Recollections on the Fraternity

By Eduardo C. Abaya, Batch ’40 Grand Archon ’46
1989, Sigma Rho 50th Anniversary


The Sigma Rho Fraternity was organized by some twelve idealistic junior law students of the UP College of Law at Padre Faura St., Manila. Attracted by its laudable objectives, especially in the field of scholarship, the cream of the UP Law studentry joined up and were initiated into the Fraternity. Among them were law freshmen students like Jovito R. Salonga, Pedro L. Yap and Manuel Montecillo who later topped the 1944, 1946, and 1949 bar examinations, respectively.

Barely two years after the Sigma Rho was organized, World War II broke out. The Japanese Imperial Forces invaded and occupied the Philippines, whereupon the UP College of Law was closed, and the activities of the Sigma Rho Fraternity were suspended until the termination of the war. In October, 1945, pre-war UP law students whose studies were interrupted returned to UP Padre Faura for their completion course.

The Sigma Rho Fraternity was then re-activated with the late Alberto M. Meer, Batch 1939, resuming his duties, as Grand Archon for 1941-1942, in a holdover capacity until this writer, Batch 1940, was elected to succeed for the year 1946-1947.

Having personally known all of the charter members and those who belonged to batches 1939 and 1940, respectively, some of whom were his former classmates, this writer has been requested, for the information of the latter day Sigma Rhoans, to put in print some of his recollections and observations about the Fraternity and its outstanding Brods, on the occasion of the celebration of its Golden Anniversary.

Before the war, the members of the Sigma Rho Fraternity addressed each other as “Comrade”. The horrible experiences of war must have mellowed our political outlook and so after liberation we started calling each other as “Brod”. The first Class Adviser of the fraternity was then Professor Magno B. Gatmaitan who later served in the judiciary until he retired as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals.

The initial letters of Sigma Rho stand for the initials of Sanchez Roman, a Spanish jurist whose scholarly commentaries on the Civil Code of Spain were authoritative references which UP law students had to diligently peruse to better enable them to learn the subject.

We call the fraternity’s presiding officer as Grand Archon, which means Chief Magistrate in ancient Greece. The treasurer was referred to as the Custodian of Funds.

In the year 1946-1947 after the senior members of the Fraternity graduated from the College of Law, there were left only about 15 Brods and the Sigma Rho remained a minority fraternity. It was at that time when in order to save the Frat from extinction, this writer as Grand Archon met with the College of Law freshmen and persuaded them to join the Sigma Rho. They did join up the Fraternity because they were convinced that it was better for each of them to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fry in a bigger pond, which would have happened if they joined the majority fraternity. It was also during that school year 1946-1467 when the Sigma Rho Logo was designed and its symbolic Fraternity pin manufactured and distributed for the “edification”of resident Sigma Rhoans. True enough, the Sigma Rho grew up to be a dominant fraternity which controlled all sorts of campus activities, and its prestige was enhanced by the outstanding performances of its illustrious members, more prominently led by the incumbent President of the Senate, Jovito R. Salonga, and the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Marcelo B. Fernan, who, by the way, immediately succeeded retired Chief Justice Pedro L. Yap.

It is sad to state that majority of the Charter members and four of the first eight Grand Archons of the Sigma Rho have passed away, namely: George McClure, one of the charter members and first Grand Archon; Brods Alberto M. Meer; Jose Viterbo and Ruben Roxas, third, eighth and seventh Grand Archon, respectively.

This brief recollection will not be complete without mentioning the pre-war and post-war social activities of the Sigma Rho. As usual we have a fraternity sweetheart for every school year of the Frat’s existence, the first of whom was Lourdes Fernandez, now a doctor of medicine who got married to a successful lawyer. The Sigma Rho Fraternity sweetheart for the year 1941¬1942 was Lourdes Leiva, the real life sweetheart of then Grand Archon Alberto M. Meer, and whom he eventually married. A post liberation sweetheart of the Fraternity was Nora Villanueva who during the incumbency of this writer as Grand Archon was chosen the fourth sweetheart of the Sigma Rho Fraternity when she was only a 17-year old freshman in the College of Liberal Arts. She is now a T.V. personality who is better known as Nora Daza.

It was customary for the pre-war Sigma Rho Fraternity to hold annual dinner dances where the Brods agree to come in formal evening wear. Pre-war UP College of Law students were required to attend classes in coat and tie, hence for their gala affairs they need to look more “groovy” to better impress the very good looking sophisticated socialiates they invite.

God Bless the Sigma Rho. Mabuhay!