Photo essay: The Paduyduy ritual: Summoning the anitos

Text by Mitch Meñez, photos by Little Wing Luna for

Posted at May 14 2014 01:09 PM | Updated as of May 20 2014 06:06 PM

The Abelling elders are asleep. After three days of dancing and chanting for the last anito to come, they find themselves sprawled on the wooden floor exhausted. The anito has decided not to appear today, and the elders must rest. There is much work to do to ensure the Paduyduy ritual is consummated.

The Paduyduy is a ritual of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest. They celebrate this whenever the land is ready to be planted on and tilled. It is usually just before the summer months roll in.

The Abelling Tribe can be found in San Jose, Tarlac. They have no written record of their own history.  However, there are oral stories passed on through generations.

The Abelling are a spiritual people. They believe that the anitos, once summoned into the bodies of the elders, would allow the possessed entity to embody the ancient knowledge of the spirit world. They would also have healing powers.

For the Paduyduy ritual, the women prepare the patupat or woven palm fronds. They make 300 of these by hand. 100 each for the anito, the tribe, and the elders.

The patupat is formed into a ball-like shape with room inside to hold a cupful of rice.  An elder is assigned to cook the patupat, but no one eats it until the ritual is done.

Night falls.  While the rest of the village is asleep, the elders wake up once more to dance to entice the anito.

Berting, whose father made a pact of peace and friendship with Apo Totoy, was chosen by the anito when he was a young man.

100 pieces of birot, or hand-rolled cigarettes, symbolized this pact.  It is passed to the next tribe member chosen by the anito whenever the Paduyduy ritual is held.

Berting was the last chosen one. He is the pamana.

He was not ready as a young man, and shunned the spirit. Now, he cries to them, "My body is ready, why do you not take me?"

His mother Cili throws her hands in the air.  She collapses on the floor.   She screams and begs them to take her son.
Berting dances himself into a trance, but the anito still refuses to come.
The elders dance with him, chanting and speaking in tongues to appease the spirits.

When the dancing fails, Apo Luis brings out libations. He pours the gin into a jigger and passes it around. The music reaches a fever pitch. The wooden house starts to sway.  The guitar string snaps.
A hush falls into the house.  The elders are sullen.  There is tomorrow, they say.

The next day, the patupat is ready. The women hang them in Apo Totoy's house. They are smiling. "Today, the anito will come! The anito will accept our sacrifice."

The sacrifice is a pig. The biggest one in the village.   They use a bamboo knife to stab its throat.   Apo Totoy comes out, immaculate in white. He will drink the blood first. Then all the elders will follow. They will fall into a trance to summon the anito.

All an Abelling has today is the mental and visual record of his past. This ritual. This possible last dance.