Every November, the Manggarai ethnic group in East Nusa Tenggara Province will conduct the sacred rituals of Penti which takes place at the Wae Rebo Traditional Village on Flores Island. As this is a unique occasion, make sure to witness the event.
Penti is a ritual of thanksgiving to celebrate the past year’s harvest and prayers for a prosperous, new agricultural year. The event is filled with a series of ancient rituals that usually last for one full day and night. The celebration is of such huge communal importance that all village members -even those living outside the village-will join the rituals.
Penti is an annual ritual closely related to the agricultural cycle. The tradition has been passed down through generations from the ancestors of the village, that identifies different months according to variations of location of surrounding natural environments. Penti also marks the turn of the year for the Wae Rebo villagers which occurs in November following the modern calendar. Although nowadays many villages on the island celebrate Penti based on a five-year cycle due to the intensive preparations and high costs involved, in the village of Wae Rebo, however, Penti is still conducted on a yearly basis.
Penti begins with the Barong Wae and Barong Oka rituals in which the people carrying offerings proceed to the courtyard of the Rumah Gendang or the Main House in the village, accompanied by the sounds of gongs and gendang traditional percussions. They gather at the natural spring and invite the spirit of the spring’s keeper to attend the Penti celebration.
The processions will then move to the watu pantas to symbolize the purification of sins, which is followed by a visit to the stone altar or compang, which concludes the Barong Wae, Barong Oka, and Roi Boa rituals.
Penti will also be highlighted with the fascinating display of Caci, which is the traditional martial art specific to the Manggarai region, in which two men will be involved in a one-on- one combat using whips and simple shields.
During the series of the Penti Ritual, a group of men and women will chant traditional songs with no musical accompaniment which is called Sanda. The Sanda commences in the middle of the night and continues nonstop until morning. The Sanda must be chanted uninterruptedly during the entire rituals to honor the spirits of the ancestors.
Wae Rebo can be reached from Labuan Bajo on Flores. Garuda Indonesia has started operating direct flights to Labuan Bajo’s Komodo Airport on Flores island from Soekarno-Hatta international airport six times weekly.