One of the University of the Philippines' (UP) most recognizable features is the Sablay, which is its official academic costume. It's a garment that the university's graduating students have earned to wear, so when Filipino-American sports journalist Pablo Torre—a Harvard graduate—was seen wearing it, netizens had mixed feelings towards it.
The issue came about when Torre posted a picture of himself on Instagram attending the Gold Gala event in Los Angeles, California, where he could be seen wearing the Sablay over a black tuxedo and white suit.
In a response to questions he received about his attire, Torre said that the sash is originally his father's.
"So, just wanted to answer a couple questions about the sash I'm wearing here, which is called a sablay. And this specific one proudly belongs to graduates of the University of the Philippines," Torre wrote.
"I didn't go to UP. But both of my parents, and both of their fathers, did. So shoutout to my dad for letting me borrow his Sablay for one night, so I could pay tribute to all of them," he added.
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In the comments section of the post, some of his followers—including singer AJ Rafael—praised him for paying tribute to his father. There were even some UP graduates who had no qualms about him wearing the Sablay, and even thanked him for representing the university.
"I went to UP and so therefore you paid tribute to me as well. Them’s the rules UPFight!!" said TV host and radio DJ Nikko Ramos said.
Former basketball coach Bien Carayag said: "As an alumnus of UP, I’m honoured that one of my favorite sports journalists is wearing the sablay :)"
"Proud UP alumnus here! Way to represent! Wear that sablay with pride!" commented one Instagram user.
But it was a different case for netizens on Reddit and Twitter, who aired their displeasure at seeing Torre wear the "sacred" garment to a non-academic event.
According to UP's website, the Sablay is a garment that is adorned with ukkil and geometric elements and is said to symbolize nationalism and the importance of protecting the country's indigenous culture.
The website underscored that "due respect should be given to the Sablay" since it is the official costume of the university. Thus, it should be used "only during academic functions and activities" such as recognition programs, commencement exercises, awarding ceremonies, among other activies.
One user on Reddit criticized, "Pay tribute to your parents all you want, but please don't do it at the expense of relegating UP's official academic costume as some garment accessory that you can use to score some brownie points on the internet or at parties."
Another user on the platform suggested that he could have opted to wear a pin, ribbon, cufflinks, or some other smaller item, saying, "Weird makakita ng academic regalia sa non-academic event. Hindi appropriate yung pagsuot niya ng Sablay sa event and sa mismong damit na suot niya."
On Twitter, a user saw red at seeing Torre wear the Sablay despite not being a student at UP.
"Sorry, but this is pissing me off because I've been studying so hard for four years now just to rightfully earn that Sablay while Fil-Ams are out there borrowing their parents' Sablay and using it as an accessory just for the sake of 'representation' without even wearing it properly," they wrote.
Some have also accused the veteran ESPN personality of not respecting the garment as he only wore it as a mere fashion piece.
"The 'Sablay' is an academic regalia, not a fashion piece. It is also traditionally worn in barong tagalog, not a suit," one Twitter user emphasized.
The university suggests that formal clothing—such as barong in ecru, beige or cream and black pants for men; and knee-length or midi dresses and formal shoes for women—should be worn with the Sablay. This is to show respect and "to preserve the solemnity and dignity of the occasions when it is worn."
UP has yet to issue a statement regarding this. PhilSTAR L!fe has also reached out to Torre, but has yet to receive a reply.