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The Oblation (UP Oblation) is a concrete statue done by Philippine National Artist Guillermo Tolentino. It has been a symbol synonymous with the University of the Philippines.

The Original Oblation at the 3rd floor of the Main Library of U.P. Diliman - (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation_(University_of_the_Philippines)


A. Inspiration

The artwork was originally commissioned by then U.P. President Rafael Palma to Guillermo E. Tolentino. His order was to translate the second stanza of Dr. Jose P. Rizal's "Mi Ultimo Adios" (Last Farewell).1

"In barricades embattled; fighting with delirium,
others donate you their lives without doubts, without gloom,
The site doesn't matter; cypress, laurel, or lily;
gibbet or open field,combat or cruel martyrdom,
are equal if demanded by country and home."

-Translated by Nick Joaquin

It was also inspired by another poem of the national hero during his days in Ateneo, "To the Filipino Youth".2

"Filipino Youth, now raise your novice brow,
Display your wealth of graces, you who are
The fairest promise of my native land;
And may the Muse come winged infuse
The noble thought that, swifter than the wind,
Will sweep the fledging mind to seats of glory"
-Translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero

The supposedly final design of the preliminary sketches was a completely nude man. President Palma was pleased with it but when it was presented to former U.P. President Jorge Bocobo, he was also fascinated but suggested the covering of the male private part with a fig leaf.3 This original model was cast in silver, in the form of a trophy, to be given away during the annual athletic meet between U.P. and Siliman University.4

B. Model

There have been many speculations about the model of the sculpture. Urban legend has it that was director-actor Fernando Poe Sr. while others say it was fireman Jose Villanueva or Tolentino's friend Ferdinand Glenn Gagarin. But according to University Literature, Anastacio Caedo, Tolentino's student assistant, and Caedo's brother-in-law, Virgilio Raymundo both served as the model for the Oblation, using the former's physique and the latter's proportion.5

The Bronze Oblation located at the Administration Building facing the University Avenue (http://fpj455.multiply.com/photos/album/160/UP_Oblation)

C. The Making and Unveiling of the Statue

The cornerstone was placed on November 30, 1931 at the U.P. Padre Faura, headed by Mrs. Aurora Quezon. The original material when it was created in 1935, was reinforced concrete that was painted to look like bronze. It was the project of the University Student Council of the famous class of 1936 (Marcos was in the same class) that was co-chaired (because there was a tie up in the elections) by lawyer Potenciano T. Illusorio and former House Speaker Jose B. Laurel.6 The P2,000 cost were contributions of students, officials, alumni, & employees within a two-month fund raising campaign. But it is more commonly owned by the said batch because of the 50 centavos subscription of each member, except lawyer Illusorio who gave P500 of his own money to assure the completion of the statue by March 1936.7 During that time, rice costs 25 to 30 centavos a ganta & a laborer earned 80 cents a day.8

National Heroes day was started in 1927 by then acting U.P. President Dr. Jorge Bocobo, "to keep fresh the ideals of the Filipino race." Some guests of the said event, in different years, were Jose Abad Santos, Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, and Dr. Jose P. Laurel. The unveiling of the stone U.P. Oblation statue was during the National Heroes Day of 1939 (last Sunday of August due to Act No. 3827 of 1931).9

It was located in the quadrangle of UP Padre Faura, between Rizal Hall and the Conservatory of Music building and was able to withstand the war, V.J. Day and the battle of liberation of Manila.10 It also aroused accusations of obscenity when it was first unveiled; nuns at St. Paul College were particularly vocal about it.11

On February 11, 1949, U.P. 40th anniversary committee head Dean Tomas S. Fonacier led the transferring of the Oblation from Padre Faura to Diliman. There were so many participants that it was said that "such as then was never seen of the Alumni of the University." There was also a symphonic poem composed by Professor Eliseo Pajaro, also entitled "Oblation" that was performed for the first time. At that time, Diliman was envisioned to be the U.P.'s only campus, but evidently it has become a multicampus university.12

In 1950, as part of the golden anniversary celebration of U.P., the Board of Regents appropriated P15,000 for the bronze casting of the oblation. It was done in Italy with the personal supervision of Tolentino himself. On November 29, 1958, 23 years after it was unveiled in the Padre Faura quadrangle, the 9-foot tall bronze oblation was unveiled with a plaque that has fine handwriting in the likeness Rizal's.13

D. The Oblation through the years

The bronze oblation was rededicated on June 19, Rizal Day at the "Oblation Plaza". It was also the unveiling of a new historical marker, Bonifacio's translation of "Mi Ultimo Adios" and "El Filibusterismo", and Bonficacio's own "Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Bayan". The original marker was lost and only two lines from Rizal's "A La Juventad Filipina" served as kind of caption for 53 years.14

For years, the Oblation has been the focus of protests like in 1957, during the daily demonstrations of students demanding the appointment of a UP president, a black cloth was draped on the statue, while in 1960's, the student protesters put a skirt on it. The acts were condemned as "desecratory" but students said that "it wasn't a sacred idol but symbolic of the university's ideals which they thought were being mocked."15

The Oblation is also used as a logo for various university organizations, among these are The Philippine Collegian and other student publications, the U.P. Cooperative, and the U.P. Centennial emblem. In the year 2004, it was signed to the Intellectual Property Office.16


The Oblation, Oblacion in Spanish and Pahinungod or Paghahandog in Filipino, has been the major rallying point for dissent, protest actions, and social criticism, expressions of public service, nationalism, and patriotism. Its presence in all the U.P. autonomous units and other campuses symbolize unity in mission, vision, and traditions and has since become a symbol of academic freedom in the campus.17

Here is Guillermo Tolentino's own words of the Oblation's symbolism18:

"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 rocks, each and everyone of which represents and 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 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.

The 3.5 meter height of the statue stands for the 350 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. The rocks on the base of the relic were taken from Montalban (Rizal) gorge, site of the fierce fighting between Filipino guerillas and the Japanese army during the Second World War."

During the unveiling of the bronze Oblation, President Vicente Sinco said in his speech19:

"It has served as a symbol of the spirit of dedication of the Univeristy of the Philippines to the ideals of service to our people and of loyalty to the cause of human betterment. It has stood for many years past the visible and tangible embodiment of purity of purpose and unhidden motives.

Heretofore, this statue has been molded in sand and portland cement, materials of lesser permanence and fragile beauty. Now it is executed in bronze so it will be more enduring and more resistant to the corroding elements of nature. As we celebrate this change, we rededicate this center of education, for which this landmark stands, to a more determined pursuit of truth in whatever shape and form, to the promotion of academic freedom, and to a tireless cultivation of love for all men regardless of race, rank, and religion. May this figure be forever stand to move those who come to this University to brighter visions of service and loyalty."

Another speech, delivered by Dr. Wenceslao Pascual, described the said event as the 'official commencement of the "bronze age"'. He likened the Oblation to Rodin's The Thinker but says that the latter is didactic compared to the more touching message that the former has. He then stated that the painting of the stone statue impressed the visitors because it did look like real bronze but to him, implied, though unintentionally, deceit, falsehood, misrepresentation, and artificiality20.


The markers serve as a sign for continuous search for knowledge and truth, excellence in all endeavors, love for country, and service to the nation and humanity21.

On the Front, inscribed are the lines of Padre Florentino in El Filibusterismo:

Nasaan and kabataang mag-aalay
ng kanilang kasibulang buhay,
ng kanilang adhikain at sigasig
sa kabutihan ng bansa?

Nasaan ang siyang puspusang
magbubuhos ng dugo upang
hugasang lahat ang ating kahihiyan,
ang ating mga kalapastanganan,
ang ating kabalintuan?

Tanging yaong dalisay at walang bahid
ang karapatdapat na naging alay upang
matanggap ang kasalantaang ito.
-Dr. Jose P. Rizal, 1891

On the Right side of the statue:


Masayang sa iyo'y aking idudulot
ang lanta kong buhay na
lubhang malungkot:
Maging maringal man at
labis alindog
sa kagalingan mo ay
Akin ding handog.

Sa pakikidigma at pamimiyapis
ang alay ng iba'y
ang buhay na kipkip
walang agam-agam
maluag sa dibdib
Matamis sa puso at di ikahahapis.
-Salin ni Andres Bonifacio

On the left side:


Alin pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya
sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila?
gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa?
Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga, wala.

Pagpupuring lubos ang palaging hangad
sa bayan ng taong may dangal na ingat.
Umawit, tumula, kumatha't sumulat
kalakhan din niya'y isinisiwalat.

Walang mahalagang hindi inihahandog
ng may pusong mahal sa Bayang nagkupkop
dugo, yaman, dunong, katiisa't pagod,
buhay may abuting magkalagot lagot.

At the back:

Saan man mautas ay di kailangan,
Cipres o laurel, lirio ma'y patungan
Pakikipaghamok, at ang bibitayan,
Yaon ay gayon din kung hiling ng bayan.



Guillermo Estrella Tolentino was born on July 24, 1980 in Malolos, Bulacan and passed away on July 12, 1976 in Quezon City. His parents are Isidro Tolentino and Babina Estrella.22 He married Paz Raymundo in 1932 and they had seven children: Liwanag, Dalisay, Soliman, Magligtas, Marikit, Isagani.

Other than being a visual artist, Tolentino is also known for being a good musician, particularly guitarist. He knows many languages and is also a translator. Interestingly, he is also a spiritist, which has been dismissed oftentimes but seems to be a major influence on his works.

B. Education

His first drawing teacher was a Thomasite, Mrs. H.A. Bordner, at the Malolos Intermediate School, who also made possible the publication of his first pen and ink work that inspired the student. This caught the eye of Liwayway editor Severino de los Reyes who lithographed and printed the work of the young Tolentino. His secondary education was at Manila High School. He worked for distant relatives while studying. "Alilang-kanin ako noon." he said, but with much pride.23 Still self-supporting, he was able to enter the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1915. He noticed that his seatmate was equally good, eventually the two became masters in their own field. That friend of his was no other than Fernando Amorsolo.24

In 1919, Tolentino went to Washington D.C. with only $7 and a letter to a Visayan waiter serving a downtime restaurant. He eventually got a job in a cafe in Rock Creek Park which as a favorite promenade of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Tolentino would oblige his customers for sketches and this is how the private secretary of first lady, also a customer of the cafe, met him, noticed his works and made possible a meeting between the artist and the president himself.25 He was able to study for two years at the Beaux Arts School in New York through the scholarship of American millionaire Bernard Baruch. He became assistant to established sculptor Gutzon Borglum who was able to meet Juan Luna and Felix Resureccion Hidalgo in Paris.26

Tolentino was able to save some money to be able to go to Europe in 1921. He toured museums and galleries in London and Paris, and was able to see the works of his personal favorite Bistolfi who was famous for his poetry in sculpture. This period was not all easy for Tolentino, it was also one of his hard times. News reached Francisco Varona, a journalist, who was able to raise funds care of the Italian Colony in Manila. Tolentino was able to study for three and a half years at the Regge Instituto Superiore de Belle Arti di Roma, with the degree of Lecenziato del Corso Superiore Librero di Scultura, graduating with highest honors.27 His work "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" won second prize in the Eternal City.

Around 1924, he came back to Manila and built his own studio which he worked on for one year before becoming an instructor at the UP School of Fine Arts in 1926. He rose to become a professor, a secretary, an Acting Directory for Amorsolo in 1951, and eventually a Director in 1953. He became Professor Emeritus in 1955. It is said that he introduced Plastic Arts as a subject in the School of Fine Arts.28

C. Awards and Citations

1955 Sculptor of the Year Award (care of Philippine Institute of Architects)

1959 Award of Merit from UN Commission of the Philippines

1961 Rizal Propatria Award

1963 Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for Sculpture (care of the City of Manila)

1967 The Republic Cultural Heritage Award

1970 The President's Medal of Merit

1972 Diwa ng Lahi Award

1973 National Artist Award in Sculpture


Guillermo Tolentino's inspiration in his works is the methaphor of Pygmalean and Galatea where you have an artist creating a masterpiece and wishing it come to life. When the wish was granted, Pygmalion fell in love with her artwork who is Galatea. This simply means that Guillermo believes that art should represent life and should create an impression about life.

Generally, the artistic style of Tolentino, as seen in the Oblation, is a combination of Classicism, Realism and Romanticism. Classicism for Tolentino is "a living assimilative process which forges all forces into a dynamic unity."29 It is not just a style or a set of rigid rules, while his realism is in his concern for observed detail as a way of stating truth. The Oblation is classical nude in form & spirit (neo-classicism). Though realistic details overshadows classical schema, concept of making human figure symbolic of an idea or value is classical. His Romanticism is similar to those of the French (like Gericault and Delacroix) that is filled with emotions and passions Guillermo also became well-known because of his debates with painter-educator, Victorio Edades because of their conflicting ideas on how art should be. Guillermo stressed that art should symbolize beauty and reality of life in contrast with Edades' modernist view."The aim of the ancient masters was to transfer beauty and perfection in nature to their works of art", Tolentino wrote for an article for the Sunday Times Magazine.30

Still much different from the Western style is his nationalist orientation which gives a genuine feeling for the subject. It was said to have been sparked by militant nationalist movements of the Rome in his student days, and his admiration of the Philippine Revolution of 1898, especially Bonifacio. He loved the intense & charismatic, tragic hero & leader of the revolution. Tolentino was involved in secret rites of the Kapatiran Millenarist Groups with occult symbols, magic of numbers & ancient tagalog or malay script.31

Some of his other famous works include Saluto Romano, which also won abroad, and the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan whose design won the first prize in 1930. The Cry of Balintawak, the other name for the montage of 70 figures, is known as the apex of his career. It was completed on eve of the Commonwealth 1933 which stirred hope for independence versus colonial rule. This work also made him win the National Artist title in 1973.32

Other Oblations

This is the list of other artists and their replicas of the Oblation:

•Anastacio Caedo - UP Manila. UP Baguio
•Napoleon Abueva - UP Los Baño\ 1983. UP Visayas 1989. UPV Tacloban 1992
•Fidel Araneta - UPV Cebu
•Jaime Ang - UP Mindanao 1995
•Eleanor S. Payawal - UP Open Univ 1996, computer graphics based on a drawing by Jerome Bonto
•Dr. Grace J. Alfonso - U.P. Open Univeristy 2005. Unique for its ribbon-like flag swirling around the pedestal. 33
•Glenn Bautista - 2005 National Artist nominee, did his celebrated version of the Oblation in pen and ink as part of his schoolplates at the U.P. College of Fine Art under Professor Rebillon.34


  1. The UP Diliman Update, UP Landmarks - III: The Oblation
  2. UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 (The Oblation)
  3. UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 (The Oblation)
  4. UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 (The Oblation)
  5. UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 (The Oblation)and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation_(University_of_the_Philippines)
  6. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  7. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  8. On the Unveiling of the Oblation in Bronze, a speech by Dr. Wenceslao Pascual
  9. U.P. Alumni Year Book, Oblation: A Symbol of Patriotism
  10. UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 (The Oblation)
  11. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  12. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  13. A History of the UP Oblation
  14. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  15. The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation'
  16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation_(University_of_the_Philippines)
  17. A History of the UP Oblation
  18. U.P. Alumni Year Book, Oblation: A Symbol of Patriotism
  19. On the Unveiling of the Statue of Oblation, a speech by President Vicente Sinco
  20. On the Unveiling of the Oblation in Bronze, a speech by Dr. Wenceslao Pascual
  21. The UP Diliman Update, UP Landmarks - III: The Oblation
  22. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art
  23. National Artists Folio
  24. National Artists Folio
  25. National Artists Folio and Iskultura sa Pilipinas: Mula anito hanggang assemblage at iba pang sanaysay
  26. National Artists Folio
  27. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art
  28. CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art
  29. National Artists Folio
  30. National Artists Folio
  31. Iskultura sa Pilipinas: Mula anito hanggang assemblage at iba pang sanaysay
  32. National Artists Folio
  33. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation_(University_of_the_Philippines)
  34. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblation_(University_of_the_Philippines)


U.P. Alumni Year Book, Oblation: A Symbol of Patriotism, April 5, 1959 • UP Today, Fourth Quarter, 1967 • UP Diamond Jubilee Presidential Commission, The University of the Philippines: A University for Filipinos, 1975 • UP Newsletter, Vol. V, No.6, November 1981 • The Sunday Times Magazine, 53 Years of UP's 'Oblation', May 28, 1989 • UP Diliman Update, Volume 2 No. 8, April 21 1992 • A History of the U.P. OblationCCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. Manila: CCP. 1994. Print. • National Artists Folio. Manila: CCP by the Ugnayan Secretariat. 1973. Print. • Guillermo, Alice. Iskultura sa Pilipinas: Mula anito hanggang assemblage at iba pang sanaysay. Manila: Metropolitan Museum of Manila. 1991. Print. • Stangl, Jane. Kayumanggi: Biographies of Philippine Visual Artists. Quezon City: Peso Book Foundation. 2000. Print. • "Bulacanana: A Heritage of Artistic Excellence". Office of the Governor, Province of Bulacan though the Provincial Youth, Sports, Employment, Arts and Culture Office (PYSEACO). Print.

For Art Stud 2 THU-4
2nd Semester, A.Y. 2011-2012
Prof. Roberto E. Paulino

Reported by:
Mary Therese de Silva