The Ethnology Center part of The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is a must-visit for those interested in Philippine culture. The Ethnology Center is composed of two buildings aptly named Northern Philippines and Southern Philippines. Owner Atty. Dominador Buhain has collected important artifacts, some of them are so rare that not even the National Museum of the Philippines carries them. On top of being rare, they are living manifestations of the richness our ancestors’ culture even before the Westerners arrived.
This entry is all about the Northern Philippines, which comprehensively covers the Cordilleran culture, specifically the areas of Ifugao, Benguet and Mountain Province with a smattering of Nueva Vizcaya. According to The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center supervisor Sherleen, Atty. Buhain likes the Ifugao culture so much, and seeing his extensive collection of Ifugao artifacts, ranging from the many bulol in different sizes to the contemporary iskuter and everything in between, in addition to what I have seen in my past travels, I can readily see why (yes, I just used three different tenses of “to see” in one sentence).
I was in two minds to break this entry into two shorter ones, but I decided against it in the last minute. Be warned: this is a very long post that took me hours to do, but typing the content was an educational experience. Like Rodrigo de Souza, I am a nerd and I enjoy knowing trivial things like the various scrotal sacs used as lime containers. 🙂
I tried to divide the items into three groups: life, death and beliefs, ornaments for males and females and household objects. If some fell through the cracks, blame it to the longevity of this post. 🙂
The binali-style rattan woven Bulol deviates from the common woodcarved Bulol. This is a standing Bulol, totally woven from rattan from head to foot, is a life-sized representation of a contemporary Bulol. It has detachable head and feet. This Bulol can be filled with up with anything that will allow to stand erect on its own. Rice can poured at the neck by removing the head which acts as its cover.
The kalaleng player is an embodiment of the artist’s desire to unify the Cordillera people by attempting to infuse different cultural elements or traits from various cultural groups in the region into one piece of artistic creation.
The rattan plaited solibao is one of the major instruments that makes up the music ensemble of the Benguet and Bontoc Igorots. Without the solibao that produces the base sound from which other instruments like gangs and pistan (gongs) and the palas or tiktik (iron rods) are synchronized, the music that accompanies people’s dancing will not be in harmony.
Libit (low drum) was used during planting or harvesting rice in Ifugao. The sound from libit synchronized the movement of the farmers as they moved in cadence with the rhythm of the drum. It was also used to provide entertainment to the tired planters.
A contemporary artifact in Ifugao, this wooden homemade iskuter (scooter) is a regular feature during their community festivals, particularly in Banaue where young Ifugao bikers join in the descending iskuter race from the upper elevation of Banaue down to the center of the town. Such a race draws the applause of the appreciative crowd who line the highway to cheer for their favorite iskuter racers.
It was said that handyman heads of families living along the road to Banaue’s View Point have crafted scooters made from salvaged hard lumber and rubber tires as fitting gifts for their growing sons. The boys would enjoy the nearly effortless downhill scoot for a couple of kilometers to the market area and do not begrudge the uphill trudge back.
The short article at the bottom of the photo says something about the resurrection of headhunting in the Cordillera Administrative Region during World War II. The Igorots, as part of their last-ditch stand against the Japanese soldiers in their area, chopped the enemies’ heads off. With only the basic of weapons against the Japanese superior ones, they had to use ancient traditions to save their lives.
A successful headhunter returns to his village and is greeted with war cries and shouts of joy. An unlucky headhunter who loses his own head brings disgrace to his family and village.
Lungon (wooden coffin) is a typical coffin used by Kankanaeys from Benguet and Mt. Province. Made from pine logs, this coffin has the usual carabao head model on both ends of the cover. The lizard has something to do with people’s belief in the immortality of the soul.
The Ifugao bury their dead near their homes, leaving them underground for one to two years. Once enough time for decomposition has passed and enough money has been saved for a ceremony, the family exhumes the body and holds a customary second burial. The bones are cleaned and kept inside a secondary coffin such as the one shown below.
This secondary wooden coffin has a carved lizard on its cover, which symbolizes immortality of the soul.
This secondary coffin has a simple cover but one end has a carabao’s horns. Resting on top of the coffin is a monitor lizard also called as baniyas, tilay or bayawak. In the past, people were resourceful enough to utilize various species of lizards that are edible. It was also used to cure malaria.
The photo of the caption for the Igorot Mummy is took is dark and is beyond repair, so I have to resort to the ever-reliable Wikipedia (hehe) for this. The Igorot mummies came into existence as early as 2000 BC and continued until the 16th century. The mummification process of Igorot mummies began shortly after (or before?) death where the person had to digest (can a dead person digest anything?) a very salty drink. After his death, the corpse is washed and set over a fire in a seated position, just like the Igorot mummy in the photo, which dries the fluid inside the corpse. Tobacco smoke was blown into the mouth of the corpse to further dry the body’s insides and internal organs. After which, the corpse was rubbed with herb. Then, the body was placed in a wooden coffin and laid to rest in rock shelters, natural caves or man-made burial niches.
This is a contemporary artwork inspired by the Ifugao Bulol. The coins half-embedded into the skin have caused immeasurable pain causing the Bulol to scream.
Betel nut chewing is a typical past time of the Ifugao. The chewing of a betel nut requires three ingredients: the betel nut (moma), gawed (leaves) and apog (lime). These lime containers are among the various types, forms, sizes, and materials, used by the Ifugao. Lime containers of a chewer are so distinct from those of others. The lime container easily identifies who the owner is.
These brass armlets are used as ornaments among the Gaddangs. These produce tinkling sounds when wearers move or when they dance during special occasions or ceremonies. These brass rings are secured with a bamboo holder when not in use.
In the olden days, whenever a head is taken during tribal wars, a cleansing ritual was always performed and most often dogs, hogs or carabaos were butchered. The animals to be butchered depended on the prestige or status of the warrior whose head was taken. In this case, the warriors whose heads were taken were probably prominent for the village to sacrifice their largest buffalo.
The artwork below portrays the artistic skills of the maker using carabao skull in the rendition of his engraving skills by creating geometric designs on the surface of the skull bones and in fashioning the animal skull into a ceremonial head gear.
This life-sized woodcarving of a man with detachable head, hollow abdomen, thigh and lover legs, and skin lumped all over the body, is probably an artistic rendition of man’s vulnerability to the various illnesses that afflict him.
A contemporary artwork of a Cordilleran artist, this beautiful art piece portrays the maker’s notion of the Sun God. In reality, the Cordillera God Kabunian is attributed to the sun, the moon, the stars, and other heavenly bodies. They perform their rituals at daytime after the sun rises or before it sets, or during full moon. They do this because of the belief that Kabunian is the sun or the moon looking at their activities or ceremonies and can be pleased or displeased of what they do.
Mumbaki means native shaman and adult males in Ifugao could be one.
Pamatek is derived from the word “batok” meaning tattoo. The prefix “pa” is used to indicate what the thing is used for, so “pamatek” means the thing used for tattooing. Batok is a painful process and can be performed to an individual during his lifetime depending on his resources to pay the services of a tattoo specialist (bumabatok) or his exploits in the community as an accomplished warrior, peacemaker or head taker among the Kalingas, or on one’s perception of beauty that one with tattoo is beautiful for the Mt. Province women.
Whang-od Oggay was 92 years old (when this undated photo was taken) and she is the last Kalinga tattoo maker. According to specialists, this practice is about a thousand years old and was used as a skin natural language transmitted from generation to generation.
Whang-od Oggay is from Buscalam Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that wull be tapped into the skin through a thorny end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. This ancient technique called batok dates back more than a thousand years and is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques. She uses designs found in nature and basic geometric shapes.
This gilingan (wooden grinder) is composed of two cylinders – top and bottom. In-between the cylinders are metal chips embedded in each flat surface. During the process of grinding, the top cylinder is rotated through a handle while slowly feeding the hole at the opening at the middle of the top cylinder with softened rice grains. The metal chips then crushed the rice which eventually came out as powdered rice. The powdered rice was used in preparation of rice cakes.
Tangungo (salted meat container) takes different shapes, forms and artistic designs depending on the skill of the woodcarver. Tangungo with elaborate designs manifest the skills, ingenuity and inclinations of the maker and the world views and beliefs of his family or the community where the material is found.
Allegedly a weaver’s chair, this resembles a man sitting down and right on his lap is a flat wood block that he holds on both hands. The flat wood block is where the person sits and the chest and face act as the backrest.
This wooden bench simulates a human figure in supine position. The style of the bench shows the artistry and kill of sculpturing the wood material according to its natural form.
Coffee, when harvested, is usually pounded in a mortar to remove the peelings. However, coffee is slippery and jumps out of the mortar when pounded. The fabrication of this okisan de kape (wooden coffee peeler) makes cleaning the coffee beans much faster and easier because they are contained.
Aside from the traditional woven rattan or bamboo rice containers, wooden rice containers were also popular because they were easier to make than the other two alternatives.
The sayukusok is an instrument that stimulates the sound of flowing or falling water when it is slightly shaken. This instrument was used by a mambunong in Atok, Benguest whenever he performed the Guyguyod ritual to bring water from a source to a desired destination. The ritual was intended to ensure the continuous flow of water from the source to a family abode during dry months.
The mambunong would perform a ritual and sacrifice a chicken at the water source. When the augury of the chicken bile was favorable, the mambunong would dip the leaves of a bundled runo (blade grass) on the water and drag this bundle as he walked towards the house of the family. Along the way, the mambunong gently shook the sayukusok producing the sound of flowing or falling water.
The sayukusok is made from the dried hoofs and horns of cows and then bundled together with strings which were tied or connected to a wooded tinagtagu-like handle. It is played by holding on the handle and gently shaking the hanging hoofs to create the water sound.
The Mountain Province, particularly in Bauko and in Samoki, produced quality putik or clay jars and containers that found their way in most households where these were used as storage for bayas (sugarcane wine) or tapey (rice wine). The bigger jars were susceptible to breakage so owners reinforced their clay jars with rattan plaiting to stabilize them and make them durable for handling. Such rattan plaiting also adds aesthetic appeal to the jar due to its beautiful designs.
To more about the The Book Museum, please the The Book Museum and The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center – Southern Philippines.
Thank you Che and Hope for sharing your photos with me and for bailing me out when my camera conked out. Thank you, Sherleen for that wonderful tour and for the information you wrote on the back part of my leaflet.
For reservation and inquiry, please call at (02) 570-4449 or email at email@example.com.
Where: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center, 127 Dao St., Marikina Heights, Marikina City
When: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 9am to 12 noon and from 1pm to 6pm. They offer guided tours at 9am, 10am, 1pm, and 3pm.
How to get there: From Cubao MRT Station, walk to McDonald’s Gateway Mall. Outside there are FX bound to Marikina, choose the one whose route takes it to SSS Village. Alight in the corner of Meralco and take a tricycle to The Book Museum.
How much: The Book Museum cum Ethnology Center entrance fee: Individuals, P100 (US $ 2.20) and senior citizens, P80 (US $1.76). School and group bookings are subject to special discount.