Penti is one of the major ceremonies in the Manggarai district. It is a thanksgiving celebration for the past year’s harvest and an expression of hope for a prosperous, new agricultural year. The event is filled with 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 the ones living outside the village, should join these festivities. Penti used to be an annual event closely related to the agricultural cycle. Nowadays, many villages celebrate Penti on a five-year basis due to the intensive preparations and high costs.
As one of the most prominent traditional villages in Manggarai, Wae Rebo is definitely a extraordinary place for taking part in a Penti ceremony. The community chose the 15th of November for Penti based on a unique calendar. Maro, the mythical founding father of the village, established a calendar method which identifies the different months by changes in the surrounding natural environment, be it the sound of birds or the plants that grow during particular times of the year. Based on these changes, November is the first month of the new year.
The ceremony starts at 8am when people start to gather at the main ceremonial house (Mbaru Tembong). The ritual activities that follow are centered around three sacred places, i.e. the spring (barong wae, wae-woang, symbolizing the beginning of life), the village’s front entrance (pa’ang, a place to hold prayers for all the women whose husbands live outside of Wae Rebo), and the village’s backyard (mandong, a place for making prayers for health and prosperity). As the people of Wae Rebo believe that good spirits look after these three sites, the ritual activities are intended to invite the spirits to join the festivities. Three groups of people, each led by four women, head towards the sacred sites, accompanied by chants and the rhythm of a gong. At the same time, villagers divide themselves into three groups.
After the elders have sacrificed a chicken at the sacred sites, the people return to the compang, the village court, where two men dressed up in Caci costumes wait their turn to perform this traditional martial art. The caci fighters are cheered on by a group of people who do sanda, a special form of singing and dancing that sometimes also includes a little bit of mockery by the spectators. A caci may last for about three hours. The resulting wounds on a fighter’s body are not considered a sign of weakness, but as a contribution to a new fertile year.
In the afternoon, the people continue with numerous ritual activities at different places in the village, in private homes as well as in the ceremonial house into which the spirits are invited to enter. After sunset, another ritual of sanda dancing and chanting is held inside the ceremonial house.
The peak of the whole Penti ceremony is the ritual sacrifice of two pigs. With their blood, the adat leader sees into the future while saying prayers in the ritual language. The ceremonial house gets really crowded, with strong coffee and sopi, the local liquor, that warm up the atmosphere. Further sessions of sanda are performed throughout the night, until the sun of the first day of the new year is up in the sk