Taking a look at traditional Ifugao sculpture is an interesting way to understand the people’s culture. The Museum of Cordillera Sculpture is the perfect place for this. The two-storey house holds a vast and precious collection of both traditional and modern Ifugao sculpture.
There are also pieces from other groups such as the Bontoc, Iwak, and Kalanguya. The oldest in the collection interestingly is not from the Cordilleras but from eastern Samar, a depiction of an owl-god sculpted in the 16th century.
It’s an insight in the animist beliefs of the people that Spanish colonizers tried to eradicate but which some villagers continued covertly.
But it is in the bulol that I was most fascinated with.
One of the most interesting things I learned is that bulols actually have faces! Most of us are accustomed to mass-produced bulol sold as souvenirs which all look like they came from an assembly line. Seeing the ones displayed at the museum, I learned that bulols usually take on a composite face of the owner’s ancestors.
Far from having a generic look, they have very distinct features.
They’re also anatomically correct.
Not all bulol are seated either. Some may be dancing.
What all these show is the personal devotion by which the Ifugao bulol sculptors create these sacred icons.