Bulul, the Rice God
There he was! Sitting on a platform in a fetal position with crouched legs. His head had an attractive piece of headgear and a necklace made of bones adored his neck. He had dressed like a Bulul. I heard a soft voice, “photo?”. The hopeful eyes of this wrinkled man looked at me.
I was in a hurry to reach my guesthouse and didn’t pay any heed. Later, while hiking in the mountains I saw the old man again. This time on my route to upper terraces of Batad. Or was he a different one?
Anyway, this time I clicked a few shots of him and paid. That’s how these old men earn a few dollars from tourists.
The Bul-ul or Bulol, as it is locally known, is an Ifugao anthropomorphic carving that symbolizes an Ifugao rice God. It also signifies fertility and is believed to gain spirits of ancestors or guardians.
Bulul, the rice man, is a carved wooden figure with simple shape of a human being, male or female. Mounted on a platform for stability, it is mostly carved out of strong narra or ipil wood and sometimes stone. Sizes vary depending on its use. Bululs are usually made in pairs, a male and a female, but some are done individually too. The traditional art form may appear crude, with no sophisticated details, but it is praised as a fine example of abstract art. The Ifugao is famous for its skill in carving Bululs.
Bululs play an important role in the agriculture of the Ifugao people of northern Luzon in Philippines and said to guard the rice crop. It is involved in all the steps and aspects of rice production… from rice planting, to the safekeeping of the harvest in rice granaries. The sculpture is made mainly as guardian of a rice granary.
The process of creating a Bulul includes a ritual by the mumbaki or the priest to ensure its power. Careful selection of the wood is made and it is consecrated with pig’s blood.
One can see Bululs in front of a house, a granary or near the harvest. The male bulul is placed at the right and the female at the left. It is regarded with care and respect. Treating it otherwise is believed to result in hostile situations such as sickness and pestilence from the spirits or ancestors.
A fundamental part in Ifugao culture, Bululs are now are produced and sold as a variety of souvenir items or decorative art.
I bring cultures from all over the world to my home. What do you bring? 🙂
P.S.- This is a monthly series exhibiting various souvenirs that I have picked up from my journeys across the globe. You can see more of them here. And this time it is from Philippines.
Next Souvenir:- I’ll take you to Jordan. 🙂
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