Rice Rituals

Rice rituals were primarily performed to ensure bountiful rice production and food sustainability and such performances were accompanied by ritual objects such as the Ifugao bul-ul anthropomorphic figures and punamhan wooden boxes. Popularly known as “Ifugao rice gods”, the bul-ul embody deities and ancestral spirits of the Ifugao, including mumbaki ritual priests who are direct descendants from which the object has been inherited. Ritual objects were carved out of durable wood from tree species such as udjow / udyoh narra and amugawon molave from the forests.

Rice rituals, such as those performed during planting, harvests and storage in Ifugao, have been witnessed and recorded by Spanish missionaries in the 1850s (Alarcon, 1857). In the rituals, deities were summoned and spirits were invoked to allow conditions for the successful production of rice in the villages. Each propertied kin group in Ifugao owned one ritual box.

Text: Prof. Dr. Leah Abayao

Kalasay

Wooden shield carried for protection during warfare. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at it base. Rattan basketry was woven near the prongs to help keep the wood together. Handle at the back was carved. With patina.

Sinalawitan

Spear with multi-barbed steel point shaped like a fish tail. Spearhead was fastened to the wooden shaft. A iron ferrule and a basketry weave of rattan ferrule were used to strengthen the shaft where the tang is secured.

Panilipo

Spear with a single barbed steel point shaped like a fish tail. Spearhead was fastened to the wooden shaft. A iron ferrule and a basketry weave of rattan ferrule were used to strengthen the shaft where the round-shaped tang is secured. The based was burned by incendiary bombs that hit the Linden-Museum during WW II.

Fangkao

Spear with steel point shaped like a laurel. Spearhead was fastened to the wooden shaft. A iron ferrule and basketry weave of rattan ferrule were used to strengthen the shaft where the square-shaped tang is secured. Almost half of the shaft was burned by incendiary bombs that hit the Linden-Museum during WW II.

Panilipo

Spear with round tang.

Kalasag

Wooden shield carried for protection during warfare. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at it base. Rattan basketry was woven near the prongs to help keep the wood together. The designs that have been etched and blackened resemble distinct tattoo designs of Kalinga warriors. Colourful basketry weave was used to design the prongs. Some of the basketry weave have worn out. Handle at the back was carved.

Falfeg

Spear with Square tang.

Falfeg or Falfog

Spear with a single barbed steel point shaped like a fish tail. Spearhead was fastened to the wooden shaft. A basketry weave of rattan ferrule was used to strengthen the shaft where the square-shaped tang is secured. A cone shaped iron cap was placed on the base of the shaft to protect the spear when while it was used as a staff by men walking along the trails. Possibly a Bontoc falfeg.

Panilipo

Spear with a single barbed steel point shaped like a fish tail. Bigger sized spearhead was fastened to the wooden shaft. A basketry weave of rattan ferrule was used to strengthen the shaft where the round tang is secured. The base was burned by incendiary bombs that hit the Linden-Museum during WW II. Possibly a Bontoc falfeg.

Kalasay

Wooden shield. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at it base. Rattan basketry was woven to help keep the wood together. Handle at the back was carved. With patina.

Kalasay

Wooden shield. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at it base. Rattan basketry was woven to help keep the wood together. Handle at the back was carved. With patina. Paper label stating that it was displayed at the St. Louis Fair is pasted at the back of the shield.

Spear

This spear resembles the falgeg (Bontoc) balabog (Ifugao), a game spear with a barbed steel point. Well polished wooden shaft and a square tang. Except for the information that this spear was acquired 1953, there are no available documents on the history of the object.

Shield

Wooden shield. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at it base. Handle at the back was carved. Observable signs of decay.

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.

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.

Kalasay

Wooden shield. Mound shaped and forked with three prongs atop and two prongs at its base. Rattan basketry was woven to help keep the wood together. Handle at the back was carved. With thick patina. Dated 19th century by the collctor.

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.

Gangsa

Bontoc gong made out of bronze. The collector noted that the handle is made from jawbone. Gongs are played during Bontoc rice rituals, especially during the planting and harvest season. Gangsa is an instrument shared by several groups in the Cordillera. It varies in size and in the way it is tuned to suit the preferred sound pitch when played. Few skilled men continue to produce this.

Textile

Collector noted that this is a “burial shroud”.

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.

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.

Human Remains

A head tied on a wooden board together with a wooden spear blade and dry leaves.

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.

Small seed container

Rattan container with cover and handle. Remains of rice seeds are still in it. Some Ifugao villages store their rice seeds in rattan containers that allow natural aeration for the seeds to maintain the desired moisture and quality. Over the years, the Ifugaos have planted several varieties of rice and they have been observing the characteristics of these rice varieties as this was very important in the traditional rice production.

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.

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.

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.