The Bulul is an Ifugao anthropomorphic carving that symbolizes an Ifugao rice god or guardian spirits. It also signifies fertility and is sometimes believed to house spirits of ancestors. A Bulul has a simplified shape of a human being, whether male or female. It consists of a simplified head, a torso, and a pair of hands and legs mounted on a platform for stability. It is carved out of strong narra or ipil wood and sometimes stone. Sizes also vary, depending on its use. Bululs are usually made in pairs, a male and a female, but some are done individually. This traditional art form may seem crude, lacking in sophistication, but it has been praised as a fine example of abstract art.
Although bululs are now produced and sold as a variety of souvenir items or decorative art, it is actually a fundamental part in Ifugao culture.
Bulul plays an important role in the agriculture of the Ifugao people. It is involved in the ritualistic aspects of rice production, from rice planting up to the safekeeping of the harvest in rice granaries. The sculpture is made mainly as guardian of a rice granary. The process of creating a bulul includes the baki or a ritual by the mumbaki or priest to ensure its power. Careful selection of the wood is made and it is consecrated with pig’s blood.
A big granary may require two bululs. There is no standard size although manageability in carrying it in and out of the granary is a consideration. A wealthy kadangyan or noble may have more than one bulul in his house or granary. It is regarded with care and respect. Treating it otherwise is believed to result in hostile manifestations such as sickness and pestilence from the spirits or ancestors.
When used in rituals, it is to be properly positioned in front of the rice produce. The male bulul is placed at the right and the female at the left. The bulul is touched by hands dipped in chicken or pig’s blood in what is called a tunod ritual during the rice planting season. Occasionally, ornamentations may be placed on the bulul. For the male bulul, a g-string and for the female, a tapis or a waist cloth, with earrings and anklets to match.
- Michael Gabriel L. Sumastre