Tug-of-War in Asia
Cooperative projects for safeguarding common living heritage

2013 Field Survey Project

on the Traditional Tug-of-War in South East Asia

Field Report2

The Traditional Tugging Ritual
of the Philippines9

Norma A. Respicio

University of the Philippines

One of the ethnic games played in many parts of the Philippines is similar to the game of tug-of-war. However, the game, which has different variations, is called by different local names such as magbalut (Yakan of Basilan), guguyyod (various places in the Cordilleras of Northern Luzon), suongan (Mangyan of Mindoro), goruyodan (Hanunoo Mangyan of Mindoro), culliot (Batangueño of Batangas and Ilocano of Nueva Ecija), bonlotay (Cebuano of Cebu), dinoron or pushing with bamboo pole, hilahang lubid or pulling using rope, and hilahan or human tug-of-war.

But among these ethnic games, only one has so far been identified as part of an agricultural rite—the punnuk. The punnuk is the traditional tugging ritual of the Tuwali, one of the two major subgroups of the ethno linguistic group Ifugao, living in Barangay Hapao in the municipality of Hungduan in Ifugao Province (Interim Report, 2013).

1. The Ifugao

One of the six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), situated in the Philippines’ North Central Luzon, Ifugao is a landlocked atershed province bounded by a mountain range to the north and west that tempers into undulating hills towards the south and the east. The Ifugao (Ifugaw, Ipugao, Ypugao, Hilipan, and Quiangan) are known for their spectacular payoh or rice terraces found in the nine upland municipalities with the most famous terraces found in Mayaoyao and Banaue, where entire mountainsides are constructed like giant steps.

The people living in Ifugao Province are also called Ifugao. The Ifugao language groups are: Tuwali; Ayangan; and, a third intrusion into the area, Kalanguya. The interaction of Kalanguya with Tuwali resulted in a dialectical variations recognised as Hanglulu, again of which there are variations like the Keley-i, Yattukca, and Dikkalay.

Tuwali has at least eighteen variants:
1. Ilag-aw-Munkanape
2. Ibunne
3. Munkigoj-a
4. Mun-alyon
5. Mungano/Mungkalyoj
6. Kala
7. Yattuka
8. Ipakawol
9. Imuntabiong
10. Ihaliap
11. Iboliwong
12. Lumbabag
13. Dikkalay
14. Ikamandag
15. Ibannawol
16. Icambulo
17. Igohang
18. Ihapo


The Ayangan has four variants:
1. Iolilicon
2. Ialimit
3. Ihananga
4. Iguinihon


The Hanglulu has two variants (mixed grouping- Amduntug-Asipulo) of Asipulo:
1. Yattuka(closer to Tuwali) of Amduntug
2.Keley-i (Dikkalay, closer to Kalanguya) of Tinoc

The Kalanguya has three variants:
1. Iddaya
2. Itabuy
3. Itinec

The basic subsistence technologies for the Ifugao are wet rice cultivation in massive rice terraces covering entire mountainsides and dry cultivation for other crops like sweet potatoes. During off seasons, the terraces are planted with vegetables. Some amount of food gathering is still practiced, along with minimal hunting in the remaining forested areas. One subgroup is noted for its wood carving—usually associated with rituals—and all the others are involved in weaving.

The Ifugao are famous for their very complex indigenous religion marked by a cosmology that includes hundreds of deities. There are elaborate rituals that accompany personal and social events, participated in by choirs of ritual practitioners who are almost all adult males. The Ifugao are famous, too, for their prodigious oral epic literature.