Bukidnon - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Today, Bukidnon in the major towns worship no differently than their non-Bukidnon neighbors, but those in more distant villages have accepted Christianity more selectively. They continue to believe in a vast hierarchy of invisible supernatural beings led by Magbabáya, "most powerful of all." These spirits possess human characteristics and, while most are beneficent, they have to be won over with sacrifices of food and drink. Christian images, novenas, crucifixes, celebrations, and saints have simply been substituted for the old amulets, ceremonies, and guardian spirits, and the primary purpose of worship remains one of short-term gain rather than long-term salvation. Some Bukidnon in the vicinity of Malaybalay have converted to Protestant churches. Others, in remote regions of the province, have become Rizalians. In the traditional Bukidnon pantheon there are six categories of spirits. Highest of these are the great spirits of sky, earth, and the four cardinal points, including Magbabáya. Second are the guardian spirits of certain activities (farming) and things (water, animals). Then come the localized nature spirits of whom the busao are malevolent. Each Bukidnon has his/her personal guardian spirits. Finally, there are the gimokod, or multiple souls within one's body, which may leave and have to be called back by an intermediary ( baylan ) to avert death.

Religious Practitioners. Catholic priests are the principal religious figures to whom Bukidnon turn today. But in villages where priests are not resident, and especially in those that are visited by priests only once a month or less, the baylan still plays an important role as the one who can communicate with spirits. Both men and women can be baylan. One who wishes to do so simply studies with an established baylan to learn how to ascertain the cause of illness by identifying which spirit is involved, and how to perform the precise actions and intone the exact invocations called for in ceremonies intended to summon and please the spirit in question. Baylan claim to be intermediaries, not mediums. A few have become millennarian leaders. They have never formed a priesthood, and they have no temples or churches.

Ceremonies. Pamuhat is the generic term for ceremonies propitiating the spirits through prayers and sacrifices of food and/or drink. The principal Bukidnon celebration was kaliga ( kaliga-on ) at harvest time, but today the fiesta serves as a substitute.

Arts. The arts have declined in both quality and quantity throughout this century. Today Bukidnon women still make and sell grass mats and grass or abaca-fiber baskets. Also, the annual celebration since 1974 of Kaamulan in the provincial capital of Malaybalay has helped revive the art of appliqué in the creation of bright red, white, blue, black, and yellow Bukidnon outfits. Owing to the popularity of Western songs played loudly over the radio, few Bukidnon sing the old songs ( sala and limbay ) or play the old instruments (flutes: lantuy and pulala; Jew's harp: kula-ing; stringed instrument: dayuray ; gong; and drum). Dances, some of which are mimetic of birds or animals, are limited to the Kaamulan festival and, where kaliga-on is still celebrated, to that harvest festival.

Medicine. Today Bukidnon everywhere know the value of modern medicine and medical practices, and when seriously ill will spare no effort to obtain treatment in a clinic or hospital. But because even common drugs are too expensive for most Bukidnon, they will utilize home remedies and medicinal herbs, and may also call upon a baylan, before seeking help from trained medical personnel.

Death and Afterlife. Few Bukidnon today think of death or the afterlife any differently than do their non-Bukidnon neighbors, and their funeral ceremonies are also identical. In villages far from the highway, some Bukidnon continue to believe that one's soul goes to Mount Balatukan regardless of one's conduct in life, and these people will bury with the deceased a few of his/her belongings for use in that terrestrial abode of the dead. Otherwise Christian burial is practiced.

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