By Teresa Barre

Amidst the darkness that enveloped the country due to the recent disregard for one of the darkest times in the nation’s history, the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman once again lit the Oblation Plaza during the annual Pailaw, Dec. 2.

But following the university’s tradition of progressive thought and action, the lanterns lit in the ceremony attended by the UP community are not merely decorative.

Designed by renowned painter and sculptor Toym Imao, the traditional lanterns take the form of conch shells used as horns called ‘budyong’ which were used by communities in pre-colonial times to call on its members to come together.  The Oblation statue itself is wrapped around with a giant conch shell lantern.

The choice of the budyong as key element to the design of the plaza is in line with the theme ‘Himig ng Diliman’ and the celebration of the UP College of Music’s centennial.

UP is the country’s metaphorical budyong as it has and continues to gather the brightest minds of the country. But furthermore it promises to call on when the nation and its liberties are in peril, the university said in a press release.

“In its tradition of vigilance, progressive thought and action, the UP community will always sound the alarm and move against imminent threat to the liberties of the Filipino people,” the press release further said.

The lanterns are a promise that UP will continue to do so.

“Magpapatuloy tayo sa pagbibigay liwanag sa pamamagitan ng paglaban sa mga magtatangkang takpan ang katotohanan, sirain ang mga institusyong pang-edukasyon, ang ating kasaysayan at ang ating kultura,” said UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan at the lighting ceremony.

One of the most familiar times when the university’s community fulfilled this role is during the Diliman Commune o the prelude to the Marcos dictatorship in 1971.

Together with transport workers, the UP community protested against the rising price of oil. For more than a week, students together with professors, workers and residents barricaded the campus and declared an independent commune with its own publication and radio station.

Continuing this political vigilance up to the present times, the university, through its students and faculty, led and joined protests against the burial of former dictator and UP alumnus, Ferdinand Marcos, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Aside from these, the UP community also opened its doors and supported thousands of national minorities who journeyed to the nation’s capital calling for their right to self-determination and the pulling out of the military who have caused conflict within their communities.

“Himig ng Diliman is the narrative of the struggle and dissent of its community, a hymn that serves as a beacon of direction amidst the darkness, a familiar voice in the wilderness, a song with a melody that sparks hope amidst a State that may be out of tune,” the university said.

The event featured performances by various university artistic groups such as the ConChords and the UP Dance Company. The night ended with a mini-concert by former Sugarfree vocalist Ebe Dancel.

UP’s holiday festivities continue with a presentation of Handel’s Messiah on Dec. 15 at the College of Music.

Meanwhile, the activities will culminate on Dec. 16 during the annual parade of lanterns.#


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