“Craftiness must have clothes, but truth loves to go naked.”—English Proverb
A tradition of public nudity has developed in the University of the Philippines (UP). On its 100 years of glorious existence, the school has a rash of flesh-baring events— inspired by the iconic metal image of a man in an act of “oblation” right at the campus gate.
The thought of giving oneself naked has turned to be an irresistible wild dream in the academe. It’s a heart-rousing idea that seems to rub the minds of people who subscribe to the sane and the absurd.
Perhaps they take themselves too seriously. They can be deluded by their self-importance, believing that they are smarter than others and thus deserving of occasional tantrums. There is covert hubris in many UPians. They may be enamored by the grand words of the second verse of Jose P. Rizal’s Ultimo Adios etched on the base of Guillermo Tolentino’s oblation sculpture standing in the school grounds:
“In the fields of battle,
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.”
—Jose P. Rizal, National Hero
The connection of nudity today in UP and Rizal’s heroism is at best tenuous. Yet, for 50 years, the oblation run has been a yearly project of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity. It started as a prank and had since then become one of the most celebrated in the university.
Nudes, wearing only masks and bonnets parade themselves around the campus. The justification of the bizarre display of the mons veneris and the penile appendage is usually a protest for an “issue” that bothers the community. Although not all are convinced of the “alibi,” the event brings eager crowds nonetheless to watch the warm flesh pass by. Amidst heckles and laughter, the men give away roses to merry spectators, but many are oblivious and dismissive of the rationale behind the run.
The oblation run held on December 16, 2008 had only 10 nude men streaking their way around the campus. But I thought they had one in June where a hundred participated. For the latest run, APO chose to protest the boiling charter change (Cha-cha) controversy which is occupying the mind of the nation. They also fussed about President Gloria M. Arroyo, the environment and climate change.
The fewer turn-out of those wanting to show their flesh might have been the consequence of an early morning photo shoot of about 100 nude UPians to celebrate the school’s service to the country a week before. Capping the school’s centennial year celebration, on December 13, 2008, the dawn picture session had almost a hundred UPians exposing their skins. What was once considered a joke had turned out to be a controversial collective legitimate expression of selfless offering: “UP Para sa Bayan” (UP for the Nation.)
The nude mania also caught the fancy of the fine arts luminaries of the university. Earlier in June this year, works of National Artists Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Napoleon Abueva, Jose Joya, Cesar Legaspi, Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, Abdulmari Imao and Vicente Manansala, among others were displayed in a public mall in Quezon city, in an exhibit titled, “100 Nudes/100 years.” It was supposed to be a self-congratulating reunion of UP artists to show the whole world of the school’s “big reservoir of talents.”
I don’t know if the Pavlovian concept on operant conditioning works on the psychology behind this nudity hullabaloo. If I have my psychiatry straight, humans like animals, are governed by rewards and punishments. When forbidden behavior such as shedding one’s clothes is reinforced by approving attention, many will do it again. There’s no negative backlash, no punishment and no incentive to prevent UP from doing the oblation run. Nudity which can be pleasurable, is tolerated, and even approved of by university authorities. En masse in front of satisfied onlookers, the event becomes a rousing surreal occasion akin to Bacchanalia.
Liberals, anarchists, and free thinkers can look at public nudity differently even if there are laws against indecent exposure. They usually laud anything contrary to the norm. They want unbridled freedom without much responsibility. Their perspective can be summed up with what iconoclastic John Lennon said when he was still alive.
“The main hang-up in the world today is hypocrisy and insecurity. If people can’t face up to the fact of other people being naked, or whatever they want to do, then we’re never going to get anywhere. People have got to become aware that it’s none of their business and that being nude is not obscene. Being ourselves is what’s important. If everyone practised being themselves instead of pretending to be what they aren’t, there would be peace.”—John Lennon, Beatles singer
Lennon’s opinion is just one side of the coin. He can’t be taken seriously all the way for there are conservative moral and cultural issues that must not be ignored by Filipinos. As a counterpoint, I can only refer at the photos of the oblation run shown in the blog. I suspect they have become raunchier and debased than the years past. With some clues of what goes on during the run, I need to repeat my two-cent worth of opinion about this school-sanctioned nude exhibitions in a supposedly sane university:
Surely, there is amusement in nudity, but such display is distracting and unwarranted. Young masked students running with no clothes on, giving away roses to onlookers is such a powerful emotion-rouser that we risk forgetting the grievances behind why we do it. It’s generally regarded as a mischievous prank rather than a serious protest. In spite of the fun, there is this troubling question whether such an event brings the most benefit in the long run. It makes us think if merriment and humor are always the best ways to air our problems and solve them.
After stating my closing thought, I couldn’t help but laugh when I read a smart quip about being nude—“Don’t arrest me. I was born this way.” It seemed the inane controversy on nudity in campus would stay. But with the rate ethical behavior and righteousness is expended these days, I would not be surprised if UP and many of her children might go astray. Photo Credits: in dekost; in.dekost; indekost; pmt007; in.dekost; in.dekost)=0=
RELATED BLOGS: “The Oblation Run: a risque prank becomes a raunchy protest”
Posted by mesiamd at 6/20/2008; “UP Para Sa Bayan” Posted by mesiamd at 12/13/2008