March 24, 2013

On People: Mark Joel Agarano, Fratman

UP Epsilon Chi Fraternity, Beta Chapter in UPLB -2004
UP Epsilon Chi Fraternity in Bilibid-2013

Fraternity. The very word has almost lost its original meaning of a gentile society of Ralph Lauren-wearing young men and entered the modern lexicon as a synonym for party, beer and social irresponsibility. Yet the fraternities endure, with the same ceremony, titles and traditions intact from the past. In celebration of UP’s Epsilon Chi Fraternity’s 40th Anniversary, we ask: What’s it really like to be in a ‘frat’? As someone who has organised, participated and been immersed in fraternity activities, a strong sense of social responsibility endures. Outreach programmes are more organised and frequent then ever, including a recent one at New Bilibid Prisons, attended by both the fraternity and the Chi Epislon Sorority.

These two very public sides of fraternities stand in stark contrast to each other. So we ask: Is it really all beer and fun? Or is there more to being part of the popular college social institution?

We talk to former Grand Radian of UP Epislon Chi’s Beta Chapter, Joel Agrano to find out what it’s really like to be in a ‘frat.’

Tell us something about yourself.
I am a voracious reader. I usually find myself lost in time, enamoured by works of great authors and thinkers. Friedrich Nietzsche is always my favourite read. If I don’t read, I write. I just wouldn’t be able to sleep if I don’t let the words in my mind be inscribed on a piece of paper. I also taught myself how to cook. Since I was never really good at drawing or painting, I use food as an expression of art and a means for visual enticement.

Tell us a weird quirk of yours?

I am a bit OC. For example, the cash in my wallet should always be arranged from the smallest to the greatest denomination. They have to be upright and their edges must be in line with each other. Yes, I take time each day to inspect my wallet and do this.

Why did you join a fraternity in college?
One reason is my Dad. I was greatly influenced by my father who was also a fratman, albeit from a different fraternity. Ever since I was young, he would always tell me that joining a fraternity is a good way of toughening your mind and establishing a network of contacts. He would always say that it is an investment. Sure enough, I absorbed his reasoning.
Another reason is that I did not have a lot of friends in high school. I was quite reserved and unapproachable. When I entered college in UPLB, I swore to myself that I would find a way to come out of my comfort zone and develop myself. Joining a university recognized fraternity was the path I chose to achieve that goal. 

"EpChi" 2004
UP Epsilon Chi Fraternity Grand Ball-2008
Tell us something about being an active "fratman" in college.
College is always a time of discovery for most of us. It’s where most of us experience all night parties, sex, drugs and alcohol, if I may be so blunt. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of the things I mentioned when I was in college but it never reached a point that I destroyed myself. We have this saying among my brothers that joining our fraternity does not end when you’ve passed the initiation process. It’s forever. It’s a lifestyle. I took that into heart. I had to adhere to a strict set of rules and principles. 

What were your positions in the fraternity?
I was the head officer in 2006 and 2008. My job was to conceptualize activities the fraternity would be conducting for the whole year. I was the main decision maker for administrative functions. As head officer, I was also the main liaison between the resident arm and the alumni body of the fraternity. In 2005, I was the publications officer. My main function then was designing and producing promotional materials for the fraternity’s activities. 

How did you manage school work while being active in the frat?
I will be honest and I will state that it was very difficult. There was a point when I was head officer that I had to attend meetings in Manila in the evening, go back to UPLB at dawn and go to class at seven in the morning. It got to a point where activities for the fraternity were very time-consuming. I was very dedicated to my position. I knew my responsibilities so I had no right to complain. One of the profound lessons the fraternity taught me was how to manage my time. When there was no work for the fraternity, I would study.

How did you lead the frat?
Stepping up and grabbing the opportunity to lead an organization with 50+ unique, thinking members at a young age could be a daunting task. There is always the possibility of growing an ego and embarking on a power trip. I did not do that. My style was to build rapport with each member and gain their respect. I listened to their grievances and their suggestions on how to improve the fraternity. I would usually write down those suggestions before I went to bed and I would meet with my council the next day to evaluate the complaints and assess the suggestions. I simply practiced democracy.

Any pros and cons of being a fratman?
If you join a legitimate fraternity, you’ll definitely get some perks. You’ll be trained on how to express yourself. If your grades are great, the fraternity could grant you a scholarship. You will be instantly connected to your brothers who are already higher ups in their respective industries. That will come in handy once you start looking for work. One of the best pros I gained from my fraternity are the principles which were imparted to me. They are permanently etched into my core and they serve as my guidelines on how to conduct myself each day.
There are downsides though. As I have mentioned, being in a fraternity could sometimes be a bit time-consuming and demanding. 

EpChi 2009
 UPLB Feb Fair 2011
What was the best thing that ever happened to you while in the frat?
When I was elected as head officer for the first time, I was only in my second year of college. I was the youngest head officer in our fraternity’s history. With my age came doubts that I would be able to pull it off. I did not listen to the naysayers and I just did my job. At the end of my term and with the support of my council, I had great output. When it was time for the turnover, my brothers approached me, shook my hand and said “good job, tol”.

What was the most memorable moment you have had as leader of the fraternity?

The sleepless nights especially when the date for an activity is fast approaching! You have to think thrice and then think again about the budget and the logistics. Everything must be smooth-sailing once the activity is already in progress. 

Galera 2008
UP Epsilon Chi Fraternity and UP Chi Epsilon Sorority activities

What can you say about fraternities in the Philippines?
Fraternities in the Philippines are terribly misunderstood. This stems from the fact that the fraternities in the Philippines are extremely varied and diverse. I believe that what must be done to alleviate some of the misapprehension is to differentiate a gang from a fraternity. The media has used these two terms interchangeably. That is just plain wrong. Fraternities are born out of insightful principles. Gangs are the result of criminality in our society. There is an entire universe dividing the two.

What does it take to join a frat in college?

A sharp mind, an endless reserve of fortitude and an uninhibited willingness to learn and grow.

What did you learn from being a fratman?
I learned that one can exist and be bonded to an organization by principles. There is nothing more admirable than to live a life with a creed. In my years as a fratman, I was also fortunate enough to learn that fraternity brothers could consider each other as blood brothers.
What message do you have for students or people wanting to join a frat?
Please be selective of the fraternity you will join. Choose an organization that will have a positive impact on your life and one which will nurture you. Do not join a fraternity which will only bring you harm. Before making a choice, research their history and ask around regarding their reputation. Observe their members. My recommendation is that you join a duly recognized university based fraternity. 

"All grown up" 2012
UP Epsilon Chi Fraternity and UP Chi Epsilon Sorority's Outreach Program in New Bilibid Prisons last March 9, 2013
How do we contact you?
You can reach me thru my email:

Any interesting websites you would like to share?
This is my fraternity’s official website:
Home - Home of the Epsilon Chi Fraternity



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