Sculpture 01: UP Oblation(s)

(UPDATED) When I was studying, I regarded the iconic monument of my university as something like an everyday fixture overlooking the grounds as we, the students, enter and leave the gates.

The Oblation has been the symbol of the University of the Philippines since it was erected. The figure of a naked man with outstretched arms, making an offering of himself as he seemingly murmurs a silent prayer is one of the grand works of sculptor Guillermo Tolentino, now a National Artist for Sculpture.

I won’t go for details about the origin and symbolism of the Oblation (Oble for short) as you can research about them in various sources online like this page, this one, and this one. I cared to visit the different campuses of the UP System (but haven’t completed them all yet) and took images of Oble. I am starting at UP Baguio, where I am an alumnus.

UP Baguio

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Oble in UP Baguio is painted black.

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Oble stands facing a row of trees across.

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“Inang Laya” is another monument icon in UP Baguio. It was a work of Napoleon Abueva and was unveiled in 1964.

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This relief is the work of the late fine arts professor Darnay Demetillo. Cordilleran themes are incorporated in this work with an Oble as a centrepiece.

Oble stands on a hill of lush shrubs.

Oble stands on a “hill” of lush Allamanda plant on a foggy milieu. (Photo courtesy of my friend Manuel Santos.)


The base of boulders was bare again in 2014 when the shrubs were removed.

UP Diliman

Next is the Oble in UP Diliman, perhaps the most photographed and well-known among the Oble casts. The one in front of Quezon Hall is a bronze copy. The original concrete is safely housed inside Gonzales Hall (the building way opposite Quezon Hall), which serves as the main library of UPD.

The "stains" in UP Diliman's Oble are attractive as the statue itself.

The superficial “corrosion” in UP Diliman’s Oble is as attractive as the statue itself. The verdigris green colour makes it more pleasing to observe.

Oble illuminated at night.

Oble illuminated at night.

So I went to Gonzales Hall with a plan of capturing Oble’s countenance by extending a tripod. My excitement turned to an august wonder as I realised that Oble is actually colossal than I used to think. It stands 3.5 meters according to Tolentino and is made of concrete. A significant amount of dust settles at its head and torso, though.


The original Oble seems guarding the University Archives.


I would have wanted to photograph his full visage but this is what I could capture.

Another view, this time from the side.

Another view, this time from the side.


I can’t cease from adoring that young man’s figure. Guillermo is a genius of Philippine realist sculpture!

UP Open University

The Oble in UP Open University is intricate. A whirling ornament complements Oble. This was designed by Dr. Grace Alfonso, the past chancellor of UPOU, and was erected in 2005. She happened to be my teacher in a graduate class. Lucky me!

Oble in UPOU headquarters in Los Baños

Oble in UPOU headquarters in Los Baños

UPOU's Oble before sunset.

UPOU’s Oble before sunset.

UP Los Baños

I should have mentioned first the Oble in UP Los Baños before the one in UPOU. This one resem

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Oble in UP Los Baños on a clear sky

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I love beholding the aged look of this Oble, just like the one in Diliman.

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This is called “Pegaraw”, a composite of the mythical winged horse Pegasus and the Philippine-endemic tamaraw. This is also an identifying icon for UPLB.

UP in the Visayas (Miag-ao)

During my last day in Bacolod, it occurred to me to pay homage to the Oble in UP in the Visayas. Iloilo is an hour’s ferry from Bacolod; and Miag-ao, where UPV is headquartered, is a 45-minute bus ride from Iloilo City. I thought that it was a great offence not to see the wonderful campus in Miag-ao. I had little time for I needed to catch the last ferry bound for Bacolod. I stayed in Iloilo province for only five hours! But setting foot in UPV was a great relief to my lonesome heart.

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Oble in UPV in Miag-ao, to my eyes, seems gilt.

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It is surrounded by much verdancy.

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Another popular monument in UPV in Miag-ao is the “Diwata ng Dagat” by Napoleon Abueva, another National Artist for Sculpture.

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She carries a fish net and stands atop a number of fish, symbolising the college course in which the UPV excels–fisheries.

UP Manila

Just recently I had the time to visit the Padre Faura Street campus of UP Manila where its Oblation stands in front of Rizal Hall (College of Arts and Sciences). As it was a holiday, the nearest spot where I could take a look was outside the gate.

The Rizal Hall in UP Manila hosts the Oblation statue.

The Rizal Hall in UP Manila hosts the Oblation statue.

This one stands at a tall base.

This one stands on a tall base.

Philippine General Hospital

The Philippine General Hospital, as well all know, is operated by UP. In 2008, an Oble was erected in front of the PGH main building. It was also the work of Dr. Grace Alfonso.  Her design of that Oble (called UP Manila Oblation) included an ornate base which also displayed the logos  of colleges and institutions within UP Manila.

The new Oblation and the Philippine General Hospital

The new Oblation and the Philippine General Hospital


The base includes layered leaves and UP in baybayin script (not seen in photo).

Another shot of the Oblation

Another shot of the Oblation

UP Cebu

Unusual from all the Oblations is the one in Cebu College. Obviously it is not a cast from the original. It was a copy made by Fidel T. Araneta, a Cebuano sculptor who studied in the prewar UP School of Fine Arts. It was unveiled in 1967.


The UP Cebu Oblation has a “more muscular” physique and not as lean as the original and its casts. The fig leaf and the katakataka are significantly different. Even the facial features seem unfamiliar. (Photo courtesy of my friend Charl San Pedro.)

UP Bonifacio Global City

The newly opened campus of UP in Taguig is reserved for graduate studies, catering to professionals around the area. The Oble is painted brown, similar to the ones in Manila. Another striking distinction is that its left hand palm seems slightly facing the viewer instead of facing upward. Dr. Grace Alfonso also designed this cast.


Behind this Oble is the building of the campus named after its sponsor, Henry Sy.


Its base, too, curiously has outgrowths of the katakataka plant, from which the figure is attached.


There goes my predilection for anything UP. I have yet to visit Oble in UP Cebu College, UPV in Tacloban, UPV in Iloilo City, UP Mindanao, and UP Manila’s School of Health Sciences in Palo (Leyte) and Koronadal (S. Cotabato). For the last three locations, I need a lot of cash and planning to do.

You should read the essay “All About the Oblation” by Narita Manuel Gonzalez. It is at pages 294 to 296 of the book UP Diliman: Home and Campus, edited by the same Gonzalez and Gerardo Los Baños, published in 2010 by the UP Press.

All images are mine except stated.


3 thoughts on “Entry 058

  1. What a passion! Seldom I meet someone who has the innate desire to unravel the past and explore the beauties of his own land. Keep it up. Your photos are beautiful. 🙂

I'd love to read your thoughts, too. Please leave a reply. ^^

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