Ifugao’s post-harvest ritual ‘Punnuk’ amazes tourists, DOT head

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HUNGDUAN, Ifugao — “Punnuk”, a post-harvest  ritual of the Ifugaos continue to amaze tourists and even local visitors.

The rite which has been practiced for decades, passed on from generation to generation, remain an attraction  especially with its unique activity called “guyyud”,  which means  pull.

The Punnok ritual is performed among members of the  Ifugao  communities, branded as one  of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015.

The ritual is done every after a  bountiful harvest of rice.

The ritual is performed in the river amid strong waves by members of the communities from Barangays Baang, Nunggulunan, and Hapao.

Pablo Cuhayon, former mayor of Hungduan town, said what makes the ritual unique is that it is done in a river by the villagers, donning their traditional g-string and tapis and holding their traditional “Pakid” and “Kinaag”.

“Pakid” is a hooked sapling used in the tugging rite, instead of a rope. “Kinaag” is a human-like figure made of rice stalks.

Punnuk,  is a thanksgiving ritual. It signals to the people that they can start trading their produce and consume their agricultural products.

AN ELDER’S BLESSING. An elder in the community says a prayer before the opening of the Punnuk post-harvest festival in Hungduan, Ifugao on Saturday (July 28, 2018). (Photo by Pamela Mariz Geminiano)

Guyyud is also regarded as a form of entertainment for the people, as they celebrate the lifting of some prohibitions at the end of harvest season.

It is also an occasion for the members of the communities to come together and celebrate as one. Men, women, children, and old alike from the three barangays challenge each other in the distinct kind of tug-of-war game.

The celebration begins with the ritual holder or the “Dumupag”, the owner of the widest track of terraced land used in rice production, announcing the start of the festivities.

From an old-age cultural practice, Punnuk has evolved into a small festival starting in 1986.

Punnok celebration ceased for  a while, but  Baguio-based filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and his Hapao sculptor-friend Lopez Nauyac, revived  the ritual in 1997.

Still, the practice of this colorful, unique, though small, festival is not yet done as regularly as before.  Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who travelled over 12 hours to Ifugao from Metro Manila via Baguio City, wants to preserve such one-of-a-kind post-harvest ritual.

“It was so nice we were able to partake in the tradition and (would like to share) the culture with other people,” Puyat told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) after joining the now rarely observed festival over the weekend.

She said joining the Punnuk has been one of her best experiences.  She said that Philippine culture and heritage are always kept intact through small festivals like Punnuk, which would help make rice planting thrive and the cultural heritage preserved at the same time.  She said that they want to promote sustainable and responsible tourism, considering the carrying capacity of the area.

She said a dialogue with the locals is vital when promoting a place, as the influx of tourists might get difficult to control.  “We want tourists to experience the culture, not disrupt the ritual itself,” she said. -PNA

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