Ifugao’s Punnuk

Ifugao, Luzon, Philippines

Every year in the Cordillera mountains of Luzon a ritual is held to celebrate the end of the rice harvest season. Over a two day period, three barangays gather to give thanks and blessings of post harvest with the celebration culminating in a “punnuk” (tug-of-war) which is held in a river flowing through the heritage rice terraces. Throughout the two day period all processes are performed by a “ritual specialist,” a person ordained specifically to administer the various blessings required. The first day known as “huwah” proceeds at the house of a prominent elder who will receive other respected members of the community and guests to partake in the drinking of a rice wine especially fermented for this event (the rice harvest blessing). Before and during the opening of the wine the ritual specialist will conduct a blessing which takes the form of verbal chanting. The blessing involves five areas of tribal spiritual beliefs that need to be satisfied for the post harvest. The following day the punnuk takes place in the river – as a means of cleansing the soul and spirit with organic figurines being offered to the river as a means of thanksgiving. The event is a time for the whole community to come together in unity to celebrate. Three barangays challenge each other in the tug-of-war ritual with men,women & children partaking. Instead of rope two long sturdy branches known as a “pakid” are interlocked & bound together. The celebration was revived in 1999 but 2014 was the first year outside visitors were allowed to attend.

The Cordillera rice terraces within the Ifugao region of the Philippines is a well known area of outstanding natural beauty, attracting tourists from around the world. As UNESCO heritage sites some of the terraces are thousands of years old dating back to 650 AD.
Men enjoying each other's company and drinking rice wine on the first day of the ritual.
Boys carry the long sturdy branches known as ‘pakid' which will be used instead of a rope for the tug-of-war ritual.
Chickens are sacrificed to the supreme being by the ritual specialist. The chickens are cut open and inspected with the state of the innards or bile reflecting either good or bad omens. The chickens blood is also inspected as it bubbles in a coconut bowl. The respective chicken carcases will be placed on top of a ritual box containing spiritual items.
Chickens are sacrificed to the supreme being by the ritual specialist. The chickens are cut open and inspected with the state of the innards or bile reflecting either good or bad omens. The chickens blood is also inspected as it bubbles in a coconut bowl. The respective chicken carcases will be placed on top of a ritual box containing spiritual items.
During the planting and harvest season people are discouraged from being loud or shouting within the community. There is even a fine for being too loud. During the ritual people can make as much noise as they wish often resulting in men going to the edge of the fields and shouting as loud as they can.
Elders help prepare younger children in their traditional dress.
Shouting and dancing as communities make their way to the river. In order for the ritual to start all households must have finished harvesting their rice. Harvest takes place in June although in recent years due to an indifferent climate harvesting has taken place as late as August.
Harvested rice inside an Ifugao home.
A prominent elder who hosted the huwah. Behind her is the family's rice storage.
Rice wine is drunk in the morning, noon and evening.
As communities come down from the rice terraces they dance and shout across the river to the others making their way down.
Community members walk on both sides of the river to the site of the punnuk.
Communities gather at the river to begin the punnuk. The tug-of-war in the river lasts for roughly two hours.
Friendly competition during the annual punnuk. One of the organic figurines can be seen here placed in the middle of the branches being pulled.
Instead of rope two long sturdy branches known as a ‘pakid' are interlocked & bound together with the winners being the team who pulls the other across the river.
Children, women and men all participate in the event with different awards given to each of the winners.
Boys watch the punnuk from one of the inflowing rivers. The tug-of-war happens where two main rivers converge.
An elder shouts and makes gestures at the other teams (communities) across the river.
The celebration continues in the river.
This celebration was revived 15 years ago to help keep Ifugao culture and traditions embedded with the younger generation. As it was described, it is now the youth who get most excited about this annual event.
An Ifugao man smiles during the celebration.

Tagged: asia, Cordilleras, documentary, Ifugao, Igorot, Katutubo, luzon, philippines, photography, rice harvest, ritual, tradition, Travel, tug-of-war,
Posted on: Sep 13, 2014