Members of a fraternity at the University of the Philippines held their annual ritual of running naked on campus six months early today - by official request - to celebrate the state-run school's centennial anniversary. Hundreds of cheering students lined the main campus avenue, jostling for positions with their digital and cell phone cameras.
The "Oblation Run" - named for the university's iconic symbol of a naked man with outstretched arms that symbolizes his selfless offering of himself to the nation - started in 1977 as a gimmick by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity to promote the screening of a movie about oppressed plantation workers called "Naked Hero." The film had been banned by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Since then, the fraternity has used the stunt to make political statements, from raising AIDS awareness to demanding the resignation of the Philippine president, said Armand Padilla, a fraternity alumnus and organizer of the centennial run.
He said the university's centennial committee requested the fraternity stage the annual nude demonstration as one of the activities to mark the school's 100th foundation year.
The fraternity mustered 100 members and alumni - the largest number of naked runners ever - for the event, he said.
The naked runners, who wore golden masks and wrapped T-shirts around their heads to hide their identities, offered roses to scores of giggling female students who they took their pictures as they jogged about half a mile (1 kilometer) from the student center to the Oblation statue in front of the university's administration building.
A student, who identified herself only as Bang, praised the runners' grit.
"It is not just a show of bodies, but they even carry the principles on the placards they were holding," she said.
Several runners carried placards saying "Serve the People," a rallying call for students of the university, who are called "Scholars of the People" for the state subsidies to their education.