Mu Sigma Phi at 85
All victories start from a dream. For the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity, that dream started on October 3, 1933 when thirty-five young medical students dared to aspire for a goal beyond the ordinary
By Allan Joseph L. Larona., M.D., MSF 2008, Marvin C. Masalunga, M.D., MSF 2014 AND Gerald R. Ramos, MSF 2022
Most universities have fraternities; but the challenge to most fraternities is to put a deeper meaning to brotherhood and camaraderie. Only a few of these fraternities stand out as having faithfully adhered to its lofty core values beyond the superficial ruckus of brotherhood, and have fulfilled its mission and vision that have made a difference in other people’s lives.
In 1933, the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) was being led by its first Filipino Dean, Dr. Fernando Calderon who had longed to see his students develop a strong sense of camaraderie, altruism and leadership. The answer of this brood of fine gentlemen is the Medical Students’ Fraternity. Represented by the Greek Letters MSF, the Mu Sigma Phi would become one of the most outstanding medical organizations in the country.
Eighty-five years later after it was founded, the flames blazing from within the core of the Mu Sigma Phi continue to burn with fervor. From its humble beginnings, the fraternity has grown into a roster of 1,600 physicians. Built founded, the flames blazing from within the core of the Mu Sigma Phi continue to burn with fervor. From its humble beginnings, the fraternity has grown into a roster of 1,600 physicians. Built on the dreams of lasting brotherhood, transformational leadership, relentless pursuit of scholarship and self-denying service, the Mu Sigma Phi boasts of an impressive list of accomplishments and dreams-turned-into-realities.
Brotherhood: transcending times
For 85 years, the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity has stood tall as the first, the largest, and the most acclaimed medical fraternity in the Philippines and in Asia. Such great feat is without a doubt unattainable if not for the solid Brotherhood that lies at its foundation. The brotherhood that exists between two Mu men is unique. It is a bond that transcends time and spans multiple generations. With this unbreakable link, the Mu Sigma Phi fraternity only grows stronger with the passing of time. Most recently, the fraternity welcomed 13 new brothers from Batch 2023. The youngest brods are traditionally welcomed through an annual Induction Ball which serves as an avenue for alumni and resident brods alike to renew their fraternity vows, rekindle their brotherly ties, and to ignite connections with the newly inducted batch
In all the shores, hills, and valleys
The brotherhood of the Mu Sigma Phi knows no boundaries. Whenever a Mu Brod finds himself in a foreign place, he can be at ease to know that brods (and sisses) are just a click away. Whether he finds himself in the concrete jungles of New York, amidst the culture-rich edifices of Europe, or in the busy streets of Singapore, he can be sure of a warm welcome by the Mu who have coined for themselves names that a Mu brod will not miss: Mu York (or MuSA, to include those in the west coast), MUrope, and MUrlions. Indeed, in this age of social media, a vacation or foreign travel will never be complete without visiting the brods who live near the area.
Countless opportunities are made possible through the bonds of brotherhood. A prime example of this is the Mu Sigma Phi Foundation. Organized by the Mu brothers and sisters based in the United States in 2004, the Mu Foundation is the international, socio-civic arm of the Mu Sigma Phi.
True to its vision of creating a lifelong and world-wide community of alumni brothers/sisters, enhancing and creating opportunities to increase awareness, participation and philanthropic commitment to the College, Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the Filipino people and the world, the foundation has continuously raised funds to sponsor projects for the UPCM and the PGH , including the provision of 80 computers for the UPCM Learning Center and donations for the new academic building of the College of Medicine.
It also offers scholarships to undergraduate medical students, and generously supports many of the projects of both the Fraternity and the Sorority particularly those geared towards serving the Filipino people, such as MUbility and the Quisumbing Escandor Film Festival for Health. The foundation is currently being led by Dr. Chelle Jose MSF 1969 and Dr. Celso Antiporda MSF 1979. Aside from managing the foundation, both doctors have made a name for themselves as respectable anesthesiologists in the United States—Dr. Jose in New Jersey, and Dr. Antiporda in Toledo, Ohio. For more information on the foundation’s initiatives visit www.themufoundation.org
Leadership: men becoming institutions
Leadership: the pillar that makes Mu Men dedicated to the causes that ultimately lead to nation-building.
Every Mu Brod is a leader in his own right. He is a source of inspiration to others because of his solid determination and passion for a worthy cause. A Mu brod has purpose. A Mu brod is ready to take on challenges.
Mu Brods have emerged as strong pioneers and forefront leaders in the UP College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital. Notable brothers who became directors of the Philippine General Hospital are Dr. Reginaldo Pascual MSF 1941, Dr. Antonio Montalban MSF 1969, Dr. Carmelo Alfiler MSF 1972, and Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo MSF 1993.
The Fraternity also has four exceptional brods who served as Secretaries of the Department of Health: Dr. Jesus Azurin, MSF 1941, Dr. Antonio Periquet, MSF 1959, Dr. Alberto Romualdez, Jr. MSF 1965, and Dr. Manuel Dayrit, MSF 1976. They have expanded the horizons of the local health care delivery system to the international scene; for one, Dr. Alberto Romauldez, Jr., fondly remembered as “Quasi” by the brods, was one of the prime movers of the Universal Health Care Act, which was enacted into law this year.
Relentless pursuit of scholarship
As an institution primarily composed of medical students and doctors from the UP College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital, the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity has always put a premium on providing quality medical education geared towards academic excellence and community-oriented healthcare.
Opportunities for learning and practicing knowledge have always been a priority. The Fraternity holds peer review classes and sessions not only for its members, but for all freshmen of the UP College of Medicine – heeding the call for more responsive teaching and guided learning among students. Learning opportunities are also fraternity: health missions serve as avenues for examination skills of the undergraduate members.
For the past 28 years, the Fraternity also hosts Brainstorm, an inter-medical school quiz bee that has become one of the biggest and most anticipated academic events among medical schools around the country. This year’s Brainstorm will be held at the Social Hall of the Philippine General Hospital this March 29, 2019. As of writing, 18 teams from nine different medical colleges have registered for this fierce competition of wits and prowess. Surely, this will be an event to anticipate for many medical students out there.
While the study of the Medical Sciences is essential to a budding physician’s career, the young men of the Mu Sigma Phi recognize that the Arts and Humanities make a truly complete and compassionate doctor. A testament to this was the 3rd Quisumbing Escandor Film Festival (QEFF), which culminated last January, 2018 and featured short films and documentaries highlighting issues on Mental Health. Imahe, a photo contest portraying the realities of mental illness, was also held as an adjunct event to the film festival. Photos submitted to Imahe were eventually featured in the exhibit of the QEFF Awards Night.
Some paths are worth taking on more than others. Medicine is a long and arduous career, but it is not a rigid, unbending steel track heading towards a fabled end. Surely along this long and winding path, a Mu man will seize opportunities to help and serve his fellow countrymen. This path is at times more challenging than usual; however, the spirit of service inculcated within Mu makes this path worth treading on. To serve the poor and the underserved, in the name of service, the Mu man wages his war.
Waging war on the stigma of mental illness
First held in 2008, the Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health (QEFF), an independent film-making competition organized by the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity for the promotion of health issues through the power of films.
Dubbed as QEFF 3, with the theme of “Tagu-taguan, Maliwanag ang Buwan”, last year’s iteration featured the thought-provoking works of more than 73 amateur and professional film makers from more than 20 provinces across the country, each one tackling various facets of mental health and its disorders.
The entries were shown last February 3-5, 2018 at the Cinematheque Manila to more than 1,200 total attendees. The Awards Night was subsequently held last February 10, 2018 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium. Comfort Room, a film about Suicide directed by Leia Reyna Pasumbal, won the distinction as Gawad Quisumbing-Escandor and Php 100,000. The award for Best Short Film and Php 75,000 was given to Rekuwerdo, directed by Kristoffer “Tops” Brugada, for its excellent portrayal of a common neurodegenerative disease – Alzheimer’s Disease. On the other hand, Best Documentary and another Php 75,000 were awarded to Hawla, a documentary about Psychosis. The Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival’s culminating event itself served as a proclamation for the continuing fight for mental health, in partnership with stakeholders who attended the festivities.
In line with the fraternity’s 85th anniversary, QEFF 3 took its advocacy to another level through the QEFF Caravan, which brings the films to different organizations, schools, and barangays across the country to spark discussions on mental health. During the Caravan, selected films are shown to jumpstart discussions on mental health among teachers, students, government officials, and representatives from the non-government sectors. Among the sites visited by the Caravan are Dagupan City and Mindoro. Surely, the war for mental health has found a good ally in the face of QEFF 3 – a testament t the Mu brand of service.
Project MUbility, conceptualized in 2005, is an umbrella project which aims to empower the differently-abled through advocacies that seek socio-economic, medical, and institutional changes to improve their access to healthcare. The project also seeks to promote understanding and break stereotypes associated with their condition.
Under MUbility are several sub-projects geared towards celebrating the differently-abled Filipino. The MUbility Support Group provides prosthetic units, wheelchairs and rehabilitative care for amputees. PaligSamahan is a sports event organized to highlight the athleticism and sportsmanship of these remarkable individuals. Reverb: The Concert showcases their flair for the performing arts while Obra X is an art exhibit featuring their talents in the visual arts. The Amputee Climb is a testament to their strength of will and determination. They have proved again and again that nothing is insurmountable to amputees, not even the peaks of Mt. Batulao (2009), Mt. Pulag (2012) and Tarak Ridge (2016).
Recently, the Office of the President conferred the prestigious Rehabilitation Volunteer Group of the Year Award to the Mu Sigma Phi in recognition of the feats achieved by Project MUbility. Given during the 2017 Apolinario Mabini Awards, this is a collective victory of the Fraternity and the numerous partners, participants, and supporters of the project, who championed the cause and proved that physical ailments are never limitations to what one can achieve.
The noble vocation of saving lives is not limited within the confines of the hospital. Mu Sigma Phi goes beyond these boundaries and elevates the concept of service by extending assistance to far-flung areas with scarce resources.
MU Relief is the primary disaster response arm of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity and Sorority. Under this banner, Project H2O: Help to Others was created to aid disaster-struck communities access clean and safe drinking water. Portable and durable water filtration units are delivered to areas affected by typhoons, earthquakes and other calamities with the aim of reducing illnesses related to water contamination. Since its inception in 2008, more than 1600 water filtration units have been distributed all over the Philippines. The project has bagged the Service Project of the Year Award (SPOYA) from the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Student Network – NCR in 2014; it was also one of the winners of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research, Student Projects for Health category.
Under MU Relief, medical and surgical missions were organized in various areas across the country. Comprehensive and compassionate medical service was rendered to communities in need by Mu doctors, medical students and partner organizations.
The Mu Sigma Phi has an enduring partnership with Gawad Kalinga, particularly with Gawad Kalinga, Las Piñas – Sta. Rita Homeowners Association Health and Development. Since its groundbreaking in 2011, 23 houses have been donated to the village through the help and generosity of the Mu Sigma Phi Foundation and other international Mu circles. The fraternity also regularly conducts medical clinics and organizes charitable events for the residents. With the support and guidance of consultants from the fraternity, the community is encouraged to initiate their own activities towards their health and welfare.
From waging war in support of mental health, to empowering people with physical disabilities, to providing much-needed medical support across the country, the commitment of Mu to service is undisputable. It is a continuing realization of that mighty dream from 85 years ago: a commitment to self-denying service.
The mighty dream lives on
Hard-won victories are always a cause for jubilation. On the 18th of December 2018, more than 300 Mu Sigma Phi brothers came together to celebrate the triumphs made possible in the spirit of brotherhood. Brods from all over the country and abroad gathered for the 85th Anniversary Ball and the walls of the Manila Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel reverberated with the timeless thunderous cry, “All for the glory of the Mu Sigma Phi!”
What a grand party it was! Brods from as far back as the 1950s, all esteemed figures in their respective fields, swapped life stories and exchanged jokes over drinks with the younger brods who are just beginning their journey into the profession. Truly, time is immaterial to a brotherhood that transcends generations.
Gatherings like this come with a fair bit of nostalgia. For sure, all the attendees enjoyed MUseo, the 85th Anniversary Exhibit, which showcased bits and pieces of the fraternity’s colorful past: from shirts to frat pins, from the wooden seals to the Mu medallion that is earned by blood, sweat, and tears.
With spirits high from the cheers of brotherhood, the Anniversary Ball was wrapped up with a sneak peek of what is in store for the brods as the fraternity marches on towards its centennial year. With the promise of a new home for the brods in the form of a fraternity house, the establishment of a fund for the 100th year, and even more service projects building on the successes of QEFF and MUbility, the Anniversary ball was an incredible end for a glorious year—paving the way towards a new century of even taller ambitions. With the fire of Brotherhood burning brighter than ever, the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity proves once again that truly, the mighty dream lives on!
* With contributions from: Fae Angela R. Palabrica µSF 2011, Earl Marvin P. Balanag MSF 2021, Jose Marcel Y. Magno MSF 2022, and Ammiel C. Gulmatico MSF 2022