Res ipsa loquitur. This article’s title, TaUKappa Phi speaks for itself, hopefully. It is not wrongly typed, or in computer parlance, encoded. The “U” and “K” were purposely connected. Pardon me if I could not think of any better title, if there is any. I was staring at the spelled out Greek letters for ages and a bulb just lit up above my head.
Tau Kappa Phi UK came at a time that was least expected. When I came in the United Kingdom in January 2007 after taking the 2006 Bar Exams (my wife, Sharlene Cadiz took me as her dependent), I had no idea if there are brethren residing herein. Even after meeting many Filipinos, no one came close of being a graduate of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law. I was in the UK when the result of the 2006 Bar exams was announced and I was fortunate to be one of the successful examinees. I went home in June 2007 for my oath-taking and served as legal counsel for local candidates in the elections of May 2007. Thereafter, I went back to the UK.￼
In mid-2008, I was in the Philippines again to work as Provincial Secretary of Isabela. Then came the 2008 Bar exams in September. At the Tau Kappa Phi fraternity bar operations site along Estrada Street near De La Salle University where the bar exams used to be held, I had a chat with Vice-Grand Chancellor Korch Capariño and his wife, Portian sister Maybel Marinay. They told me that they will be in the UK the next year because sis Maybel is going to have her tour of duty at the Philippine Embassy in London. During the same occasion, brother (now GC) Ian Encarnacion said that members of his family are living in the UK.
I had to cut short my stay in the Philippines when my wife gave birth to our first child who we named, Neo Shane.
The birth of my son changed the course of my fate. I faced a dilemma and confronted with one of the toughest, if not the toughest, decisions in my life. After deep-seated thoughts, I made up my mind to choose my family against a fulfilling career.
I started to look and apply for a new job. I sent letter-applications to the Philippine embassy. There was no reply. I applied with law firms for clerical or paralegal positions. I got replies like I am overqualified or underqualified. After more than one (1) year and many applications later on, I got a job as a Health Care Assistant, a euphemistic jargon for a caregiver. In July 2012, we were blessed with another son. We named him Lex Matthew.
(Background: London landscape showing The Shard at the right, the tallest building in the European Union.)
Grand Chancellor Ian Encarnacion
Around the early half of 2009, I got an information that brother (now Grand Chancellor) Ian is in the United Kingdom visiting his parents and relatives. When I was able to reach him through wireless means, he told me that he is in Lincolnshire, a county (translation: province) of England. He told me that he will visit London before he goes back to the Philippines. It was through him and his family that I was able to get hold of a copy of the 2008-2009 2009-2010 double edition of The Common Voice of which he is the Editor-in-Chief. Unfortunately, we were not able to see each other before he went back to the Philippines.
Vice-Grand Chancellor Jose Korchnoi “Korch” Capariño
Vice-GC Korch is a Bicolano from Masbate. Sometime in May 2009, he informed me via email of their travel itinerary to the UK. He requested me to help them find a place where they can stay. He gave me the contact details of Brother Ricardo Gacayan. a.k.a. “Pastor” who he said also lives in London. I called brod Pastor later on.
Around June 2009, I went to London Heathrow airport to wait for the arrival of Vice Korch and his family. It was about past 9:00 in the evening but during this time of the year, the sun is still shining brightly. I saw them as soon as they stepped out of the last exit of the arrival area. They brought with them, ￼John Kirch, their only child at that time.
￼(Godfather brothers for Aileran Belle Capariño.)
An embassy official and a staff were waiting to fetch them. I handed Vice Korch a pay-as-you-go (translation: prepaid) Virgin Media (a cellular and broadband network) SIM card with my and brod Pastor’s contact numbers. I also gave a couple of beer in cans and a bottle of wine in case they will not be able to get their sleep because their “circadian rhythm” still needs to adjust to the new timeline. It was summer and the days are longer than the nights. They were booked in a hotel and stayed there for days and later on moved to a house recommended by brod Pastor.
Vice Korch worked at a five-star hotel in Central London, then on a part time basis at the Philippine Embassy, and presently with a company engaged in customs services at a London airport. His wife, sis Maybel is an organic employee of the Department of Foreign Affairs and works at the Philippine Embassy Consular Section in London. They are living in north London with their two kids, John Kirch and Aileran Belle whose Godfathers include all the Tau Kappan brothers in the UK, namely Pastor, Mags, Jim, Jojo and I.
He is actively involved with organizations like Kanlungan UK, a civic group which advocates the protection and promotion of the rights of immigrants, Philippine Theatre UK where he is a member of the crew and cast, and Bicol Association UK.
Meeting at the “Barrio Fiesta sa London” 2009
Brother Ricardo “Pastor” Gacayan, Jr.
It was Vice Korch who told me that brod Pastor is also residing in the UK. I asked him why he is called “Pastor”. He explained that he got such monicker because he is indeed a minister or “pastor” of a religious congregation in the Philippines.
Brod Pastor hails from La Union and an Ilocano like me. My first meeting with him was in July 2009 during the UK-wide yearly Filipino social and cultural event called “Barrio Fiesta” held in Hounslow, London. He was with his two kids, Uma and Saya.
Brod Pastor works in a local council at the heart of London, within the jurisdiction of Westminster, the seat of the British government, where one sees the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Supreme Court, Buckingham Palace, and other national government offices. He is part of a team that enforces laws and policies to keep the streets tidy and orderly like those against fly tipping (that is, wantonly throwing garbage) and prohibiting ambulant vending.
He is an active member of Finchley Raiders, a group of Filipinos around the area in London where he lives, which holds a yearly sports competition for Pinoys and those with Pinoy ancestry. He attended some acting workshops of the Philippine Theatre UK. He also joined the European Network of Filipino Diaspora UK (ENFiD-UK).
(Rendezvous at brod Ric’s residence.)
Brother Magtanggol “Mags” Sumilang
On the occasion of the Barrio Fiesta described above, I was also supposed to meet brod Mags. However, I came late. He and his family had to go back to Birmingham, England where they are living. His sibling, Tagumpay Sumilang, is also a member of Tau Kappa Phi fraternity.
I finally met him during the birthday celebration of brod Pastor’s daughter, Saya. He and his family travelled all their way from Birmingham to brod Pastor’s home in London where the party was held. I and Vice Korch brought our respective families. This was the time that Vice Korch and his family just came back from the Philippines and brought with him Tau ￼Kappa Phi shirts he requested from resident brothers.
According to brod Mags, he came to the UK because, just like me, his wife works as a nurse here. He first landed a job in a local bakery shop. Later on, he got employed by one of the commercial banks in the UK. He was visited at his abode in Birmingham by Vice Korch and brod Pastor. I and brod Jim were not able to go.
Brother Joel “Jojo” Laxa
A Kapampangan from Pampanga, I have known brod Jojo by name only from the time I entered law school. His younger brother, Jude Laxa, was my classmate in my first year of law studies and a “kabarkada”. He was the one who told me that his older brother, Jojo is also a Tau Kappan. We always had some drinks at their house near “Welcome Rotonda” whenever we wanted to wind out from the stresses of studying or to relax after some exams. We often slept there overnight rather than go home drowsy or drunk.
However, I never personally met brod Jojo in all those years that I was in law school. His other sibling, Jasmin Laxa who resides in the UK was instrumental in making us meet. Through Friendster.com, the popular online social networking site at the time, I got connected with Jasmin. From her that I learned that brod Jojo has been in the UK for quite some time. After getting his mobile phone number, I contacted brod Jojo and we set a rendezvous with other brods.
Brother Gilson “Jim” Bautista
Brod Jim and I entered FEU law school at the same time but we were in different classes. An Ilocano from Tondo, Manila, he joined Tau Kappa Phi ahead of me and is one of the fifteen (15) “sons” of Grand Chancellor Nilo Tayo, forming Batch F-15, the biggest haul so far during the period I was in law school.
When he came to know that I went to the United Kingdom, he told me that he has sisters residing herein. Later, he proceeded to the UK ￼after taking the bar examinations. He enrolled in and finished his Master’s degree in Business Administration at Cardiff Metropolitan University in London. While studying, he was also working as Receptionist at Cromwell Hospital in Earls Court, London, and such other jobs that he can accommodate. It is quite difficult and expensive to study in London and the British government allows students to work with some conditions (however, the immigration laws change often and become tighter).
We first met in London around June 2011 when the group set a day for a drinking session. It happened in Leicester Square, an area full of activity in central London. So far, brother Jim is still single and have no kids.
Brother Arnulfo “Arnold” De Francisca
A fellow member of the Philippine Bar, brod Arnold has been in the UK for a long time and his presence therein was not known when I and the rest of the brethren above have reunited. His whereabouts was known only accidentally.
I was told by Vice Korch that when brod Arnold went to the Philippine Embassy to apply for a renewal of his Philippine passport, it was sis Maybel, Vice Korch’s beautiful wife, who attended to him. When he wrote “Lawyer” in his application form, sis Maybel asked him where he took his degree in Law. He answered that he took it ￼from the Far Eastern University-Institute of Law. In the course of their conversation, sis Maybel introduced herself as a member of Portia Sorority and that her husband is a Tau Kappan. Surprisingly, brod Arnold told her that he is also a Tau Kappan. Months later, Vice Korch and brod Arnold bumped into each other at Westfield, Stratford, a shopping centre beside the London 2012 Olympic Stadium and Village.
I met brod Arnold in December 2012 during our “Christmas party”. Before coming to the UK, brod Arnold worked in the United States. Now, he is working as a manager of a department of a five-star hotel in central London. He hails from Northern Samar.
Brother Rheme Joy Jabido
Sometime in the first quarter of 2013, brother Samuel Corcoro sent a Facebook private message to me informing me that we have another brod also residing in London. He named him as brod Joy and a batchmate of Grand Chancellor Julius Montubig in Tau Kappa Phi. He is from North Cotabato.
Luckily, brod Joy can be reached via Facebook. I sent a message to him and had a short chat. I informed the rest of the brethren about him through a group chat. So far, we have not met personally with him because of the conflict in our schedules.
(L-R) GC Engel, Sis Maybel, Vice Korch, Brothers Ric
Visit of Grand Chancellor Engel Rey Abalos￼
(L-R: GC Engel, Sis Maybel, Vice Korch, Brothers Pastor, Jim and Jojo. Brother Novo took the photo.)
Around the autumn season in September 2011, words reached me that GC Engel is coming to the UK for some business matters. He flew in all the way from Taiwan where he is based. The brethren met him in central London and had a few drinks at a pub therein. Just before parting ways, the group went to a Chinese restaurant to have some soup and noodles among others. Sis Maybel joined us in meeting GC Engel.
The UK boys gave GC Engel a ceramic mug with the Tau Kappa Phi Logo and group photo as a souvenir. After completing his business mission, he roamed around some tourist spots in London and England.
It is Fun to be a Tau Kappan!
My experience as a member of Tau Kappa Phi fraternity taught me a lot of things. One of these is that once each brother meets another, irrespective of age and origin, in any part of the world, there is a feeling that one already knew each other for a long time. And thanks to the internet and mobile technology, reaching out to everyone is easier and faster. There is so much fun in sharing each other’s experiences with the fold, reminiscing old days, “gossiping” about other brods and always sharing laugthers. Hopefully, we will meet other members of the fold in the UK, if any, and to once again rekindle the Tau Kappan fire in everyone’s heart.