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.