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Hometown snapshot

Ifugao native games for good harvest

By: - Correspondent / @eespirituINQ
/ 12:02 AM September 05, 2012

BOYS join the native river games as part of the community’s celebration of a good harvest in Hungduan town in Ifugao. EV ESPIRITU

HUNGDUAN, Ifugao—Residents of Hungduan town in Ifugao wore their G-strings and ritual garbs and went to the nearest river to join several native games to express gratitude for a good harvest this year.

The “ponnok,” held two weeks ago, is a series of postharvest community activities in Barangays Hapao, Baang and Nungulanan, whose people till Hungduan’s rice terraces.

A village that loses in the river games, such as the “guyuddan” (tug-of-war), is believed to suffer bad luck and poor harvest. “They would probably end up buying cheap NFA (National Food Authority) rice instead of consuming good quality rice harvested from their terraces,” said Orlando Mahiwo, a Hapao resident.


Ponnok started on Aug. 24 with the “huwa” (community prayers). The “kadangyan” (usually the wealthiest or most influential person) ordered the villagers to stop working and attend the thanksgiving ritual.

The “mombagol” (head of the ritual priests known as “mumbaki”) invited the spirits of ancestors and native gods to join the feast so the community could reap the same bounty the next year.

After the mombagol read a good sign from the bile of a sacrificial chicken, he villagers partook of “bayah” (rice wine) for the rest of the day.

The next day, a parade was mounted to show off the “kinaag” (scarecrow) and “pakid” (a wooden pole with a hook), which would be used in the guyuddan, one of the river games. Competing villagers pulled at the pakid with all their might, cheered on by neighbors and jeered by rivals.

The kinaag was placed at the center of the pole and allowed to float downstream to be dislodged during the games. A stray scarecrow alerted communities there that villagers upstream had already finished harvesting.

Barangay Baang won this year’s games.

For Hungduan, the festivities were comforting, given the difficulties of farming in the province.

Years of strong rains have eroded sections of the rice terraces in Hapao and weakened irrigation canals. In Banaue, the damaged terraces were repaired this year, with support from volunteers, corporate donations and a P20-million allocation from the Department of Agriculture.


Four of Ifugao’s five terrace clusters have lost 102,663 cubic meters of eroded soil, which would fit 8,500 six-wheel dump trucks, according to the Ifugao Cultural Heritage Office.

A preliminary hazard map issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows Hungduan with medium to high susceptibility to landslides.

Residents say many of the terraces are used for six months for customary farming and the shift in the local economy. “Many end up mining in Benguet to earn a living during those idle six months a year,” said Manuel Gano, a Hapao resident.

In 1997, the ponnok was revived to raise community interest in Hungduan’s rice terraces and the culture that keeps it alive. Its last recorded staging was in 1986. With a report from Vincent Cabreza

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TAGS: Culture, Games, Ifugao, Indigenous people, Tradition
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