Figurative Sculpture

The production and use of sculptures is a shared tradition amongst the Bontoc, Kankaney and Ifugaos of the Luzon Cordilleras. Figurative sculptures were carved from wood from the forests.
During the early 20th century, ethnographers noted that the Bontocs carved tinagtagu and place these near the entry points of their houses.
Ifugaos carved sculptures and attached these to the sides of the door of the traditional house or on the main post at the attic of the house.

Photographic evidence from the early 20th century shows that anthropomorphic figures carved out of fern tress were placed along the roads in the old mountain provinces. Fern sculpture may have been used as boundary marker between feuding villages. The production and use of fern sculpture continues in some Ifugao villages nowadays. Figurative sculptures carved on spoons form part of the Linden-Museum’s collection. These spoons were never used; rather they were possibly carved for exhibition at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair.

Text: Prof. Dr. Leah Abayao

Female figurative sculpture

A finely carved wooden female sculpture from Northern Ifugao. Figure is standing on a round platform. Part of the platform is chipped off. Hands crossed over the breast.

Bul-ul with hair

A finely carved male Bul-ul with human hair on the head, and possible layers of blood patina. Ears pierced with circular holes on which the mumbaki ritual priest would sometimes put rice panicles during the harvest rituals. The base was shaped likened to an Ifugao rice mortar. Comes from western Ifugao.

Bul-ul

Ifugao wooden Bul-ul without blood patina. Sitted on a square platform. Collector notes that this object is from Southern Ifugao and was used for about four generations

Punamhan

A wooden ritual box with cover used by the Ifugaos in rituals performed to urge for bountiful rice production. It is carved with animal shaped busts projected at each end from upper side of box. It contains remains of pakhuy (unhusked rice), momah (areca cathecu), cut runo (Miscanthus chinensis) stems, a stone amulet, a small flat iron (resembling part of a blade used to harvest rice) and possibly dried part of the momah plant. The box’s contents are remains of ritual performances using the object. Each ritual that was performed left ritual paraphernalia inside the box. Runo stems were sometimes used in healing rituals to call for the soul. In some villages in Ifugao, runo remains in ritual boxes may have been used to record the number of pigs that were used to pay the rice fields associated to the ritual box.

Malukung food container

Wooden container for sago from Banaue, Ifugao. It is carved with a head of an animal (a turtle) at either end. Collector notes that this object is “nineteenth century”. Similar containers were used for food that has been cooked using the hibak (tuwali Ifugao) boiling method for meat, legumes and other vegetables. Containers of this kind are rarely used nowadays in Ifugao households as many ceramic, glass and plastic containers have gradually been introduced. Sometimes wood carvers make contemporary versions of this object for sale to tourists.

Wooden pig

A wooden animal figure from southern Ifugao. Finely carved showing pig’s body parts. It was usually placed in the Ifugao rice granary accompanying the bul-ul and the punamhan or the tingab ritual boxes.

Spoon

Spoon with figurative sculpture.

Spoon

Spoon with figurative sculpture.

Hip’ag amulet

A wooden anthropomorphic figure seated on a carved platform. With patina. Figures like this embody the powers of the Hip’ag war deities that were invoked during rituals dealing with any form of violence and related acts. Hip’ag deities were often associated to hunting, sorcery and curing unusual illness. Hip’ag objects may also take the shape of animals such as a boar. According to the collector, this object was “several generations” old when he acquired it.

Meat Container

A wooden meat container with cover. The cover is designed with lizard, a species often depicted in woodcarving. Some Ifugao villages distinguish at least five kinds of lizards found inside the house and on the ground. The whole container is carved in the shape of a turtle. Before the WWII, meat was occasionally eaten, normally during rituals, celebrations or when hunters come home with a game. Pork and chicken are the preferred meat amongst the Ifugao and Bontoc.

Bul-ul

Carved wooden male Bul-ul standing on a square platform. Carved to show a round shaped hair cut and ears pierced with circular holes on which the mumbaki ritual priest would sometimes put rice panicles during the harvest rituals. Possible traces of blood patina. During the performance of rice rituals, the mumbaki priest sometimes touch the bul-ul with his hands dipped in a sacrificed pig’s blood.

Bul-ul

Ifugao male Bul-ul sitted on square platform. An ritual paraphernalia, carved with hole between buttocks and the base to allow the man’s decorative garb wanoh to be placed.

Dancing male Bul-ul

Wooden male Bul-ul from Kiangan. Finely carved with arms that can be detached. Hands on sideways appear to show a dance movement in the Ifugao traditional dance. It stands on a square platform.

Ritual box

A small rattan woven ritual box with cover. A wooden anthropomorphic figure and a feather was attached to the box. It contains remains of dried momah (areca nut), a stone hip’ag amulet, a wooden (kinahu) amulet and rolled and tied leaf. Collector labelled this as “magic box with content”.

Kinahu hip’ag

Wooden figure shaped like a dog used as an amulet. It is usually kept in a basket or in a ritual box. A wooden anthropomorphic figure seated on a carved platform. With patina. Figures like this embody the powers of the Hip’ag war deities that were invoked during rituals dealing with any form of violence and related acts. Hip’ag deities were often associated to hunting, sorcery and curing unusual illness. Hip’ag objects may also take the shape of other animals such as a boar.

Tangkil

A man’s upper arm ornament made out of boar’s tusk. With a basketry weave and a wooden figure with feathers attached. With patina. Collector notes this is from Bontoc and is “amulet”. Men wear a pair of this during ceremonies and rituals such as in the begnas ritual for the rice production. This material is now considered an heirloom. Materials are no longer available for its production. But nowadays, this ornament is popularly reproduced and worn during cultural festivals.

Spoon

Spoon with figurative sculpture.

Punamhan

A wooden ritual box with cover used by the Ifugaos in rituals performed to urge for bountiful rice production. It was carved with anthropomorphic figures at each end of the box. It contains remains of pakhuy (unhusked rice), momah (Areca cathecu), egg and possibly dried bark of the tree. The box’s contents are remains of ritual performances using the object. Each ritual that was performed left a ritual paraphernalia inside the box.

Dukaw or Chukaw

A bronze anthropomorphic figure attached to a small piece of wood. It is part of a headdress called dungdung, worn on the head of a woman during her marriage ceremony called uya-uy. It was only worn by the Ifugao kadangyan propertied elite. The dukaw is attached to the long inipul strings of beads, forming the headdress. This is no longer produced nowadays since marriage rites are primarily celebrated by Christian priests. Some families incorporate traditional marriage rites in contemporary Christian marriage ceremonies.

Tinagtagu

A male wooden sculpture with a read cloth on the waist. The figure is sitting on a round platform. Part of the nose, arm and leg were chipped off suggesting it may have been used in a ceremonial practice. Collector notes that this object is from the Bontoc and labeled it tinagtagu.

Spoon

Spoon with female figurative sculpture.

Wooden container

Wooden container designed with a seated anthropomorphic figure.

Charm amulet

Small anthropomorphic figure carved from narra wood. Possibly used as charm object, to bring good luck or protection from harm. Collector labelled the object as “fertility figure”.

Small anthropomorphic figure

Wooden anthropomorphic figure with knees bended. With patina. Collector labelled this as “ancestor figure huguhug”. Huguhug literally means the rock above the hearth which is used for drying firewood and rice or seeds. It resembles the kinabbigat wooden figures in Ifugao villages In some villages of central Ifugao, the propertied class would have a kinabbigat inside their houses. It is used to support the roof and the balog/pfalog attic part of the dwelling house. Kinabbigat may have been derived from kabbigat, a god and the source or giver of rice in central Ifugao.

Bul-ul couple

A pair of wooden Bul-ul, male and female, sitting on a carved square platform. During rice harvests, these are positioned to face the harvested bundles of rice, mimicking a couple who watches over the harvest. Possible traces of blood patina. During the performance of rice rituals, the mumbaki priest sometimes touch the Bul-ul with his hands dipped in a the sacrificed pig’s blood. These are usually placed near the door of rice granaries together with wooden pigs.

Figurative sculpture “old man”

Wooden figure of an old man with a cane. Collector notes that this is a carving in soft wood representing an Ifugao warrior, done during the American period for commercial purposes.

Bul-ul couple standing

A pair of wooden Bul-ul, male and female, standing on a carved platform, the female is standing on a platform carved in the shape of an Ifugao rice mortar. Head was carved to show a round shaped hair cut and inlaid eyes with shells. Female (right) was carved showing the breasts. Possible traces of blood patina. These are usually placed near the door of rice granaries together with wooden pigs.

Model house

A complete model of an Ifugao dwelling house, central Ifugao style. Wooden structure with a thatched roof made of cogon grass. All the mains parts can be detached and assembled as it is in a real Ifugao house. The tuod or tukod posts show the house was constructed using tree trunks with truncated roots as sturdy footing. This model also shows the lidi thick discs placed on the upper end of all four posts that primarily prevent rats from climbing into the house. The front side of the house shows a small carved head (with horn) of a buffalo. The model also includes a miniature mortar and pestle, carved from wood, which is an important part of Ifugao homes. A five piece set of miniature objects (mumbaki ritual priest, ricewine jar, ritual box, pig, ricewine bowl) is also included. This set shows an Ifugao ritual act. Rituals are often performed inside the house and on outdoor grounds of Ifugao homes.

Ritual act

A five piece set of miniature objects (mumbaki ritual priest, ricewine jar, ritual box, pig, ricewine bowl) showing a ritual act. Rituals are often performed inside the dwelling house or on outdoor grounds of Ifugao homes. This set also shows a ritual priest, carved wearing garments including head gear, is sitting with the important ritual paraphernalia. Priests would sit for several hours during the performance of rituals as they take turns reciting the ritual myths.

Tangkil

A man’s upper arm ornament made out of boar’s tusk. Men wear a pair of this during ceremonies and rituals such as in the begnas ritual for the rice production. With a basketry weave and a wooden figure with hair. This material is now considered an heirloom. Materials are no longer available for its production. But nowadays, this ornament is popularly reproduced and worn during cultural festivals.

Bul-ul with wanoh

Ifugaos sometimes put a men’s lower garment (wanoh) on their bul-ul and style the head part to show the hair cut. Carved to show details of the human face, feet and hands plus ears pierced with circular holes. The mumbaki ritual priest sometimes put rice panicles on these pierced ears during the harvest rituals. Bul-ul is standing on a carved platform shape like the round Ifugao mortar.

Male figurative sculpture

An anthropomorphic figure with elaborate male reproductive organ. Collector notes that this is used as “hanger” in a Bontoc sleeping place.

Figurative sculpture

Female wooden figure. With patina. The collector noted that this is a house post with “ancestor figure” and that it is from the Bontoc.