Banal Kahoy (Holy Wood)
Philippines/Japan 2002, 44 min, color
While stylistically and thematically conforming to the Video Diaries series which Kidlat Tahimik had instigated ten years earlier, Banal Kahoy is longer than these and seems more strongly marked by a serious documentary concern. Tahimik again devotes a close look at Ifugao culture to which he already testified his high regard in the Video Diaries and in Japanese Summers of a Filipino Fundoshi. In Banal Kahoy, focus is this time on Ifugao wood carving, a craft for which they are widely-known and which here is particularly embodied by Lopez Nauyac, a woodcarver cum shaman with whom Tahimik enjoys a lengthy friendship and who often figures in his films, at times playing major and sometimes lesser roles.
The film illustrates the philosophy of “giving back” to nature, and documents the pinugo, the unique system of sustainable land cultivation developed by the Ifugao to take equal account of forest management and rice growing. This diary film also turns into a travelogue when a group of woodcarvers embark on a trip to Japan to the Takedera temple where they transform a 250-year-old tree, which had been struck by a lightning bolt, into a totem pole. As with Takedera mon amour the Japan Foundation also produced Banal Kahoy.