The bul-ol (also spelled bulul), also known as the "Igorot rice god," is a traditional and the most recognizable sculpture figure in the northern part of Luzon. It is usually made in pairs, a male and a female, though there is no particular rule regarding the gender and posture. This is used in different rituals of thanksgiving, revenge or healing.
Structure and Symbols
Choosing the right wood is important in making the bul-ol. Makers usually use narra wood because it symbolizes wealth, happiness, and well-being. People believe that the bul-ol assumes new powers to grant the owner with wealth and prosperity during the ritual in which it is bathed in a pig's blood. Bul-ols are made in pairs, and it is believed that the two have different genders. The breasts are rarely indicated, although nipples are seen in both genders. The figure of the bul-ol is often a caricature of the actual people of the village.
Igorots mark life crises with different rituals and ceremonies dealing with their gods and deities. One important icon in their rituals is the bul-ol, which serves different purposes. The most commonly known purpose of the bul-ol is as a provider of a bountiful harvest. But aside from that, Igorots have different other uses for bul-ol. It serves as a guardian spirit that protects the stored grains in the isolated rice granaries in the fields. A ritual is also performed where the bul-ol is used to heal those who are sick or to seek revenge on a perceived enemy.
The making of the bul-ol takes rituals to gain blessings from deities. Every procedure requires a ceremony, from the selection of the wood to to the delivery of the finished product to the house of the owner. The finished bul-ol sculpture is bathed with a pig's blood in order for it to gain power. This ritual is followed by an oral incantation of myths and offerings of wine, ritual boxes, and rice cakes. Then the carvings, together with the offerings of wine and ritual boxes, are placed near the priests. The bul-ol is bathed again with the sacrificial pig's blood. Later, after the ritual, the carving is placed next to the ritual bundles of the rice harvest.
From July to September, a thanksgiving ritual called bakle is held for a bountiful harvest. This ritual is done after all the rice has been harvested. This is the time to feed the bul-ol. Amidst the festivities, the villagers pound glutinous rice, or diket, to make rice cake called binakle.
There are various types of bul-ols. The most common is the one in a seated position with arms folded in front. There are also standing types with hands out-stretched or at the sides. In some areas, figures of pigs are also used.
The figures differ depending on where they were carved. There are six major styles from different areas such as Banaue, Mayoyao, Hengyon, Lagawe, Hapao-Hungduan, Kiangan, and Tinoc. Among the Bontocs, there is a similar figure which they called tinagtago.
- Ifugao by: Christina Sianghio (Accessed April 25, 2008)
- Custom and Creativity: Arts of the Upland Philippines (Accessed on April 25, 2008)
- Bakle ad Kiangan Tour by Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo) by: Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. (Accessed on April 25, 2008)
- Significant Ritual Material: The Bul-ul (Accessed on April 25, 2008)
- Bulols (Accessed on April 30, 2008)
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