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Guts and passion gave birth to the Oblation Run

For decades the University of the Philippines has been known for numerous things: certified academic excellence, production of holistic students, and of course, the famous annual Oblation Run.

The Oblation Run celebrated its 41st run on Friday, calling to end the attacks against press freedom and urging the public to invoke their right to free expression. The run is an annual event of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) at the University of the Philippines Diliman that calls to attention and highlights specific issues that plague the country for the year.

Throughout the years, the Oblation Run has garnered different reputations, but little do people know that the tradition has come a long way since it began in 1977.

During the regime of the Marcoses, APO sponsored the screening of "Hubad na Bayani," a film diected by Robert Ylagan that portrays a peasant revolt and the possibility of government overthrow.

This did not sit well with the government and it was censored by the Marcos' media, according to APO's statement.

APO said, "Thus one day in September 1977, two APO brothers streaked in front of Palma Hall while hundreds of students watched and cheered from the corridors of the building facing the Academic Oval, naked heroes of a defiant university under Martial Law."

"The first oblation run was a promotional gimmick for a film Marcos deemed politically dangerous," APO added.

According to APO Alumni Association President John Lesaca, it was during his time that the Oblation Run was first conceptualized.

"Noong araw sikat ang streaking sa States. If you're familiar with streaking, yan sa mga football field tapos may mga lalaki, babae na tatakbong hubad. Sometimes kalokohan lang, sometimes may dalang message," he said.

Since freedom of expression was high in the University of the Philippines Diliman, the fraternity decided that the best way to catch the people's attention is to have a trial run, said Lesaca.

"Nagkaroon ng trial run yan, and it took a lot of guts," Lesaca said. "Lasing pa kami noon nung gagawin namin 'yun."

According to Lesaca, the very first runner's identity has always been kept a secret.

He said, "Up to today, 'yung runner na 'yan nobody knows. Even the fraternity brothers, not everyone knows."

Throughout the years, he said, the Oblation run evolved from just having one, two runners to having many more to the point that it spread to other chapters of APO.

"'Yung unang takbo na 'yan, handang-handa kami dahil noong araw may mga police patrol cars," Lesaca said.

He added, "'Yung unang tumakbo, ang bilis, ang bilis niyan...Ang bilis tumakbo niyan, sabay sakay sa kotse, tapos alis, hinahabol ng mga pulis."

Now, he said, the runners are running slower and the police, instead of chasing after them, are even the ones escorting them.

That is how much the Oblation Run has evolved, he said.

"It was an effective medium, but for us it remained as our first tradition," Lesaca said. —LDF, GMA News