We’ve heard these stories before and perhaps even helped spread them—while we hung out on corridors, walked along the network of pathways across UP Diliman (UPD), or ate at the various kiosks and canteens scattered around campus.
The UP seal features a parrot. The model for the Oblation is the father of a late action star. The Diliman campus is located above a fault line. The Sunken Garden and the main library are slowly sinking every year. A student will not graduate on time, if at all, if he or she has a picture taken with the Oblation.
Upperclassmen have passed on these tales to gullible, innocent freshmen. A classmate heard it from another classmate, who then told you, and you told another. You may still be a student or you may have graduated, thinking, wondering, if there is any truth to these urban legends.
Parrot on the UP seal
This is probably the first myth we hear when we enter UP and it usually provokes the question “Why would a parrot be on the UP seal?” But instead of asking why, perhaps a more important question would be: Is it really a parrot?
The answer is no. It is, in fact, an eagle. Or to be specific, an American bald eagle. UP prides itself in being the national university, the hotbed of nationalist ideas. So why do we use a symbol of the United States of America on our university seal? The answer is simple: the Americans established UP. Like it or not, it’s a fact. But behind this simplistic explanation is a history of the UP seal—a seal that has been in use since the university’s early years.
The seal was approved during the 77th Board of Regents meeting on February 25, 1913. Its dimensions were re-emphasized in the Proposed Code for the University of the Philippines in 1941. On October 15, 2001, UP filed a trademark application for the UP logo with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (then IP Philippines, now IPOPHL).
Its use was nearly discontinued when former UP President Salvador P. Lopez issued a memorandum circular on November 13, 1971 opening a competition for the design of a new official seal, with the winner getting a certificate of appreciation.
“The present seal dates from 1908 when the University was reorganized as an extension, and the apex, of the American educational system in the Philippines,” Lopez said. When a new seal was designed for the country in 1946, a new seal should have been designed for UP as well, he argued. That it did not happen was an oversight and should be remedied.
Lopez said, “The eagle appears to be particularly inappropriate as the dominant element in the seal of a university.” The competition closed on December 10, 1971.
The winning design was created by then National Museum Director Galo B. Ocampo, who also belonged to the UP School of Fine Arts Class of 1934. His logo featured an inverted equilateral red triangle in the middle of a green circle. The “revolutionary” triangle with the base on top, Ocampo said, focuses importance on “the masses of our people in the structure of Philippine society.”
On each corner of the triangle is a star to represent Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Also inside the triangle is a sun that symbolizes “freedom for the individual, liberty for the nation, and independence for all.” Superimposed on the image of the sun is the Oblation, the “symbol of youth—hope of the Fatherland.” Around the green circle, where these images are emblazoned, the words “University of the Philippines” at the top and “1908” at the bottom are written in black on a background of white.
So why was this new design not adopted? During the 818th meeting of the Board of Regents on March 23, 1972, its fate was supposed to be decided under the agenda item, “Matters recommended by the president.” The Board action: “Deferment for further study on motion of Regent [Tomas Saguitan] Fonacier duly seconded.”
Twenty-six years passed before the University used Ocampo’s logo, but not as the official seal. It was used in the celebration of UP’s 90th anniversary and the Philippine Centennial in 1998. UP commemorated these historic events with the theme, “One Hundred Years of Nationalism and 90 Years of Scholarship and Service to the Nation.” A marker of the Centennial Archival Collection on the third floor of the UPD Main Library actually has Ocampo’s logo, with the white background replaced by gold.
FPJ’s father is the Oblation model
“Fernando Poe, Sr.” is one of the most common names mentioned when asking about who the Oblation was modeled after.
He was a UP student around the time the Oblation was being created by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, then a professor at the UP School of Fine Arts. No one knows for sure how the rumor started, but speculation about his involvement in the creation of the prominent UP landmark remains to this day. Try a Google search and you will come across some websites and blogs that still state this as truth. Or you can simply ask older alumni.
Well, according to the late UP College of Fine Arts Prof. Rodolfo Paras-Perez in his book Tolentino, the Oblation was modeled after Prof. Anastacio Caedo and Virgilio Raymundo. The former was Tolentino’s student assistant then and the latter, the artist’s brother-in-law. Tolentino combined Caedo’s physique and Raymundo’s proportions, and the monument we call Oble was born. Later on, Caedo himself created the Oblation statues in UP Manila (UPM) and UP Baguio.
But that’s not all. His former student, UP Professor Emeritus Grace Javier Alfonso, confirmed that she remembers him telling her to keep in mind that he was the model for the UP Oblation. Alfonso created the Oblation monuments in UP Bonifacio Global City; UP Cebu South Road Properties; UPD Extension Program in Clark, Pampanga; UPM Philippine General Hospital compound; UPM School of Health Sciences (SHS) in Baler, Aurora; UPM SHS in Koronadal, South Cotabato; UPM SHS in Palo, Leyte; and UP Open University Headquarters. She said that when she was first asked to create an Oblation statue, she kept checking and re-checking the facial features of the Oblation during casting. “It really looks like him,” she declared.
Diliman disaster: a fault line runs through it
This has long been going around.
With talks of “The Big One” hitting Metro Manila and the recent earthquakes in the Iran-Iraq border, South Korea, Costa Rica, and New Zealand, this urban legend won’t seem to die. It is that the fault line allegedly cuts into the heart of the UPD campus, across the Academic Oval. This mysterious and fear-inducing fault, believed by many to be the West Marikina Valley Fault, is also said to be the reason the UPD Sunken Garden is, well, sunken.
Enter Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay, a widely-consulted, often-interviewed expert from the UPD National Institute of Geological Sciences. When asked about the so-called fault line, he eagerly showed a presentation to illustrate his answer—that answer being no, there is no fault line beneath the Academic Oval, and therefore, no fault line under the Sunken Garden.
While a fault line is not along that location, Lagmay pointed out that there are faults running across the campus. Three of these were mapped in one of his presentation slides. None of them directly hit the Academic Oval. He also clarified that the West Marikina Valley Fault is actually between two and a half to three kilometers away from UPD.
But Lagmay offered a possible explanation as to how the myth started.
Geology students under Prof. Ernesto P. Sonido’s class were once tasked to survey the campus. One or more of his students, when pondering the Sunken Garden’s shape, came up with the idea that its shape could be explained by a fault line running under it. Why the idea continues to thrive cannot be explained.
As to why the Sunken Garden is sunken, Lagmay suspects it is due to the campus waterway system. In another presentation slide, he pointed out that the creek from Philcoa goes into the campus, passes through the lagoon, is split into two around the area of the Main Library, and goes along the sides of the Sunken Garden. His theory is that the creek that used to cut across the Sunken Garden was filled with soil and forced the water to divert from its original flow.
The sinking Sunken Garden
Another myth intertwined with the fault line story is that the Sunken Garden, along with the UPD Main Library, continues to sink at rates varying from one to ten centimeters every year.
How this urban legend started is a mystery. There are no studies to prove that the Sunken Garden and the library are in fact, sinking, relative to the rest of the campus. A more relevant fact, according to Lagmay, is that parts of Metro Manila are sinking. The maximum magnitude of subsidence is 6.1 centimeters per year, he said.
Photo with Oblation, no graduation
“Never have your picture taken with the Oblation while you are still a student at UP. You will not graduate on time or you will not graduate ever.”
An ominous statement declared with such conviction that it echoes inside your head. The only thing missing is the lightning flash followed by a clap of thunder. But there was a flash of light and you blinked. You just had your picture taken with the Oblation. Will you be able to fight the curse?
This urban legend is not actually exclusive to Diliman. After all, UP campuses across the country have Oblation monuments. Perhaps the most absurd myth on this list, this remains the most popular and most widely circulated.
The origins of this superstition are unknown and why they continue to this day is truly baffling. But blaming that photo with the Oblation is perhaps the weakest excuse for failing to graduate on time, if at all.
This is an updated version of the original article published in the May 2011 issue of the UP Newsletter. Email the author at [email protected].