Issue of August 5, 2018
Mt. Province

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Ifugao’s pinnuk ritual helps promote agriculture tourism
by Ofelia C. Empian

BOOSTING TOURISM THROUGH AGRICULTURE -- Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat received from Ifugao officials led by Gov. Pedro Mayam-o a coffee table book featuring the rich history of the Banaue Rice Terraces and its people. Puyat has been actively promoting tourism in the countryside through events related to agriculture such as the “punnuk” post harvest ritual she attended in Hapao, Hungduan last week. -- Ofelia Empian

Tourism Sec. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the age-old punnuk ritual of Barangay Hapao in Hungduan, Ifugao helps in promoting farm-tourism.

Puyat, who joined the annual post-harvest ritual, this time as a Tourism secretary, said the activity could be a way to educate visitors of the importance of agriculture.

“We have to promote agriculture as a form of tourism. Over the past years, marami ring sumasama sa akin to the Cordillera. Iba pa rin if you have to plant rice, harvest, and meet the farmers to understand (them),” Puyat said.

She attended the punnuk ritual last year as assistant secretary of the Department of Agriculture where she served since 2006.

“I’ve been to the Cordillera so many times. I’ve planted, I’ve harvested. When you talk to the farmers, they always invite you to attend their rituals. They always have these rituals which I find very interesting. It was one of my best experiences,” she said.

Clad in Ifugao attire, Puyat joined the highlight of the ritual, which is the tug of war by the Hapao River. The current was strong that day that only the men, especially those who can swim, conducted the tugging in the middle of the river.

The women participants, with the secretary and other female DOT officials, conducted the tugging by the riverside.

Puyat observed that things have changed since then when it comes to local tourists’ understanding of a certain place’s customs and tradition.

She said since people are now into “experiential tourism” or they want to experience what the locals do in a certain place, farm tourism is given a boost.    

“I noticed people now go local, they want to buy local. At palagi gusto nila heirloom rice, tinnawon – red and white – even the Balatinao from Kalinga,” she said.

Puyat said she has been pushing for heirloom rice with the Agriculture agency then.

Now, as a tourism secretary, she wants to strengthen the promotion of tourism and agriculture.

Ngayon kasi napansin ng mga tao, lalo na iyong mga chefs, mas maganda iyong appreciation nila sa agriculture at mas mataas ang respeto nila sa ating mga farmers,” she said. 

Erwan Heusaff, one of the celebrity chefs and vloggers who feature unique destinations in the country and whom the secretary invited during the event, also said Hungduan is one of the best places he has been in the country.

“Hungduan, Ifugao is one of my favorite places in the country. It’s so true to its roots and is a national gem that I hope won’t change,” Heusaff said.

“It’s one of the few remaining, non-commercialized rituals we have left, from the part of the country where colonization was least felt and that’s what makes it so special. I’m so glad that I was able to observe it this year. It really felt like a true privilege,” he said.

Puyat acknowledges that there should be a balance when it comes to the promotion of the activity and preservation of Hapao’s unique ritual.

She said they are working with the local government unit in setting up system on how to better conduct the punnuk ritual in the coming years.

She said it takes partnership of all sectors to promote sustainable tourism, stressing the importance of tourists’ education as well.

Sana ma-educate din ang ating mga turista, huwag lang mag-rely sa national and local governments. Tayo rin mismo, pangalagaan din natin ang sarili nating kalikasan,” she said.

During the event the secretary met with Baguio-based filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, who helped revive the punnuk tradition which stopped in 1986 with his friend, Hapao sculptor Lopez Nauyac, along with Hapao elders and local leaders, the municipality of Hungduan, and the province of Ifugao. The punnuk ritual was revived in 1997.

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