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THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S STORY

Rice harvest

JACOB MAENTZ is an American documentary and travel photographer based in Cebu in the Philippines. See this project and more work at jacobimages.com.

Every year in the Cordillera mountains of the northern Phillippines, local Igorot communities hold celebrations to mark the end of the rice harvest. I visited last year – the first time outsiders were allowed to witness the celebrations – and was one of only two foreigners there. Over a two-day period, three barangays (communities) gathered to give thanks and blessings, with events culminating in a punnuk (tug-of-war) held in a river flowing through the rice terraces.The first day involved small rituals with community leaders chanting, sacrificing chickens and drinking the rice wine that had been fermenting since the start of the season. On the second day, the three barangays walked down to the river from their respective rice terraces for the tug-of-war. Men, women and children all took turns to compete in the event, which is believed to cleanse the spirit and soul and, historically, to decide who will experience plenty or scarcity in the coming year. To be able to witness this unique event in such a beautiful area was wonderful. There are only a few regions of the Philippines where indigenous traditions are still visually apparent, and to see the Igorot people embrace their heritage in this vivid way was very special.

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