Ritual Objects

Rituals form an important part of the indigenous knowledge and practices among Philippine ethnolinguistic groups. Reflecting animist and religious beliefs, they underscore the social values and worldview of the community. In ritual performances, the objects commonly found in the household are often used in the ceremonies and routines associated with worship.

The bulul or granary deities are anthropomorphic woodcarvings central to the Ifugao rice culture. Commonly a pair of male and female human figures carved in standing or squatting position with arms straight or crossed, they are installed inside the rice granary to protect against pests and ensure abundance of rice. Rice spirits are invoked by the ritual priests to dwell into the wooden idols during harvest rituals for a bountiful rice yield. The bulul is also found in ceremonies for constructing a new rice granary or new house, exhumation or re-interment of an ancestor’s remains and healing a sick family member.

Chinese and Indo-Chinese stoneware jars, often acquired or exchanged through trade as early as the 15th century, are also among the highly valued household items used in rituals. Among the Tagbanua of Palawan, these jars served as vessels for fermenting tabad or rice beer, which results in a stronger taste and potency. Tabad is offered to appease the deities and spirits of dead ancestors.

The great body of spirits is often associated with natural elements including landscapes, bodies of water, plants, and animals, and some inanimate objects like wooden effigies called manangs/manaugs by the Mandaya in the southern Philippines. These female-shaped idols from head to chest are distinguished from males by the presence of haircombs.

Among the Muslim groups in Mindanao, religious worship often involves a series of ablutions that ensure cleanliness and purification prior to worship. Before entering the mosque for Friday prayers, which is signalled by the rhythmic tempo of the tabu, a Maranao drum decorated with painted okir carvings and suspended in front of the mosque, Muslims perform the wudhu, or the ritual washing. They wash their face, hands, arms and feet to get rid of impurities. They also sometimes wear perfume on their clothes as the pleasurable aromas are associated with the paradise according to verses in the Koran. Perfumes in containers are also often placed on the gravemarkers as offerings.  Similarly, the wudhu is also performed before touching the Koran.

Through rituals, communities showcase how they revere, and sometimes fear the sacred and the divine, and prioritize the balance and harmony between the spiritual and the natural world.  These are demonstrated through their adherence to rituals that serve as ceremonies for thanksgiving and appeasement to spirits of ancestors, deities and gods.

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