The University of the Philippines, as the eternal vanguard of Philippine nationalism, poses an alternative to the Western toga and cap as the graduation attire of choice for Philippine schools. The sablay — first used at UP Diliman in 1990 — is a truly unique, truly UP, and truly Filipino academic adult costumes.
According to a slip of paper I got when I bought my own sablay (yes, yours truly has just graduated!):
The word Sablay has two meanings: one, a loose piece of clothing, worn by a person, that is simple yet elegant and joined in front by an ornament, and two, the draping object or fabric on the shoulder.
The Sablay gets its inspiration from the muslim malong but incorporates various traditional elements found in other Philippine cultures. Running through the Sablay are geometric motifs of indigenous Philippine tribes.
The characters woven into or printed on the sablay are in Alibata, the ancient Philippine alphabet, and stand for the initials of UP. Upon graduation, the sablay is transferred from the right to the left shoulder — the consummation of a UP student’s college life.
Aside from being Pinoy to the core, the sablay has practical advantages over the toga. Dr. Victor Paz, Director of UP’s Archaeological Studies Program, once mentioned in his Arkiyoloji 1 class that the sablay is more suited for the tropical climate, compared with the toga which was born in colder lands. This might seem like a minor issue, until you get to know that there have been cases of UPians fainting in the middle of academic ceremonies due to the choking heat of the toga.
For another article on the sablay, you can visit the UPD Information Office’s Archives.
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