The first medical sorority in the Philippines and in Asia.
An unbroken line of over a thousand lady doctors from the University of the Philippines Manila.
The world was mired in the depths of the Great Depression, and the Philippines was rutted in a turbulence of national and geopolitical issues. In the midst of these struggles, the 1930s was a witness to the brazen efforts of women to assert their equality with men. It was in 1937 that Filipinas were finally given the right to vote.
Yet years before, lady students from the U.P. College of Medicine had already stirred ripples on the otherwise unperturbed waters of life in the College as they pursued a dream for equality and forged their own identities. On August 27, 1934, the first recognized medical sorority in the Philippines and in the whole of Asia, the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority, was born.
The founding members of the Sorority were from the Ladies Auxiliary Committee of the Mu Sigma Phi, the first recognized medical fraternity in the Philippines and in Asia. The Sorority was founded with three aims in mind: the promotion of closer relationships among the lady students of the College and of a better understanding between students and professors; the pursuit of scholastic excellence and cultural enrichment; and the cultivation of the inherent desire for self-denying service. An original core of 51 members then conceived the Sorority’s Constitution and its first Seal.
The Sorority was led by its Founding Officers:
Most Exalted Sister: Alejandra Paz-Garcia
Most Illustrious Sister: Josefina Florendo-Macaraeg
Sister Recorder: Angela Leynes-Baizas
Sister Custodian: Sofia Bona-Santos
Sisters Noble: Florencia Chipeco-Alano
Ramona de Seguerra-Fernandez
Luz de la Paz-Pelaez
Herminia Castelo - Sotto
Recruitment of new members was done by invitation; the members of the Sorority handpicked exemplary students in both academics and extracurricular activities. The initiation process was mild; the neophytes were made to sing the National Anthem in Filipino, were quizzed about their subjects in school, or were tasked to do errands for the upper sisses. It was usually a one-day affair and was done within college grounds.
The recruitment and initiations may have evolved through time but the ideals on which the Sorority was built on remain unchanged. Even though the Four Pillars were not yet erected, the evidence of them was already apparent. The Sorority’s sisterhood had always been deep, helping the Mu sisses go through med life with much ease. The Sorority held fundraising activities intended for the indigent patients of the PGH. Mu has produced sisses from these batches who excelled in academics and became leaders in different fields.
The 1930s witnessed the birth of a Sorority destined to become an institution in the U.P. College of Medicine. From the ashes of a turbulent age, a fledgling Sorority was birthed through the joining of young friendships and dreams and wills - the foundation which would enable the Sorority to withstand the test of time.
“Out of the ruins, hope,
Out of the embers, life;
Out of the embers, love,
Out of the darkness, light…”
The decade of the 1940s was buffered by both the difficult period of World War II and the brave efforts of the people to make a phoenix-like stance as a valiant answer to the menacing blow of war.
The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority’s memories, however, were not entirely woven with war stories. During the early years of the decade, the fledgling sorority, together with their brother fraternity, sponsored balls that stood out with glamour and allure against the otherwise dreary backdrop of the age. The medicos and medicas (as they were called then) took time out to meticulously prepare for such events.
During the war, the buildings at the College were bombed and burned. But no amount of destruction could ever stop the Philippine General Hospital from rendering its steadfast service to the people.
Nor could it stop the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority. The war might have shaken the budding roots of the sorority, but Mu responded with such strength that it did not allow itself to fall with the ruins. Instead, it has risen above the ashes and embers to continue its existence in all splendor and glory.
The period of 1950s was set in a background of development and recovery from the war. It was definitely not the best of times but many notable achievements in the field of medicine are credited to this decade. One such event was the performance of the first cardiac catheterization in the Philippines at the PGH.
The Mu Sigma Phi Sorority, on the other hand, provided a venue for UP Med co-eds (as women students were called then) to have fun and recreation outside of the necessary studying medical school demands. The Sorority continued to nurture its members to become the best doctors - and persons - they could be.
The Sorority began to reach out to others, especially beyond the confines of the College, by adding activities that were not directly medical in nature. In fact, the Sorority began to be actively involved in the promotion of culture as it sponsored various cultural events, such as performances of the Filipiniana Dance Troupe, or dance parties like the Hobo Dance featured at the right. More than simple fundraisers, these events gave the UP Med community a chance to unwind and enjoy one another's company in contexts away from work.
During this decade, the Sorority undoubtedly made its presence in the College felt thus etching its name deeper in history. By then it had unfailingly imbibed in its members ideals that enabled them to preserve from generation to generation the greatness that is truly and only Mu.
It was during the tumultuous ‘60s that the Sorority continued to blossom and take shape, instituting traditions, solidifying friendships and conceptualizing new activities. During this decade, it was common practice for most of the girls of a class to join Mu. The application period then only lasted for the first six months of the school year, with the relatively benign Initiations being held at the top floor of the interns’ dorm, which today is the site of the PGH OPD.
After completing the initiations, the Induction Rites were a touching affair, wherein all the new members would each hold on to strips of cloth, with the other ends of these strips gathered and tied to the ceiling. They wound turn round and round until they would all be drawn closer and closer together as the strips of cloth became twisted with each other, eloquently reminding everyone present of the bonds that bind sisters in cosseted, lasting relationships. It is thus easy to see why Sisterhood was the first Pillar to be established in these times.
Sisses staged carolling sessions and hosted Barn Dances that were reminiscent of barrio fiestas. These were done to infuse funds into the wards and to raise financial assistance for charity patients. The MU Drug Bank was established by Dr. Ludivina Garces-Holst, the MES of 1960, while the MU Maedchen (the official organ) was born in 1969; its First Editor-in-Chief was Dr. Arachelle Baduel-Jose. Dr. Baduel-Jose and Dr. Pura Flor Isleta were the ones who coined the term “maedchen,” which is German for “maiden”.
The first MU Week was organized in August 1968, to celebrate the foundation of Mu. It was conceived as an attempt to provide an avenue through which the Mu Brods and Sisses could fully showcase their talents and ideals representative of the time, a tradition that continues to the present day.
The Mu Hut that we know today did not yet exist, and sisses passed the time hanging out at the bowling alley, the spot where the Medical Library now stands. They also reserved gossip sessions, storytelling and GenMeets for the girls’ dorm (where most of the girls were Mu). Handmade posters and invitations were not yet the custom; batch songs, the present Sorority Hymn and the Sorority March were still to be sung. Mu at this time yet had to garner awards of recognition and distinction for its many acts of service.
The 1970s were a turbulent decade for our country - the era of the First Quarter Storm and Martial Law and the Great Flood of Central Luzon. This social unrest was mirrored in the lives of U.P. med students, for this period was also the height of the rivalry between Greek letter societies. This even reached a point that for a time, the Sorority had to go “underground” because the school administration had forbidden fraternities and sororities. Even so, this was a pivotal and free-spirited and colorful page in the memoirs of the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority.
The Mu Sisses chose to remain focused on their social, cultural, and academic endeavors. They kept the zeal constant and immutable, the flame, burning. Mu, during this distinctive decade, gained momentum by sponsoring cultural presentations at the CCP, and organizing service activities such as Adopt a Community and Adopt a Ward. They also spearheaded a gift-giving party during the Yuletide season, and started the tradition of decorating and lighting the Christmas tree at the PGH Lobby - a tradition that will continue to the next century. Mu became adept at hosting quiz shows and student fairs. To raise funds, they staged cake raffles, bingo socials, and movie premieres.
It was at this time that MU Sounds, a group for members who wanted to express their gift of music, was born. MU Week evolved into the grand affair it is known to be today, with shows, games, balls, and tournaments as the highlights of the week-long celebration. For the first time, Mu also had a place to call its own when the MU Hut was built on the college grounds near the tennis courts, the very same spot where it still stands today.
The making of handmade, fancy posters to publicize the Sorority activities began in this decade, and are now the trademark of the Sorority. Initiations were conducted during the semestral break and lasted only for 2 days.
The Mu Sisses were all very close back then, that GenMeets were very well attended even by the resident sisses. Thus, amid the throes of being forged and shaped in the genre that was distinctly the 70’s, at the heart of the Sorority’s existence lay the one ideal intrinsic to its longevity as Mu - the Pillar of Sisterhood. As Mu glided through these decades the Pillar of Sisterhood bloomed to fruition with each passing season.
With its more solid foundation, Mu glimmered with its growing greatness. Even yet, grander things were still to be undertaken; more exciting endeavors were to come.
The eighties mark the Golden (50th) Anniversary of the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority’s glorious existence. During this time, the Sorority was an active organization in the U.P. College of Medicine and was responsible for several celebrated events in the college. It was also during this era that the Four Pillars of the Society were concretized, on which all the Sorority's activities, both old and new, were based.
Sisterhood. Among the landmark cultural activities of the Sorority during this decade was the premiere of the epic movie “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1983 and “Out of Africa” in 1986. The Harana sa Pebrero, Grand Hen, Friday Club and awarding of the Most Outstanding Alumnae were also started during this decade. The Grand MU Orientation, now known as KaMUstahan, was continued. MU Week remained the annual highlight, and featured many activities in which the brods and sisses, med students, PGH personnel, and PGH patients joined in. This celebratory week included a photo exhibit, contest, fun run, foodsales, the Bingo Variety show held for the benefit of the PGH patients, the Cultural Night, Trivia Quiz Show for the med students and other students of UP Manila, and the Thanksgiving Mass. Another anticipated event of the Sorority was the annual Tao Rin Pala (TRP) presentation, a variety showed sponsored by the Medical Students’ Society. At present, all members of the Sorority perform a dance at the TRP, but this tradition did not start until 1985, the first year where the sisses danced en masse. Before 1985, a select group of sisses, at most 12, present a number, usually a dance or a song. That year, the sisses decided to dance as a whole sorority to the tune of “Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins. The dance was choreographed by Wen ’89.
Mu also became known for the MU Moves, our official dance group and the MU Band, our official band. The MU Moves officially started in 1984 and its original members were all from Class ’87. They were led by Brod Eric Berberabe, who was also the main choreographer. The MU Moves started out with three pairs which included our sisses Dona Parala, Cindy del Rosario and Boots de Guzman. Towards the end of the year, new members were recruited from Class ’89 including Wen ’89 and Pam Ortega. The MU Band was also born during this time, officially in 1987, however the first members were all from the fraternity. The first sister asked to sing for the band was Jonie Tillah ’91.
Being a MU applicant was never easy but during the eighties, the training became more rigorous. Thus began the Picnic. Prior to the actual initiation activities however, consultant sisses would talk to the applicants after which the applicants were briefed about their ‘missions’ during the picnic. During this time there was also a ‘fun hour’. There were two entry points - one during the summer and another during the school year, and batches were labeled A or B, depending on when they were initiated into the Sorority - the summer batch held their initiations before classes started in June, while the schoolyear batch held theirs during the semestral break.
Service. It was in this decade that the Parol Para sa Sanggol and Mu's sponsorship of the First Friday Masses at the PGH Chapel began, both under the term of Dr. Solita Ramos. These two activities are continued to the present day. The Service Committee also began the Barrio Banana project wherein barrios were adopted for three years, and were trained to be self reliant. The Barrio Banana project is very similar to the Community-Oriented Medical Education (COME) barangay health workers’ training done today. Another traditional activity that was begun is the Alay sa MUsmos at Ina for the benefit of the Pediatrics ward.
Scholarship. During this time, too, the scholarship pillar was strongly upheld. The Sorority saw through three class topnotchers from this decade's batches – Ma. Teresa Sevilla ’89, Lizbeth de Padua ’81, and Victoria Ang-San Pedro ’81.
Leadership. It was in 1988 when the fourth pillar, Leadership, was added to the original three pillars. This event underscored the importance of good leadership as an important aspect of a doctor’s life. In June 10, 1989 occurred another historic event in the Mu memoirs - the induction of the Alumnae Council. The first Board of Directors consisted of the following distinguished sisses: Thelma Navarette-Clemente ’46, Julita Ramoso-Jalbuena ’46, Natividad Puertollano ’52, Adelaida Dalmacio-Cruz ’53, Perla Dizon-Santos Ocampo ’55 and Aurora Salegumba-Genuino ’57. Aside from this alumnae core group, the council consisted of several representatives from 5 different areas of the country, and one from the United States of America.
The fast-paced, dynamic decade of the 1990s paved the way for the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority to achieve new heights. A renewed sense of sisterhood coupled with an intensified pursuit of excellence gave impetus to a more challenging application period and initiations. Through lunches, review sessions and the sorority orientation (christened KaMUstahan during this time), freshmen and sophomores were invited to a yearlong application that would culminate in a week-long Picnic. The seventh night was the most poignant as this is when the neophytes made the leap of faith from strangers... to sisters.
The fruits of this process were made evident in the many changes that were realized during this decade. Always the most awaited event, the MU Week provided a fertile ground for new ideas to prosper --- sisses and brods celebrated the Mu spirit over lunch during the Fiesta at the Hut, planted clues and prizes around the college for the Treasure Hunt, displayed their more creative side with the MUseo, and partied to their hearts’ content during Club Med.
The pledge to cultivate and preserve an unselfish spirit of self-denying service was also strengthened immensely during this decade with the birth of the MU Service Month. The month of November was made more meaningful with bloodletting sessions, medical missions, tulian missions, outreach programs, and a service exhibit. Patient care was also taken a step further with MUla sa Puso, a Valentine serenade and program for the patients of the Internal Medicine wards.
The sisses also began to participate more in the MU Band. Other sisses who were asked to sing early on in the band were Joie Adevoso - Canal ’95, Maybelle Ongkiko–Cagayan ’92, Cynch Ciriaco–Tan ’92, Ai–Ai Lorenzo ’94, Deedle Nable ’93 and Jo-An Ocubillo ’93.
The fervor that fueled this decade’s efforts did not go unrecognized. The significant contributions to the medical community were duly acknowledged by the university, which bestowed upon the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority the honor of being Most Outstanding Student Organization. Receiving this award thrice in a row (the limit for being recognized as such) earned the Sorority a place in the U.P. Manila Hall of Fame, of which there are only 2 student organization members - the Mu Fraternity being the other sole member. Further recognition came for Mu’s commitment to the upliftment of the quality of life, giving us the esteem of being commended by no less than the President of the Philippines. Indeed, in the fast-paced and dynamic decade of the 1990s, the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority kept on breaking borders, raising the bar, and in doing so upheld the glorious sisterhood that knows no time.
Inspired by a rich legacy of glory, the Sorority persevered through the recent years in the unfettered and untiring spirit that is Mu. The novelty of the 21st century was greeted with a deep motivation to conquer the future and at the same time rekindle the past. Seeking to come full circle with the sisterhood pillar, the sorority put strong emphasis on alumnae affairs. This gave way to the launching of the Sorority's e-groups, the compilation of the Grand Sisses Directory, and the 70th Year Commemorative Book.
Our Sorority continued to scale new heights in the service of the underserved, with the organization of a new venue for patient financial assistance now known as the Handog Kapatid Fund. Apart from this, Service Month was further enriched with new activities like the Orphanage Visit and the Cancer Institute party. Medical missions evolved from the usual free clinics to a more community empowering approach (in the field of Primary Health Care) by conducting a health workers training in our adopted community in Malate, Manila. For all of these, the Sorority received the Dean’s citation as the Most Oustanding Organization in Community-Oriented Medical Education.
The scholarship and leadership pillars are likewise strengthened with increased involvement in community affairs, and the establishment of a new tradition – the Scholarship Week. Held every February, the sisses showcase the Sorority’s pride in academic excellence and integrity through a Scholarship Exhibit, provide a venue for friendly competition for medical students in Brainstorm and premedical students in EKG (Excellence, Knowledge, Genius) and contribute to the endless pursuit of knowledge through book donations to the UP Medical Library.
To this day, an insatiable drive to espouse the four ideals sustains and enriches the Mu Sigma Phi Sorority. Now on our 79th year of untarnished glory, the quest to uphold the legacy continues, as we look back, forward... and beyond.