Sagada’s Hanging Coffins: a symbol of the Igorots’ culture and tradition
Sagada – for some people, this is the place where broken hearts go; where people travel to witness Kiltepan’s beautiful sunrise; where they could simply just chill and enjoy the wonders of nature. However, this place isn’t only just that. Amidst all the trees, the fog, and the clouds is a place that is also rich in history and in culture.
Found in Echo Valley, Sagada are stacks and stacks of coffins hanging against the limestone walls. Held by strong ropes and wires, these coffins carry the remains of the ancient Igorot elders. These particular practice is something that shows the culture and the burial tradition of the Igorot people.
The coffins are held by a tightrope and are hanging on the cave’s limestone walls.
The hanging coffins were made of logs significantly smaller than the deceased. This is because ancient Igorots have a belief that the dead should be buried in the same way they were born – in a fetal position. Local tourists also say that the ancient Igorots started this tradition because they believed that through the hanging of the coffins, the deceased would be able to reach heaven more quickly and that they would be able to oversee their relatives from above. Others would also say that the positions of the coffins were symbolisms of how much the relatives loved the deceased person. One of the practical reasons for these particular method of burial is that the Igorots didn’t want to use their precious cropland as a burial place, so they decided to just hang them instead.
Igorots also stack the coffins at a spot near the mouth of the Lumiang Burial Cave because they believe that the light will keep the dead safe from the bad spirits.
While they say that the this tradition began more than 2000 years ago, the exact date of the beginnings of the coffin hanging hasn’t really been known. This is because people then used to only pass down their cultures orally, without any written or drawn documents of anything. Although this has been one of the sites that draw people to Sagada, it is saddening to say that there are only a few families who continue to practice this method today and that this has already started to become one of the dying traditions of the Igorots.
Photos were taken from Google Images.