The Oblation is the iconic symbol of the University of the Philippines, represented by a man with arms wide-stretched and face facing up, symbolizing selfless offering of one’s self to his country.
The Oblation was made by Professor Guillermo E. Tolentino with the help of Anastacio T. Caedo, his student apprentice. According to a book tribute to Guillermo Tolentino, it was Caedo, not director-actor Fernando Poe, Sr. (as popularly rumored), who served as the model for the sculpture. Caedo would later become a professor of Fine Arts in the University and the successor of the deceased Guillermo Tolentino. Acquiring great skills and talents from his guru, Professor Anastacio Caedo achieved great accomplishment not only in the Philippines, but worldwide. He built a monument of Dr. Jose Rizal for the German government that was installed in famous Jose Rizal Park in Idelstien, Germany among others.
The idea for the Oblation was first conceived during presidency of Rafael Palma, who was the one to commission Tolentino to make the sculpture. Palma requested that the statue would be based on the second verse of Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios;
“ In fields of battle, deliriously fighting,
Others give you their lives, without doubt, without regret;
Where there’s cypress, laurel or lily,
On a plank or open field, in combat or cruel martyrdom,
If the home or country asks, it’s all the same–it matters not.”
The concrete sculpture painted to look like bronze, measures 3.5 meters in height, symbolizing the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The sculpture is replete with references of selfless dedication and service to the nation, and as Tolentino himself describes it;
“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 Philippines. ”
Originally, the statue was completely naked, but, as morality was prevaling at that time, it was modified by former U.P. President Jorge Bocobo with the addition of a fig leaf to cover the genitals. The sculpture was funded by the UP students of 1935-1936, and was presided by Potenciano Illusorio and Jose B. Laurel, Jr., presidents of the student council during the first and second semester respectively and was dedicated on March 1939 at the University’s Manila campus where it stayed until February 1949, when the main administrative offices of the university moved to the new Diliman campus in Quezon City. The transfer of the Oblation to its new home served as the highlight of the move from Manila, which is historically referred to as the Exodus. The sculpture in front of the Quezon Hall at Diliman was installed facing west, purportedly a tribute to the American roots of the university. Today, that sculpture is only a bronze replica (which was recast from the original in Italy, in 1950, under the supervision of Tolentino himself) dedicated on UP’s Golden Jubilee on November 29, 1958. The original sculpture is being kept at the Main Library (Gonzalez Hall), the former site of the UP College of Fine Arts, where Tolentino taught.
Several replicas of the Oblation were made for campuses of the University of the Philippines, some by national artist, Napoleon Abueva. 2005 national artist nominee Glenn Bautista, likewise, did his celebrated version of the Oblation in pen and ink as part of his schoolplates at the UP College of Fine Art under Professor Rebilion. The sculpture was registered at the Intellectual Property Office in the year 2004. Being the main symbol of the university, the Oblation is the centerpiece of many UP-related logos, like those of the Philippine Collegian and other official student publications, the UP Cooperative, and the UP centennial emblem.