A hundred naked members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity had their Oblation Run early this year. It is an event started in 1977 and is normally held in December. However, this year was different……June 18, 2008 marked the 100th birthday of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the APO, at the request of the university’s centennial committee, made sure that their presence would be felt and seen in a big way.
“This is our fraternity’s way of honoring UP on its centennial,” said APO member Menggie Cobarrubias.
Cobarrubias, who joined APO in 1970, said the hardest part in organizing the Centennial Run was getting 100 frat men to participate in the activity. They had to invite other APO frat men from different campuses to make up their numbers. But they did muster 100 members, the largest number of naked runners ever, for the event.
The naked runners wore golden masks and wrapped shirts around their heads to hide their identities. The 1 km run (about 1/2 mile) started shortly after 11:00am and took them from Vinzon’s Hall to the Palma Hall and finally to the Quezon Hall, where the iconic UP Oblation statue stands. It was this statue that inspired the fraternity’s 31-year-old tradition of the naked run. Along the way they stopped to pose for photos and offered roses to scores of giggling female students.
Below is a clip from the 2008 Oblation Run, but as a word of caution, it contains full frontal male nudity.
The Oblation, according to Wikipedia, “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.”
President Rafael Palma commissioned Professor Guillermo E. Tolentino with the help of Anastacio T. Caedo, his student apprentice to make the sculpture. It was to 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. Tolentino describes the Oblation as:
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 original statue, dedicated on March 1939, was completely naked, but in order to satisfy the morality of the time, was changed to include a fig leaf to cover the genitals.
The annual Oblation run was started in 1977 as a protest against the banning of the play, ‘Hubad na Bayani’ (Naked Hero); a political satire on the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule. The APO said that more than a form of protest, their running bare-naked was more like a reminder to the UP students of the symbolism of the Oblation statue – a selfless offering of the Filipinos to their country.
This year the Oblation run was such a hit among students, faculty members and other spectators that it easily surpassed the other day-long activities scheduled for the university’s 100th Birthday Day. The 2,000-strong crowd began gathering about three hours before the scheduled start of the run in front of Vinzons Hall from where the “streakers” were expected to start.
The mostly female crowd was not to be disappointed. As the runners started to come out the girls screamed and trained their digital cameras, video cameras and mobile phone cameras on the young men who posed for pictures and handed out red roses to some of them in the crowd.
“I’ll keep this as a good remembrance of my experience here,” said a Caucasian woman holding a rose. “I never expected it would be this exciting,” she added.
As the runners made their way to the Oblation statue in front of Quezon Hall, other APO members served as marshals, protecting the runners from the enthusiastic crowd. Even some elderly women in the crowd gleefully cheered on the barefooted runners.
“It has been quite a while since I saw something like this,” a 55-year-old woman said with a laugh.