'Female Oblation' sculptor fends off plagiarism accusations

Posted at Jun 25 2017 11:54 AM | Updated as of Jun 26 2017 08:34 AM

MANILA - (UPDATED) The artist behind the so-called "Female Oblation" sculpture at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Sunday brushed off allegations that his work was copied from a Dutch artist.

This, after a netizen pointed out the striking similarities between Ferdinand Cacnio's "Uplift"and Dutch artist Elisabet Stienstra's "The Virgins of Apeldoorn".


A UP alumnus, Cacnio maintained that that he did not plagiarize or took inspiration from Stienstra's work, which was unveiled in the Netherlands in 2001.

"I was not inspired by her, I did not model my work after hers. I am not guilty of plagiarizing or copying her work, 'Virgins of Apeldoorn.'
#UPLIFT is my own creation," he said in a Facebook post,

In an phone interview with ABS-CBN News, Cacnio shared that he started using his engineering background to create "floating" sculptures when he joined a 2007 art exhibit.

"Instead of using string na naka-hang from the ceiling, I used iyung hair para umangat. May illusion siya na naka-levitate siya while nakadikit sa base," he said.

"Kaming mga engineers, gusto naming gumagawa ng mga kakaibang bagay, iyung mga parang tinatawag natin na magic. Kaya nga lagi nilang sinasabi na iyung background ko, malaki ang naitulong para makagawa ako ng art na kakaiba."


Cacnio repeated this technique in creating "UP to You," a levitating female nude that he created for an exhibit commemorating UP's centennial anniversary in 2008.

Some members of the UP Alumni Batch of 1985 saw the artwork there and campaigned for a larger version of the sculpture to be installed in UP Diliman.

After nearly 10 years of scrounging for funds, the work was finally placed at the Villamor Hall or UP Theater, bearing the new name, "UPLift."

Cacnio said the sculpture represents rising through honor and excellence -- a message quite different from the concept of oblation or selfless sacrifice for country. This, he said, makes it inaccurate for the work to be tagged as the "Female Oblation."

At the same time, the visual artist said he felt insulted that accusations of plagiarism has marred his "labor of love" for the university where he met his wife and where their daughter graduated as summa cum laude.

"Ginawa iyan for the love of UP, UP naming mahal. That took a lot of years para maging reality iyan dahil mahal ko ang UP," he said.

"Sabi nila iyung artist is a copy cat, that's so insulting and kinukuwestyon ang integrity ko as a person. Hindi naman nila ako kilala, hindi man lang sila nag-research. It's so easy to judge."

Cacnio said he has explained the matter to UP Diliman's university secretary but he has not yet cleared the issue with UP President Danilo Concepcion as of this posting.

UPLift is scheduled to be officially unveiled on the last week of July.