Fact or Fiction: UP Diliman tales

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Like other universities, University of the Philippines Diliman is surrounded by street stories that made innocent students believed and keep believing up to now. Are these tales from UPD — Fact or Fiction?

Does UP seal has a parrot? Is it true that the model of the famous Oblation is the father of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr.? Is UP Diliman campus is located on a fault line? Is it true that the Sunken Garden and the main library are slowly sinking every year? What about the belief that the student will not graduate if he/she has a picture taken with the oblation?

These were among the tales spreading in the campus — usually passed by upperclassmen to gullible innocent freshmen students but thanks to the clarifications published on UP Newsletter written by Arlyn Palisoc Romualdo.

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Parrot on the UP seal?

UP Diliman logoThis is probably the first myth we hear when we enter UP and it usually begs the question, “Why would a parrot be on the UP seal?” But instead of asking why, perhaps a more important question should be asked: Is it really a parrot?

The answer is no. It is, in fact, an eagle. Or to be specific, an American bald eagle. We pride ourselves 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. It is a fact that cannot be ignored. 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 currently used 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 date of registration is June 8, 2006 and is effective for 10 years.

The use of the current seal 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 UP 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 color white replaced by gold.

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The Oblation model could be FPJ’s father

No, we are not talking about how UP’s most famous symbol came alive and procreated. Rather, we are referring to the most common name a person hears when he or she asks who modeled for the Oblation— Fernando Poe Sr. People faced with this question, reply in varying tones, ranging from the certain, “Yung tatay ni Fernando Poe Jr.” (the father of Fernando Poe Jr.) to the unsure, “Sabi si Fernando Poe Sr. daw” (people say it was allegedly Fernando Poe Sr.).

Poe Sr. was a UP student around the time the Oblation was being created by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino who was 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.

His name may be the most popular answer but other names come up, too. Online queries for “model+UP Oblation” actually yield three other candidates. One is June Villanueva. Another is Ferdinand Glenn Gagarin. And finally, UP Fine Arts Prof. Anastacio Caedo. So who really modeled for Tolentino when he was creating the Oblation?

And the winner is—drum roll, please—candidate number three, Prof. Anastacio Caedo, who was Tolentino’s student assistant at the time. He has to share the credit, however, with Virgilio Raymundo, brother of Paz Raymundo Tolentino, the creator’s wife.

Tolentino combined Caedo’s physique with Raymundo’s proportion and – voila! – The Oblation was born. This is according to the book written and designed by the late UP Diliman College of Fine Arts (UPD CFA) Prof. Rodolfo Paras-Perez titled Tolentino.

But that is not all. UP Open University (UPOU) Chancellor Grace Javier Alfonso confirmed in a message to the UP Newsletter that she recalled Caedo, who was her teacher, telling her to keep in mind that he was the model for the UP Oblation. Alfonso is a UPD CFA graduate who created the Oblation statues located at the UPOU Headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna; the UP Manila (UPM)-Philippine General Hospital compound; the UPM School of Health Sciences in Palo, Leyte; and the UPM School of Health Sciences in Koronadal, South Cotabato. Alfonso said that when she was asked to create the other Oblation monuments, she kept checking and re-checking the facial features of the Oblation and told us that “it really looks like him.”

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Diliman disaster: a fault line runs through it It has long been talked about

And with the recent spate of earthquakes in New Zealand, Japan and Myanmar, it is rearing its ugly head again. It is the fault line smack at the center of the UPD campus, cutting across the length of 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.

Three lineaments indicate fault lines in the UPD campus in this presentation slide by Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay. Of the three, only the one marked “2” is a “ground verified fault,” he said. It passes behind Kamia Residence Hall and beneath Narra Residence Hall. Lagmay clarified that the other two are referred to as “lineament features” because ground or field evidence for faulting has not yet been found
Three lineaments indicate fault lines in the UPD campus in this presentation slide by Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay. Of the three, only the one marked “2” is a “ground verified fault,” he said. It passes behind Kamia Residence Hall and beneath Narra Residence Hall. Lagmay clarified that the other two are referred to as “lineament features” because ground or field evidence for faulting has not yet been found

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 the UP Newsletter a presentation that will illustrate his answer. That answer being no, there is no fault line beneath the length of the Academic Oval, 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.
Lagmay offered an explanation as to how the fault line myth started.

Geology students under Prof. Ernesto P. Sonido’s class were tasked to survey the Diliman campus. One or more of his students, when pondering upon 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.

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. (Source: Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay)
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. (Source: Prof. Alfredo Mahar Francisco A. Lagmay)

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 story started is a mystery. There are no studies to conclude that the Sunken Garden and the library are sinking, relative to the rest of the campus. But, according to Lagmay, parts of Metro Manila are sinking—which is a more relevant fact. The maximum magnitude of subsidence is 6.1 centimeters per year, he said.

Say cheese with the Oblation, say goodbye to graduation

“Never have your picture taken with the Oblation while you are still a student at UP. You will not graduate.”

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 and graduate?

The UPD Oblation monument
The UPD Oblation monument

This story is not exclusive to Diliman. After all, UP campuses across the country have Oblation monuments. This tale has no scientific basis.

We do not know when this absurd story started circulating or why it continues to this day. But blaming a photo for failing to graduate is probably one of the lamest excuses ever invented.

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