UP students stage ‘special edition’ of Oblation Run

First posted 11:37pm (Mla time) Aug 28, 2006
By DJ Yap

Editor's Note: Published on Page A18 of the August 29, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

But unlike previous runs, yesterday’s “Ritual Dance of the Brave” was dedicated to one person: Gonzalez.

“We want to show him (Gonzalez) what Oblation Run really means. It’s not plain exhibitionism. We just want to call attention to issues facing UP and the nation,” said Max Quijano, grand chancellor of UP Alphi Phi Omega fraternity, the organizer.

The fraternity was reacting to statements made by Gonzalez over the weekend describing the state university as a “breeding ground” of destabilizers and naked men running around the campus.

Gonzalez had said of APO: “I doff my hat to them because they initiate the running of naked people … That’s also one kind of culture that they develop there.”

Quijano said the justice secretary’s statements painted an almost sordid picture of the Oblation Run, contrary to the spirit of free thought and scholastic independence that it seeks to preserve.

“When we run, we’re upholding academic freedom. This is not about UP having lost its values and morals. It’s about the students fighting for what they believe in,” Quijano said.

“The Oblation Run has become almost like a tradition at UP. It’s an event in which we make a stand about issues involving not just the students, but the Filipino people,” he added.

He said the fraternity held an emergency meeting on Sunday to address Gonzalez’s remarks. It was decided at the meeting that a special Oblation Run would be staged to show the UP community that the fraternity was not going to take the justice secretary’s remarks sitting down, Quijano said.

Though the fraternity members had little time to publicize the event, hundreds of students still turned up at the Palma Hall for a glimpse of the streakers.

Cameras flashed and shrieks filled the air when the fraternity men streamed into the hall at past noon. Marshals surrounded the streakers and kept them a safe distance away from the crowd, which numbered about 500.

With only white shirts covering their faces, the young men ran around the hall with raised fists as onlookers cheered them on. They ran around twice on the ground floor before converging at their “tambayan” (hangout) where they sang their fraternity song.

Just before they arrived, student leaders led the crowd in chanting slogans such as “Edukasyon, edukasyon, karapatan ng mamamayan (Education, the people’s right).”

University Student Council chair Juan Paolo Alfonso said Gonzalez’s statements could foreshadow a renewed “clampdown” on militant activism on campus.

“Perhaps his statements are meant to justify future plans of repression here. That may even include decreasing the already low state subsidy for the UP system,” he said.

“The UP gives us an independent, nationalist education. Here, we’re only taught what is true, and we fight only for what we believe to be true. If they call that destabilization, then it’s probably they who are trying to cover up the truth,” Alfonso added.

He said that UP students do not owe the government anything, since the funding it receives comes from the purses of taxpayers—the people that graduates of the university should serve.

The Oblation Run started as a prank in 1977 when five members ran on the campus wearing nothing but masks to promote the fraternity-sponsored play, “Hubad na Bayani” (Naked Hero), a political satire on Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule. Since then, the run has become a highly anticipated event, attracting hundreds of students and visitors every year.

Last year, the run generated a minor controversy when two naked young women wearing wigs and masks suddenly appeared and posed for cameras. They carried placards saying: “Equal rights for women.” APO later said they had no hand in the women’s appearance, adding that the fraternity did not sanction women streakers.

In 2000, the naked runners called for the resignation of then President Estrada. The Oblation Run has also become an avenue of protest for such issues as fraternity violence, illegal drugs and acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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