Buklog, an elaborate communal ritual of the Subanen ethnic group of Zamboanga Peninsula, has been inscribed in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
Announcement was made during the recent 14th Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Meeting in Bogota, Colombia.
Also inscribed were rituals and practices associated with the Kit Miyaki Shrine of Kenya, Sega tambour Chagos of Mauritius, and Seperu folk dance and associated practices of Botswana.
It was the first such listing for the Philippines under that category. Previously, the Darangen epic of the Meranaw people of Lanao and the Hudhud chant and Punnuk tugging ritual of Ifugao were inscribed in Unesco’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The Subanen have practiced the Buklog, according to cultural experts, less and less owing to its complexity and high costs. Highlight of the ritual is the communal trance dancing called buklogan.
Foreign religious influences, like Baptist proslytization, creeping into Zamboanga tend to frown on the indigenous practice, experts also pointed out.
Ambassador Maria Theresa Lazaro, permanent delegate to Unesco and head of the Philippine delegation in Colombia, welcomed the declaration.
“(Buklog is) part of the social fabric of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, (and) 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 said.
Chair Virgilio Almario of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) thanked the Subanen communities for supporting the nomination.
Almario said he hoped the inscription would “serve as inspiration to other communities to promote and safeguard intangible cultural heritage in the Philippines.”
NCCA runs the School of Living Traditions (SLT), which conserves indigenous arts, crafts, and practices.
Inscription in the “Safeguard” list means that it would be of utmost priority by state agents to preserve the Subanen ritual, said heritage expert Eric Zerrudo of the University of Santo Tomas.
Agencies working for the conservation of ICH include the NCCA and Unesco National Commission (Unacom). “There will be funding of course from the Unesco, depending on proposals coming from the Philippines,” said Zerrudo, himself a former commissioner of Unacom.
“There are many modes of safeguarding ICT—SLT is one obvious way,” said Zerrudo. “But others are through integration in education, like the damili festival of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; through legislation, such as the Angeles City ordinance proclaiming sisig as ICH; through promotion, such as the Sinulog by the Sinulog Foundation and the Dinagyan by the Iloilo Foundation.”
Zerrudo added ICH could also be promoted through “interpretation,” like the culinary demonstrations of Aching Lilia in Mexico, Pampanga; “innovation” such as the updating of the Iloco inabel fabric by the Balai ni Atong; and by establishing a museum such as the ancient boat building museum in Butuan City in Mindanao.
But the best way to “safeguard and conserve” ICH is “research,” said Zerrudo.