Barangay Malbog prides itself as the home of the Bulating, or the tradition of parading the streets of the main town of Boac, Marinduque with participants covered in mud as a form of panata. There is no age limit as to who can join the Bulating; our informants tell us that anyone from the barangay, as long as they are able to walk, can join the performance. As such, children as young as two and adults in their sixties participate in the performance every Holy Wednesday. In fact, relatives of residents of the barangay, some coming from Metro Manila, also join the performance.
The Bulating has been practiced in the barangay since time immemorial, passed on from generation to generation, and is a performance that has become deeply rooted in the community of Brgy. Malbog.
It is believed that the origins of the Bulating can be traced from the ancestor of Elma Ogayre, a resident of Brgy. Malbog. She narrates that the panata originated from a great grandfather who was praying for the healing of his sick child. The great grandfather promised that should his child be healed, he will “go back to ashes.” She shares that her ancestor coated himself in mud for a whole year as a fulfillment of this panata. Ms. Ogayre attests that joining the Bulating has also healed her from a malady.
Marx Ervin Olpot, the current Captain of Brgy. Malbog adds that in the past, coating themselves with mud was usually done from Ash Wednesday until the Holy Week. Presently, however, the performance is only done on Holy Wednesday. He also shares that the parade in the main town had only begun in 2012, and that it was his father, who was previously the Brgy. Captain, who brought the Bulating to the main town. Olpot relates that another barangay attempted to claim the Bulating as their traditional performance which thus encouraged his father to push for the Bulating to be brought to the main town under the name of their barangay.
The mud used to cover the bodies of participants comes from Mansalakot, a nearby hill, roughly a 20-minute hike from the barangay hall. Nito-vines, collected from surrounding areas, are used as crowns and skirts that are also donned by participants. In some cases, young children may opt not to be covered in mud but may wear nito crowns and skirts when joining the performance.
In the early morning of Holy Wednesday, residents hike up the hill to collect mud, or burak, in tubs from fish pens. Residents travel to the town together, usually on a truck, bringing the tubs of burak and some nito. They are dropped off by the river where they cover one another in mud. Usually, they cover themselves from the lower part of the face to their feet. Men may opt to remove their tops and cover their torso directly with mud; women, on the other hand, wear a shirt and covered with mud as well. The_ nito_ is wrapped around the head and around the waist. There is no mechanism used to fasten the nito. The vine, if wrapped tightly, will intertwine firmly and stay in place. Some may opt to parade barefoot while others may also wear slippers.
The parade customarily begins at 8AM and ends at around 11AM. The residents walk through the town following a route designated by the Brgy. Captain. After the parade, the residents – as a community – bathe in the river to wash the mud off their bodies. Mr. Olpot considers this as the moment he feels that his sins from the past year are washed away.
As a young man, Mr. Olpot recounts that the Bulating was also used to scare children or to teach them about sin. Ms. Ogayre shared that some Bulating would even chew nganga to turn their teeth red. Despite their childhood fears of the Bulating, both of them were eventually encouraged to join the performance upon seeing their own parents perform this panata. When asked where the term “Bulating” comes from, residents suspect that perhaps it means “dirt.”
To cover oneself in mud, to different residents, the act may mean different things. Men, women, and children may join this performance. The Bulating has been practiced in the barangay since time immemorial, passed on from generation to generation, and is a performance that has become deeply rooted in the community of Brgy. Malbog.
Words by Ina Azarcon-Bolivar.
Photos by Ina Azarcon-Bolivar and Marx Ervin Olpot.