FROM THE SACRED TO THE PROFANE: THE OBLATION RITUALIZED

Reuben Ramas Cañete

Abstract


The study approaches the historical construction of the narratives surrounding the statue titled Oblation, deemed as the symbol of the University of the Philippines (UP), from the theoretical perspective of Eric Hobsbawn’s notion of “invented traditions,” as well as Judith Butler’s theory of performativity. The study looks at the genesis of this narrative as informed by the anti-colonial struggle of the late-19th and early 20th century, but amplified and “sacralised” through the symbolic power of the UP Presidency, particularly under Jorge C. Bocobo (1935-1939) under whose auspices the Oblation was erected on November 30, 1935. The study also foregrounds the key term “Sacrificial Body” as a determinant of the Oblation’s narrational focus of itself as subject, and its function as idealized model or template to be “followed” by the UP community. The ambivalence of this narrative, however, is central to the production of contradicting discourses throughout its history, from the “sacred” Pre-War image akin to a secular Crucifixion upon which rituals supervised by a “priesthood” composed of the University’s officials were enacted; to the Post- War secular (and thus “profane”) image of the Oblation as that “representing academic freedom” from the viewpoint of its progressive student body and faculty. The common assertion of a sacrificial representation of anti-colonial struggle, however, is intuited by the study as exemplifying the epistemic problematics of postcolonial nationalism.

Keywords


Philippine Studies, visual culture, oblation, invented traditions

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ISSN: 2012-0788