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