The Oblation is the monument and main symbol of the University of the Philippines. It depicts a man with arms stretched wide and face turned upward, symbolizing selfless offering of one's self for one's country. It is often called Oble by the students of UP.
The Oblation is the masterpiece of first National Artist for Sculpture Guillermo Tolentino. In 1935, Guillermo was commissioned by then University President Rafael Palma to craft a monument that would express in visual form the second stanza of Jose Rizal’s "Mi Ultimo Adios" (“Last Farewell”). The concrete statue painted in bronze stands 3.5 meters high (to represent the 350 years of Spanish colonization of the Philippines) on a pile of rocks symbolizing the islands of the Philippines. Funding for the statue was raised through a two-month fund campaign that garnered P2,000.
The original Oblation was unveiled in 1939 in Ermita, Manila by Gregoria de Jesus de Nakpil, widow of hero Andres Bonifacio. On the occasion of the university's 40th anniversary, the Oblation was moved from UP Manila to UP Diliman along with the administrative offices.
The Oblation located at the end of University Avenue in the UP Diliman campus is merely a replica of the original one located at the 3rd floor of the UP Diliman Main Library. Several replicas of the Oblation have been made for the different campuses of the University.
The Oblation shows a man with arms outstretched, head tilted upwards, eyes closed, as if offering himself. This is artist Tolentino's interpretation of "that sublime stanza".
Tolentino also says: "the statue stands on a rustic base, a stylized rugged shape of the Philippine archipelago, lined with big and small hard rocks, each of which represents an island. The “katakataka” (wonder plant) whose roots are tightly implanted on Philippine soil, is the link that binds the symbolized figure to the allegorical Philippine Group. “Katakataka” is really a wonder plant. It is called siempre vivo (always alive) in Spanish. A leaf or a piece of it thrown anywhere will sprout into a young plant. Hence, it symbolizes the deep-rooted patriotism in the heart of our heroes. Such patriotism continually and forever grows anywhere in the Philippines."
Each of the four sides of the monument's base are inscribed with quotes that speak of willingness to serve and give one's life for one's country. The front of the pedestal holds a passage from El Filibusterismo. On the back of the pedestal is the second stanza of "Mi Ultimo Adios", and another stanza from the same poem adorns the right side. On the left side is a poem by Andres Bonifacio, "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa".
Due to its popularity, the Oblation has inspired a campus fraternity to send it's brods running naked in an annual event aptly named the Oblation run. Members of the Alpha Phi Omega, a prominent UP fraternity, go streaking or running around the campus naked. They use this as tool to highlight important political issues. The event is not only a celebrated tradition of the fraternity, but of the entire University as well. Countless people and media outlets flock to the UP Diliman campus for the December event.
Contrary to popular belief, neophytes are forbidden to run. "All those who run are full-fledged members who have volunteered," explains Ojie Santillan, the fraternity's Auxiliary Chancellor. "There is a misconception that the Oblation Run is something our neophytes have to undergo as part of their initiation. That’s not true. We never allow our applicants to join."
- CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art, Vol 4. Manila: Cultural Center of the Philippines
- Tribute to the U.P. Oblation at chrislagman.com
- Sites and Symbols: UP Diliman Landmarks, Vol 1. Quezon City: Office of the Chancellor, UP Diliman
- Brief History of the Oblation
- About Alpha Phi Omega