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.
Anyone from the barangay can join the Bulating. There is no age limit, as long as they are able to walk. As such, children as young as two and adults in their 60s participate in the performance every Holy Wednesday. In fact, relatives of residents of the barangay, some coming from Metro Manila, also join the performance.
It is believed that Bulating can be traced from the ancestor of Elma Ogayre, a resident of Barangay Malbog. She said the panata originated from a great grandfather who prayed for healing for his sick child. He promised that should his child be healed, he will “go back to ashes.” Ogayre shared her great grandfather covered himself in mud for a whole year as a fulfilment of this panata. She also attested that joining the Bulating healed her from malady.
Barangay Malbog Captain Marx Ervin Olpot said in the past, participants covering themselves with mud was usually done from Ash Wednesday until the Holy Week. Presently, the performance is only done on Holy Wednesday.
Olpot said the parade in the main town began in 2012. His father, the former Barangay Captain, was the one who brought Bulating to the main town. There was another barangay that attempted to claim the Bulating as their traditional performance. This encouraged Olpot’s 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 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 are then covered with mud. 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 8 a.m. and ends by 11 a.m. The residents walk through the town following a route designated by the barangay captain. After the parade, the residents – as a community – bathe in the river to wash the mud off their bodies. Olpot considers this as the moment he feels that his sins from the past year are washed away.
As a young man, Olpot recounted the Bulating was used to scare children or to teach them about sin. 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 different residents, the act of covering oneself in mud may mean different things. Men, women and children may join this performance. The Bulating has long been practiced in the barangay, passed on from generation to generation, and is a performance that has become deeply rooted in the community of Brgy. Malbog. – SAP Tiatco with MCS Azarcon-Bolivar, Philippine Performance Archive