Tug-of-War in Asia
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Tugging Rituals and Games
A Common Element, Diverse Approaches
Punnuk: Unwinding after the Harvest,
the Tugging Ritual in the Philippines
Norma A. Respicio
Professor Emeritus of the Department Art Studies, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City
The punnuk is a tugging ritual of the village folk from three communities in Hungduan, Ifugao in Northern Luzon, Philippines. It is performed at the confluence of Hapao River and a tributary as the final ritual after the rice harvest. Its consummation brings to a close an agricultural cycle and signals the beginning of a new one.
The punnuk is a ritual of pomp and revelry. Garbed in their predominantly red-colored attire of the Tuwali ethno-linguistic subgroup, the participants negotiate the terraced fields in a single file amidst lush greens under the blue skies. The tempo builds up as the participants reach the riverbank, each group positioned opposite the other. The excitement is sustained through the final tugging match, and the sinewy brawn of the participants is highlighted by the river’s rushing water.