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Seeing double: UP Manila has 2 Oblations

By Celia M. Bonilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:29:00 01/02/2009

Filed Under: Local authorities, history, Arts and Culture and Entertainment

MANILA, Philippines ? When officials of the University of the Philippines Manila unveiled a second Oblation in front of the Philippine General Hospital last year, not a few people in and outside the university found it ? not odd ? but a bit extravagant.

Shouldn?t the P1 million spent on the new Oblation been used instead to improve the dismal facilities of any of the units on the campus or even in the hospital, which is badly in need of elevators that actually work?

Wouldn?t it have been better to just spruce up the old Oblation in front of Rizal Hall (College of Arts and Sciences) on Padre Faura and improve its surroundings? Or was it not possible to have the statue moved to this new site? That would have been the safe strategic move to stop any more talks about spinning off PGH into a private hospital and cementing its reputation as UP Manila?s training ground.

Centennial marker

Dr. Zorayda Leopando, UP Manila Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development, clarified that the new Oblation is also a centennial marker ? 2008 being the university?s 100th year.

?On its base are the seals of the different colleges of UP Manila as well as the National Institutes of Health (research arm) and the PGH (service arm),? she pointed out.

?This Oblation should distinguish UP Manila from all the other campuses. Of all the UP constituent universities, it is only UP Manila that has a presence in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In Palo, Leyte, we have the first School of Health Sciences (SHS), which was awarded the 2008 Presidential Lingkod Bayan for excellence in community health service. In Baler, Aurora, we inaugurated on July 21 the second SHS with scholars from Aurora, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Nueva Ecija. The construction of a third SHS, this time in Koronadal in south central Mindanao, is underway,? she said.

Leopando added that each SHS would also get its own Oblation eventually, and that Sen. Edgardo Angara had pledged to sponsor the one in Baler.

Still, some questions remain: Why is the new Oblation in PGH? Did the hospital fund it?

P1-M funding

Leopando admitted that the hospital administration under Director Carmelo Alfiler was initially against ordering another statue. The P1-million funding came from UP Manila?s 2007 reprogrammed budget, she added.

As for the location, Leopando said they wanted the new Oblation to be displayed prominently. ?The PGH is centrally located and it is the teaching hospital of all the colleges, even of the College of Arts and Sciences.?

?Moreover, the Oblation should be where the chancellor is,? she added. The current chancellor, Dr. Ramon L. Arcadio, who is on his second term, holds office at the eighth floor of the PGH Central Block where all the administrative offices are located.

Leopando said the artist they commissioned for the project, Dr. Grace Javier-Alfonso, UP Open University chancellor, is one of only two artists licensed to do a cast of the Oblation from the original statue. The other is National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

Alfonso used an amalgamation of bronze fillings and fiberglass after creating a rubber mold from the original Oblation, which is kept in UP Diliman?s main library. The new Oblation has been described on the marker as her ?interactive work with National Artist Guillermo Tolentino?s UP Oblation.?

Rubber mold

In a phone interview, Dr. Alfonso explained: ?With the rubber mold, you can capture all the details. My interaction would be the way I featured the leaves from the seal of Old Manila, the baybayin or alibata of UP, the seals of the different UP Manila colleges, and the fabric of scholarship or the ?sablay? on that pedestal of academic excellence. They are all covered in the P1-million budget.?

Alfonso, a UP College of Fine Arts graduate, was a student of Anastacio Caedo, who, in turn, was a student of Tolentino. She recalled Caedo telling her, ?Tandaan mo ito ha? Ako ang model ni Tolentino. (Remember this. I am Tolentino?s model.)? Caedo?s athletic physique complemented the height of the other model, Tolentino?s brother-in-law, Virgilio Raymundo.

The new Oblation statue is eight feet tall while its pedestal is also eight feet high.

The very first Oblation created by Tolentino was made of concrete painted to look like bronze. Students and faculty members in the mid-1930s raised P2,000 to fund its creation.

According to Rod Paras-Perez?s book on Tolentino, the statue was unveiled during the 1935 National Heroes Day celebration on the Padre Faura quadrangle. Gregoria de Jesus, widow of Andres Bonifacio and then married to Julio Nakpil, was the special guest.

Tribute to unknown heroes

Tolentino had been quoted to give this explanation of his work: ?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 (from Rizal?s ?Mi Ultimo Adios?). 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.?

According to Tolentino, ?The 3.5 meter height of the statue stands for the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines.?

The first Oblation withstood World War II on the quadrangle of UP Padre Faura until its ?exodus? to the Diliman campus on Feb. 11, 1949, when it was installed in front of Quezon Hall.

Second statue

In 1950, the Board of Regents approved the Oblation?s bronze casting and had it done in Italy under Tolentino?s supervision. In 1958, the original statue was brought inside the main library while the bronze Oblation took its place to mark UP?s golden anniversary.

So, you see, UP Diliman also has two Oblations, with the second one marking the 50th year of the university.

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