Editorial Note: Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity conducts its infamous run every December 16, following with the 1925 foundation date, since 1977. It is believed that the tradition started when an APO member ran naked inside the campus to promote (or protest the banning of) the play ‘Hubad na Bayani’.
One of the benefits of having 20/20 vision and real life viewing is that pixelation can never happen. You see things as they are. And sometimes, you just can’t help but look.
As a UP student with a sense of solidarity with my fellow Iskolars and a predilection to the supposedly socially relevant, en route to my dormitory, I stopped by AS to watch the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity’s Oblation Run. Naked men with masks, roses and a cause- the avante garde of a country whose norm is of conservatism, clandestine corruption, and most importantly, clothed decency.
But in spite of the nudity, the bloom of male genitalia and flaccid stems (of roses), there was certain nobility through it all. For the naked men at least. As for the crowd, well that’s what I want to talk about- the inherent intrigue of nudity, the fictional motivation to witness a cause and the limitless limits of what hormonally charged person with camera will do get his damn picture of a penis.
The cause for this year is for the environment. The two partner organizations that APO worked with for this year were fighting for Philippine rivers and responsible mining. But with the majority of the crowd practically vibrating with hormones, the intricacies of these causes were lost when the drums, syncopated with the madla’s common heartbeat, began the overture for the parade of, dare I say it, cocks.
‘Yun lang naman ‘yun eh. I’ve never heard of anybody who has ever gone to the Oblation Run with any other motivation than to witness the public nudity. Or I have but I was never thoroughly convinced. So if the motivation is to see the naked men themselves, how does this actually motivate?
Let’s go first with the boring explanation that we are naturally drawn towards the primal. In our current society of civility and civilization, what could be more primal, yet socially tolerable, as public nudity? The appeal is so animal and natural that it gives us another view of ourselves as people- of our physicality and of our natural capability to be nude yet we choose not to be. Society has been so clothed, not just in cottony garments, but in its stagnating norms as well, that for it to divest itself of these must always have a salient precedent. In other words, what cause is so relevant and honorable that it compels a man to be nude in spite of a society with a surplus of shirts?
When we are naked, we defy the restraints of clothing- the attached superficiality and price of an outfit. “Superficiality” and “Price” are therefore principally challenged; superficiality and its depthless judgment, price and its capitalism. In an economic sense, mass nudity can imply a sense of egalitarianism- where our physical wealth does not come into account of our humanity. When we are naked, we become vulnerable because we cannot hide beyond designer denims or the vanity of the whole concept of fashion. When everybody is naked, there is no disparity of what we can acquire to ornament ourselves as the better bourgeois or the derelict pauper- we are all the same, human and vulnerable to the cold.
But as much as nudity can represent vulnerability, it can also mean its converse- invulnerability. When you can be naked and choose to be naked, then the logic follows that you do not really need clothes. So what do you have to go through to not need clothing? It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are immune to the cold but it can mean that there is something greater worth being cold for. That there is certain power of nature driving you forward- may it be conviction, passion, love I suppose, that can insulate you, the noble nude, from climate and, more importantly, the burning judgment of the clothed onlooker.
But convictions and passions are too philosophical to talk about further. The idea of titillation seems more titillating, and forgive me for being obscene.
I saw it all and even thought I recognized some of the runners. But let’s just say that I did not because it doesn’t matter. I was more harassed with the shoving, and a man in his mid-forties leaning on my shoulder as he craned his neck in futility to see the passing of flesh and hairy pelvises. I found it ironic that the nude men had more composure than the crowd. They marched silently and valiantly, while a certain mindlessness and breathlessness swept through the crowd. There was anger, there was annoyance, certain calculations, measurement, assessment of color and proportion, there was joy- almost all of the aspects of the human condition was fermenting through the crowd. Though I initially wanted to explore this mindlessness, I suppose I cannot except find a word that paints it all in a slick string of seminal syllables…
No motivator has ever been more effective, at least on December 16th in the country’s beloved and brilliant, UP Diliman.