As February draws to an end and the days get brighter, it’s time to start thinking about planning your next holiday. Whether you’re looking for a chilled out couple of weeks relaxing on undiscovered sun-drenched shores, buzzing cities bursting with life, an adventure activity-packed break with caving and deep-sea-diving, or kayaking through hidden underground rivers, the Philippines offers you all of this and more…This week #ChillOutSunday features the fascinating Hanging Coffins of Sagada in the Northern Philippines. Although it may seem a morbid subject, the Philippines is full of crazy and interesting historical traditions that capture the interest of many.
This tradition, of burying the dead in hanging coffins nailed to the sides of cliff faces high above the ground, started over two thousand years ago in the Igorot Tribe of the Mountain Province. One of the most common beliefs behind this practice is that moving the bodies of the dead higher up brings them closer to their ancestral spirits, but there are other contributing factors involved. The elderly feared being buried in the ground. They thought that dogs would eat the corpse or water seeping into the soil would cause their bodies to decay quickly and years ago, during the headhunting days, savages from different parts of Kalinga and Eastern Bontoc Province, enemies of the Igorot tribe, would hunt for their heads and take them home as trophies. That’s why the dead were buried high up so nobody could reach them. A place where their corpse would be safe. The coffins were tied or nailed to the sides of cliffs and only measured about a metre in length because they were buried in the foetal position, departing the same way as they entered the world.
Traditionally, three pigs and two chickens were butchered in the community after a death, but if the family were poor it would be two chickens and one pig, as long as the number was five or three. The deceased was then placed on a wooden sangadil or death chair, tied with rattan and vines, smoked to prevent fast decomposition and any bad smells and positioned for a number of days, facing the main door of the house, for relatives to come and pay their respects. Before being taken for burial, the body was wrapped in a blanket, and during the transportation up the mountain, mourners would try to grab and touch the corpse believing it was good luck to be smeared with the dead’s blood, and they would inherited the skills of the deceased. Today, Sagada’s elders are among the last to practice these ancient rituals.Younger generations have adapted to the modern way of life and are more influenced by the country’s profound Christian beliefs. Children want to remember their grandparents, but would now rather bury them in a cemetery and visit them on All Saints Day. You can still see the hanging coffins, but it is a tradition slowly dying out.
If you would like to come and explore the historical culture in the Philippines, you will not be disappointed! Call Just Love Travel and we will help you plan your perfect holiday.0