“Pagpugay sa Kababaihan, Pag-asa Para sa Kabataan”.

The first ever UP Sunflower Run was held last March 11, 2023 at the Academic Oval of Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) as part of the Women’s Month celebration.

Sunflowers have become the symbol of the ultimate rites of passage in the university.

As a parting gift for graduating students, sunflowers symbolize devotion and loyalty as denizens hurdled every academic requirement through sleepless and restless days and nights.

As one blossom inside the campus, there will come a time that one will have to leave.

Sunflowers, in order to grow, need full sun, just as every student treat every experience inside the university as necessary for their individual growth.

Atty. Vien Tiempo Mendez of Portia Sorority Alumnae Association explained that the sunflower is also known as a symbol of women power in the suffrage movement.

Sunflower pins were worn by women in Kansas as they campaigned for the right to vote in 1867. While the Kansas referendum failed, yellow remained a color of the suffrage movement through the 20th century.

In the Philippines, April 30, 1937 marked the first time Filipino women exercised suffrage when an overwhelming majority of 447,725 Filipino women voted in a plebiscite in favor of their right to vote in political elections under Commonwealth Act No. 34.

On March 29, 1984. Proclamation No. 2346 was enacted declaring April 30 as “Woman Suffrage Day” to enable Filipino women to “renew their advocacy and support for clean, honest and free elections and pursue with greater zeal their efforts towards this direction.”

Geronima Pecson became the first woman senator of the Philippines in 1947.

The country had two female presidents: Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2001-2010).

Out of the 65,721,230 eligible voters in the country, 33,644,237 are women while 32,076,993 are men. Regions with higher number of female than male voters are Calabarzon, National Capital Region , Quezon City, Manila, Central Luzon, Central Visayas and Western Visayas.

“To be a woman today is both a burden and an honor—a burden because of the injustices that women from all sectors of society from every corner of the world still face today, but an honor, because of the ability of these women to continuously come together with our allies and fight for our rights and the rights of our children,” says Atty. Dot Gancayco of Delta Lambda Sigma Sorority.

The sunflower run, Gancayco said, aims to remind the world that women and children have rights that need and deserve to be protected, and to exemplify the truth that these Filipino women are not alone.

A 2017 Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority noted that one in four Filipino women age 15-49 has experienced physical, emotional or sexual violence by their husband or partner.

Officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977, International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8 as a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

March was declared as Women’s Month after President Cory Aquino signed Proclamation No.288 on March 17, 1988 emphasizing the role of Filipino women in the social, cultural, economic and political development throughout our history.

Participants of the Sunflower Run assembled in front of the UPLift sculpture situated in front of the University Theater, sometimes known as the female UP Oblation.

As the “Oblation” literally means “to sacrifice oneself”, UPLift creator Ferdinand Cacnio said that the sculpture is about “enlightenment and uplifting oneself” and about “aspiring for honor and excellence.”

It is a woman arising with open arms to welcome the knowledge and values of UP as an institution which essentially explain the levitating and open-armed characteristics of UPLift.

During the annual Oblation Run , or the Ritual Dance of the Brave, runners are male members of the Alpha Phi Omega (APO) , and traditionally run completely naked in public places in the campus.

The event was led by UP-based women groups which include Portia Sorority, Portia Sorority Alumnae Association, Women Lawyers’ Circle, Women in Law, Delta Lambda Sigma Sorority as well as Concert Chorus Alumni Association, Kontra GaPi, Celebrity Club and the UP School of Economics Alumni Association.

Sunflowers always follow the direction of the sunlight.

Iskolars ng Bayan should always follow the light, a light that calls them to serve the country.

The campus molded us to fight for the causes we believe in, trained us for the skills we need to communicate ideas and rally others to effect changes in society.

“Let us all be the voices of the women and children who are victims of violence, abuse, sexual harassment and exploitation,” Gancayco said.

(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786.)