Buklog, thanksgiving ritual system of the Subanen

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Inscribed in 2019 (14.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

© National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Philippines, 2018

Buklog is an elaborate thanksgiving ritual system of the Subanen, an indigenous people in the southern Philippines. The head of a host family, usually a village chief called ‘timuay’, plans the ritual system to express gratitude to the spirits. The rituals ensure harmony among family, clan and community members, as well as among the human, natural and spiritual worlds. They include asking the spirits for permission to gather materials from the forest, presenting coin offerings, inviting the spirits of the departed to feast, invoking spirits of water and land, and music and dance. Afterwards, participants dance on an elevated wooden structure called the ‘Buklog’ – a sacred and social space – which resonates with a sound believed to please the spirits. This is followed by a community dance marking the renewal of spiritual and social relationships within the community. Though the ritual system remains the community’s strongest unifying force, there are several social, political and economic threats that compromise its viability, notably the influx of other cultures into the Subanen’s traditional homeland, changes in family dynamics and economic constraints. Therefore, although the Subanen have developed highly adaptive mechanisms to ensure their culture survives, the Buklog is now regarded as highly vulnerable, facing several severe interrelated threats and constraints.

Community members prepare the special offering altars while gandingan musicians continuously play gongs
Voluntary labor by community members is expressed in the construction of the buklog
Collective efforts by the community in gathering bamboo and other materials for the buklog structure
Two ritual specialists with their assistant prepare special offering altars for the river ritual
A group of ritual specialists gather at the special offering altar while a member of the community places an offering in the 'sangat'
At the center of the structure, a long pole called 'petaw' is installed to hit the dulugan, a hollowed log suspended on a trench
Women leaders actively participate in setting the community rules for everyone to observe as symbolically codified in the knotting of the rattan strips
A sacred pact is performed for unity and harmony among the members of the community and representatives of assisting organizations
Attached to the house of the host family who will hold the buklog is a stairbridge through which participants enter, creating a representation of man’s journey from the mundane to the sacred
Community members dance hand-in-hand on the flexible platform during the community dancing called ‘gbat’