a fraternity - and would continue functioning in campuses and retain its identity, structure and a few revisions of its rituals. When a Peltan graduates from college and turn professional, his ties with his fraternity continues and that is where PISPI comes into play.

PISPI will oversee the operations of campus chapters and would guide and inspire the collegians to strive in their scholastic endeavours as well as paving the way for their integration into the professional world. PISPI provides them assistance and full support – as students and as professionals – and would function according to its mandates. PISPI would also accept neophytes directly from the professionals and there would be the mandatory requisites for full acceptance to brotherhood or sisterhood, which would deviate a little from those entering by way of OPK.

These are the ideas that OPK need to stave off extinction. We are, more or less, like the dinosaurs and most of our thoughts stuck to the past. Sentimental values. It is time to move on and accept change. The opportunity of being part of a new phase in the reorganization of OPK into PISPI gives me reason to hope, exult and wait for that day when I could enjoy the fruits of these outcomes that the Council of Elders would soon implement.

I have one concern though. Could we sing the Peltans Hymn better next time? And could we prepare a choir of Peltans to record this song so it would not deviate from its original form like what happened to our coat of arms? When transferred in MP3 format, singing our hymn would now be easy unlike the ones we did during the opening ceremonies where it sounded like the ones tuned in for funeral hearses.

Dinner is served courtesy of our more blessed fellow Peltans. Sharing a table with me is Sis Elsie Imanil of Gamma Chapter while on an adjoining table are my brothers from Pi Alpha and on another are the old stalwarts of Gamma. Everybody are joyful and expectant of things to happen that will solidify our existence and our bond. There is life for a Peltan after college, and after here, after all.

One of the things that PISPI will introduce is the Chamber of Commerce. This body will collect and collate all the members' profile, profession, skills, business and other information into one database, like those of a classified ads, and shall be available to all Peltans for referrals, networking and for other purposes. Literally, I have snared an opportunity at that moment as Brod Nick de los Santos of Alpha Chapter and the incumbent mayor of the Municipality of Alcoy, Cebu, asked of my number. A future project in the making!

As this national convention of old and new Peltans begins to show the forms of an adjournment, I slowly leave my table to shake hands, and bade goodbye, to any Peltan I happen to pass by as I take a subdued journey to the door. The grips are still firm, their smiles welcoming although a little sad at the corners, knowing that the opportunity for meetings like this would be two years from now. And we are not getting any younger. Two years! It is harsh on all of us but we have to surrender to that reality.

I would have wanted to extend my night hours into the morning to swap stories, to fill in the blanks of the gap of years and to unseal the enigma I might have projected to the rest of the Omega Pelta Kappa. Not tonight, please. I am overwhelmed by too much happiness to see so many Peltans in one place and in the creation of PISPI. I could have that in my own sweet time. Perhaps, in Davao. Why not? Davao is a special place for me and I have good memories there. Eating durian is one of them.

See you in September 9, 2017 then my brothers and sisters. ¡Hasta siempre Peltanos y Peltanas! Peltans Forever!

Document done in LibreOffice 4.3 Writer
Photos by Brod Rod Cumba and Sis Elsie Imanil