Forming the terminus of University Avenue is the Oblation Plaza. Designed by Nathaniel Dueñas around the famous symbol of U.P., the Plaza was finished in 1974, and was originally outfitted with a dancing foundation and multi-colored light. Now maintained as a garden with its shallow, amphitheater-like steps finished in black gravel wash, it provides the shift in scale of the University Mall from imperious processional to intimate square, where people often promenade to take pictures with the statue in their midst, especially during graduations.
As the symbol of U.P., The Oblation is often wrapped in mystique. A representation of youth giving one’s self in service to the nation (hence, Oblation, meaning an offering of a gift or a sacrifice), the statute measures 4.85 meters tall by 2.54 meters from the left fingertip to right fingertip. The original statue, now a prized possession of the University Archives, was molded from concrete by Guillermo Tolentino using his assistant Anastacio Caedo (also a famous academic sculptor, whose works are also in the University Collection) as a model for its muscular physique, and Caedo’s brother-in-law Virgilio Raymundo for its propostion and height. It was commissioned by U.P. President Rafael Palma, and unveiled to the public in 1935 at its original location in U.P. Manila. Surviving unscathed despite the razing of the Manila Campus, it was transferred to Diliman by a tumultuous motorcade on February 12, 1949. In 1958, the three-and-a-half meter tall concrete statue was reproduced in bronze in Italy, under the supervision of Tolentino, and this is the version we now see at the Oblation Plaza. The statue is a superb example of the beaux-arts ideal of classical masculinity, dignity, harmony, and the sublime. Hence, its genitalia are covered by a fig leaf, a rebuke against physical reality for the sake of academic prudence. The male nude makes a mystical gesture, head thrown back, arms raised to the sides, palms up, and feet together, symbolizing the Judeo-Christian ideal of sacrifice that mingles with the classical idiom of public nude statuary. On its feet, Tolentino incorporated the katakataka plant, which he intended to symbolize the Filipino people with. The statue is mounted on a pedestal made of river stones, to symbolize the many islands that make up the nation.
Adapted from Pasyal: Walking Around U.P. Diliman (copyright 2004 OICA)