Alphans all over the world - unite!
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Alphans join the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela on December 5, 2013, an icon of freedom, justice, peace and reconciliation. By his example of forbearance and persistence, South Africa was able to transition to black majority rule while avoiding the violence and chaos that often accompany such political upheavals in other parts of the world, the Philippines included.
I was fortunate to observe the first South African multi-racial elections in Johannesburg in 1994 as the lone Filipino in the team of international election monitors organized by churches and international NGOs. I saw a very charged political environment, with all stakeholders vying for position in that post-apartheid nation. Violence was the easiest option to take, and there were many who tried to stoke the fires of hatred and animosity. I saw political rallies where competing groups armed with traditional weapons running after each other, baiting the police and everyone else to use force. But when Nelson Mandela rose to address the crowds, everyone quieted down, listened and digested the message of peace and reconciliation coming from a man who has seen and experienced it all--including 27 years of imprisonment.
I dream of an organization that can break down barriers and allow persons of whatever creed, religion, political affiliation, economic status, social standing, sexual orientation, and other possible division, to stand together, for each other, and for the good of all. Just like in South Africa, the process and the people involved will never be perfect, including their icon Nelson Mandela. But it is possible because he has shown us the way.
Alpha Sigma Phi in the Philippines is one such organization. The Jolo Accord of 2012 sums up so well how we overcome divisions and problems and be what we are today--Muslims, Christians and Lumads, women and men, calling and embracing each other as brothers and sisters. Let us continue the work of perfecting our organization, and continue to be inspired by the example of Nelson Mandela.
Brother Sam Matunog, Beta '74
Brother Bocari Riga, Omicron '71, passed away this morning. His body lies in state at the Golden Mosque, Quiapo, Metro Manila. He will be buried also today in accordance with Islamic tradition. He is survived by his wife, Sister Ruby Riga, and by their children and grandchildren.
I believe and I maintain that Alpha Sigma Phi Philippines is and has always been at the heart of the peace process in the country because we exemplify in our daily life the genuine possibility of true peace--the obligation to tell the truth, the responsibility to radiate love and to honor the principle of equality. This is the only organization in the Philippines, a fraternity no less, where members, Muslims and Christians alike, call and address each other as "Brother" and "Sister".
Brother Bocari, since I came to know him personally in the '70s, is one of those who made this possible. He supported all our efforts to strengthen the organization. He gave all that he had to Alpha Sigma Phi. He organized the reception of Brother Richard Gibbs, former Grand Senior President of ASP USA, when he first came to the Philippines and cemented our ties with that organization. His constant presence in organizational affairs gave him a unique perspective in the workings of our fraternity. Alpha Sigma Phi Philippines justly honored his contributions by electing him twice as National President.
His love for Alpha Sigma Phi was total, constant, persistent, unyielding. While on several occasions misconstrued, his behavior often bore unintended but positive consequences. In the Jolo convention, for instance, he refused to enter the convention hall, but worked behind the scenes to press for his views. The negotiations to break the impasse resulted in the crafting of the Jolo Accord which sums up our reasons for being, and by the signatures of all those in attendance, a renewed commitment to the ideals that brought us together irrespective of tribal origins, religions, political persuasions, gender, economic status, etc. I credit Brother Bocari's influence for this incidental but far-reaching achievement.
Brother Bocari, wherever you are, we salute you. It is my fervent hope that when we remember you in the annals of the history of Alpha Sigma Phi Philippines, we will remember you as a steadfast leader who lived the virtues as well as all the possibilities of everything that is stated in the Jolo Accord.
Brother Sam Matunog, Beta '74