Not a few noticed the “new look” of UP Baguio’s Oblation last June 2014. The famous UP landmark that evokes symbolisms of selfless service and sacrifice has now lost its familiar cover of Allamanda vines at its base, revealing a pedestal of roughly hewn and different-sized stones.
When asked why the vegetation was removed, Chancellor Raymundo Rovillos pointed out that this was not a whimsical move but was meant to restore the design integrity of the sculpture and to remain faithful to the artist’s original concept. “The stone base of the Oblation is an important part of the entire sculpture. Keeping it hidden from view is almost sacrilegious,” he further explained. Very few witnesses are still around to reminisce the day when UP Baguio got its own replica of the Oblation. Among them, Dr. Dionesia Rola, the Dean of UP Baguio when the Oblation was unveiled in 1965, was the first to point out the “covered state” of the sculpture’s base when she graced the homecoming reunion of former UPB professors last January 8, 2014 (see related article in the January 2014 issue of Ti Similla).
The Oblation is replete with symbolisms from top to base. The 3.5-meter height of the original sculpture represents the three and a half centuries of Spanish colonization. The inspiration for the Oblation can be found in the second stanza of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios. In the words of its creator, National Artist and UP Professor Guillermo Tolentino wrote:
“The completely nude figure of a young man with outstretched arms and open hands, with tilted head, closed eyes and parted lips murmuring a prayer, with breast forward in the act of offering himself, is my interpretation of that sublime stanza. It symbolizes all the unknown heroes who fell during the night. 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 Philippines1.”
Each replica of the Oblation in the various constituent campuses of the University of the Philippines was cast from Guillermo’s original sculpture by various artists including National Artist Napoleon Abueva and UPOU Chancellor and University Artist Dr. Grace Alfonso. The original Oblation is now safely housed at the third floor of the Main Library in UP Diliman. The replica for UP Baguio was cast by no less than UP Professor Anastacio Caedo2, Tolentino’s apprentice and one of the models on which Tolentino based his sculpture.
Aside from the island representations of the stones at the base, the story behind them is just as interesting. The stones at the base of the Oblation in UP Diliman came from the Montalban gorge in Rizal where Filipino guerillas fiercely fought against the invading Japanese Army during World War II1.
The boulders from UP Baguio’s Oblation, on the other hand, were a gift from the mining community of the Cordillera2, an apt connection of UP Baguio with its defined niche in the north.
Thus, the rich history and symbolism of the Oblation necessitate that it has to be completely bare – top and bottom.
2. Salvador-Amores, A. 2013. Sculpted Landmarks at UP Baguio. http://www.up.edu.ph/sculpted-landmarks-at-up- baguio/
Photo caption: CS Dean Rosemary Gutierrez, OPA Director Vickie Costina, Biology Department Head Zeny Baoanan, and several faculty members stake their claim on various ‘islands’ at the base of the Oblation.
Photo credits: Prof. Paul Samuel Ignacio
Text: Dr. Romeo Dizon