FPJ Sr., a parrot and other myths about the UP Oblation

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By Anna Valmero

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—Students and faculty members of the University of the Philippines (UP) were told time and again that the model for the prominent Oblation statue was Fernando Poe Sr., father of the late action star.

Also, that the university seal includes a parrot in its emblem to depict the “talkativeness” of UP students. During my freshman year in Los Baños, it has been a constant ice breaker when teachers start the first day of classes and sometimes, it figures as bonus points in exams as well.

It turns out, these stories are myths after all.

According to an article at the UP Newsletter, the bird on the UP seal is an American bald eagle with its wings spread wide.

Since the Americans established the university, they chose their national bird to be included in the seal. Similarities can also be seen on the UP seal and the Great Seal of the United States of America, which features a white-headed American bald eagle as well with its head tilted to its right.

The use of the eagle in the university seal goes back to the university’s establishment in 1908. The redesign on the replacement of the American coat of arms was based on the provision of the National Historical Institute that discourages the use of foreign objects in official seals.

Meanwhile, the father of late action star Fernando Poe Jr., who happened to be one of the students in UP when the statue was created, actually was never chosen as model for the Oblation. No one knows until today though how word spread around that got him connected with one of UP’s most enduring symbols.

Instead, the Oblation was carved after the physique of Prof. Anastacio Caedo, who was a student assistant of National Artist and Professor Guillermo Tolentino at the time, and Virgilio Raymundo, brother of Tolentino’s wife, according to the book written and designed by the late UP Diliman College of Fine Arts (UPD CFA) Prof. Rodolfo Paras-Perez entitled “Tolentino.”

Several myths and stories also surround the type of leaf covering the midsection of the Oblation statue. I was told by a former instructor that it was a fig tree and carrying that knowledge, I passed it on to others as well, even debating at times in front of the statue to someone who told me it was a leaf from another plant.

Originally, the Oblation was a nude statue of a young man with outstretched arms and looking up in the sky -  Tolentino’s rendition of Jose Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios. The fig leaf was added later upon suggestion of then UP President Jorge Bacobo in the 1930s. Bacobo was instrumental for institutionalizing the Parolan or lantern parade in 1934 to mark the last day of classes before the Christmas break.

Aside from the fig leaf, another prominent plant with its roots wrapped around the leg of the Oblation is the kataka-taka or wonder plant (Kalanchoe pinnata Lamm.), which Tolentino said “symbolizes the deep-rooted patriotism in the heart of our heroes.”

Related stories:

UP alumni association launches search for new anthem

Restored Carillion serenades UP students once more

UP art gallery showcases works of Filipino contemporary artists


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