The naked truth behind the Oblation Run
Video by Noy Morcoso III/INQUIRER.net
MANILA, Philippines–When Marco Zaplan joined this year’s Oblation Run, he had one goal in mind: To impress the girl he was courting.
But not with his nakedness, the 22-year old economics student clarified after fits of laughter.
The Oblation Run is an annual event by the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity that expresses the group’s stance on socially relevant issues. At the same time, the fratmen, in a show of chivalry, give out roses to screaming women.
“I was able to give her a flower,” Zaplan said. “Masaya sa part ko kasi natuwa siya. She was with her friends so medyo naexcite siya.”
His friends who were present in the interview laughed.
“Sa flower naman siya nakatingin,” Zaplan quipped.
Zaplan said it was surreal running naked before a girl he was hoping to impress. “Sumigaw lang siya. I was actually waiting for her confirmation already,” he added.
So did she say yes? Unfortunately, she has not answered yet, Zaplan said.
Maybe he wasn’t able to impress her? He said in jest: “I hope I did!”
The event of naked fratmen running around had attracted scores of women, members of the LGBT, and even straight men to flock to the UP campus, making the Oblation Run the butt of jokes.
But since it started in 1977, the Oblation Run has always been about making political a statement.
Rule of law
In recent years, the fraternity’s statements touched on environmental issues–climate change, disaster preparedness and saving local rivers.
This year, the APO urged the upholding of the rule of law in light of the pork barrel scam, which funneled at least P10-billion in public funds to ghost projects for kickbacks.
The fraternity also called for the rule of law amid corruption allegations against their prominent alumnus, Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has been vocal about his presidential aspirations.
“We can neither ascertain nor deny the allegations facing our brother… But we can see this as a trial by publicity that is happening to the opposition. And this clearly shows the bias of government that does not follow the rule of law,” Bruno Abenojar, the head of this year’s Oblations Run, said.
The APO brothers said the Senate blue ribbon committee was not the proper venue to investigate the alleged massive corruption involving Makati infrastructure projects that purportedly benefitted Binay and his family when he was mayor.
The inquiry was led by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, who have both expressed their interest in seeking higher office.
“We see this as mudslinging for the upcoming 2016 elections, at a time you’re supposed to serve your people, and not yourselves,” Abenojar said.
Aside from corruption, the fraternity also made statements on a hodgepodge of issues.
The fraternity condemned the culture of impunity that violates international human rights law, citing the case of slain transgender Jennifer Laude and the grisly Maguindanao massacre.
The group slammed the lump sum funds in the proposed 2015 budget despite the Supreme Court ruling requiring Congress to itemize the budget. The fratmen said the unitemized portions were a source of corruption.
Toby Roca, who joined the Oblation Run for the first time, said the fraternity also slammed the government’s defense of President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a savings-impounding mechanism which had been declared unconstitutional in parts by the Supreme Court.
“About DAP, corruption is clearly a violation of the law,” Roca said.
The fraternity also condemned the human rights violations against refugees of the Zamboanga City siege and victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Sex trafficking and prostitution marred refugee camps in Zamboanga City after the standoff between the government and the rogue Moro National Liberation Front.
Yolanda victims also struggled to recover from the massive destruction amid slow government response.
“We have a state that pretends to care for social welfare, pero pangit ang social service. That is still a violation of international humanitarian law,” Roca said.
On a lighter note, the runners were asked how they pull off the naked stint while avoiding the nervous, natural reaction from men in certain circumstances–an accidental erection.
Zaplan said he was already too tired to even think of embarrassing himself, let alone in front of a girl he was courting.
“For me, it’s very liberating. In a sense, nakakagain ka ng confidence. It’s not something that everyone can do,” he said.
Roca, on the other hand, said it probably would have been different if his girlfriend of five years were watching. “It would have mattered if she were there, but it would have been different.”
Roca also denied the rumors around campus that runners were forced to sit on top of a block of ice just to keep themselves flaccid.
“There was no problem getting a hard-on. That is so weird saying it! We don’t do anything special just to not get a hard-on. Kanya kanya na, bahala na kayo dyan,” Roca said.
“When we were all running, we were really into the moment. As the run progresses, you get more confident. It’s a weird mix of being secure about yourself and being hyper-aware of everything happening.”
Abenojar said he was naturally distracted as it is from leading the run. “I don’t get a hard-on. I have too much pressure in all parts of the body already, let alone down there!”
He said the Oblation Run was never about nudity, but to convey the fraternity’s stance on issues.
“Our purpose here is to make a stand,” Abenojar said.
“But not that stand!” he quickly added.
Obscene or political?
Not everyone is pleased by the fraternity’s bold political statements using the nude male body.
In 2009, the Oblation Run earned the ire of Senator Aquilino Pimentel III (not a member of the fraternity). In a privilege speech, Pimentel said the run was nothing more than a “blatant display of the male genitalia” and a “wanton disregard of the rules of a decent society” and of the country’s anti-obscenity laws.
Abenojar said the Oblation Run was rooted in the fraternity’s history of political defiance during the martial law regime. In 1977, two APO members streaked around the campus to protest the Marcos government’s banning of Robert Ylagan’s film “Hubad na Bayani,” which tackled the massive human rights violations at that time.
“The film contained strong messages against the administration at the time of Marcos. They were trying to ban it. (It was an) open defiance on what is happening at our nation that time,” Abenojar said.
The UP-based fraternity named their run after “The Oblation,” a statue sculpted by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino of a naked man offering himself to the nation, which is the state university’s symbol.
“We see the Oblation Run as a greater service to the nation,” Abenojar said.
Roca acknowledged that there are other forms of conveying political statements, such as mass demonstrations.
“Being an activist, running naked isn’t really one of the options you think of to put a message across. But this tradition of ours makes our message stronger,” he said.
“Naked or not, at the end of the day, we just want to magnify our advocacy,” Zaplan said.