Buklog, the elaborate thanksgiving ritual system of the Subanen people of Zamboanga peninsula in the Philippines, is now inscribed into the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in need of Urgent Safeguarding. The inscription is formalized on during the 14th Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Meeting in Bogota, Colombia from 9 – 14 December 2019. Buklog is among the six elements nominated for inscription on the 2019 List of the Convention.
Buklog of the Subanen is a ritual conducted to appease and express gratitude to the spirits for reasons such as bountiful harvest, recovery from sickness or calamity, or acknowledgement of a new leader. Noted for its elevated, flexible platform, a structure which serves as a sacred and social space for rituals and community merriment, buklog is conducted with various attendant rituals usually led by the village chief called ‘timuay’, and facilitated by a religious leader called ‘balyan’. While a host family usually leads the planning for a buklog, the thanksgiving ritual involves all members of the Subanen community.
Throughout the years, the frequency and extent of the practice of the buklog ritual system has become irregular and has diminished. While known to be celebrated within areas of high concentrations, and strong and intact Subanen communities, it has only been held usually once in seven to nine years. With this and with other social, political, and economic threats, the buklog is now egarded to be of high vulnerability, thus its inscription to the UNESCO List of ICH in need of urgent safeguarding.
Buklog, thanksgiving ritual system of the Subanen is the first nomination of the Philippines since 2015 and the first element to be inscribed on the List of ICH in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. H.E. Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro, Philippine Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO and Head of the Philippine Delegation to the 14th Intergovernmental Committee thanked the members of the Committee, as well as the Evaluation Body, and welcomed the recognition of Buklog as an intangible cultural heritage. “As a part of the social fabric of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, we see this inscription as strengthening the bonds of fraternity and solidarity in a resilient region that seeks to permanently replace conflict and discontent, with peace, hope and sustainable development” she added.
In a video message, Hon. Virgilio Almario, Chairperson of the National Commission for Cultural and the Arts and National Artist for Literature, conveyed gratitude for the invaluable participation and support of all the Subanen communities and municipalities in the nomination process. NCCA is the government agency that pushed for the documentation and inscription of the ritual. He hoped that the inscription of Buklog will serve as inspiration to other communities to promote and safeguard ICH in the Philippines.
To further the efforts of safeguarding the buklog, the NCCA facilitates transmission of the tradition to the younger Subanen population through a Subanen School of Living Tradition, a community-based, non-formal center of learning which teaches traditional knowledge and skills to the Subanen youth, including musical-instrument playing, chanting, dance, embroidery, weaving, basketry, wine making, traditional cuisine, vernacular architecture and the performance of rituals – buklog included.
UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is a list of intangible heritage elements identified by concerned communities and States Parties which require urgent measures to keep them alive. Inscriptions on this list help to mobilize international cooperation and assistance for stakeholders to undertake appropriate safeguarding measures.
The Intergovernmental Committee, which meets annually, provides guidance on best practices and makes recommendations on measures for the safeguarding of the ICH. It also examines requests submitted by States Parties for the inscription of intangible heritage, as well as proposals for programmes and projects.