“Knock, And He’ll open the door Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.” — Rumi
We woke up early on our second day. Well we are squeezing everything that we can do in the place for just 2 days, so we do not have the luxury of time waking up late and wasting hours of resting ( a thing we can do when we head back to Manila the following day).
Around 530 AM, we quickly changed to our sweaters. It was too cold. Well at least for me who is really not a fan of cold places coz I always get allergies and all.We started walking up the town towards the Church where old folks are heading to as well.It was a Sunday. It was so cold that I thought I am already walking on clouds. No, It was just thick fog. really thick fog.
People are flocking the church. St. Mary the Virgin Church is a granite stone church made in early 1900’s by American Missionaries to help spread Christianity to the people of Sagada. I love seeing Churches like St. Mary, It looks so humble and beautiful. When I visit new places, I visit churches If I have a chance. Coz Travel for me is a pilgrimage as well.
Church of st. Mary the Virgin, Mission Compound in Sagada
Just a little walk from the church is the Calvary Hill. I tell you guys, this is one thing I did not research about. As much as possible I like to surprise myself when I travel. It was a Eureka moment when we stumbled upon the cemetery of the town. It was creepy in a beautiful way. The Huge Cross was situated at the Top center of the cemetery.
In Sagada, They have their traditional way of burying their dead. They have their Igorot Funeral practices. The way they dress their dead and how they bury them, their embalming procedures are seemingly famous not only in our country but around the world. Especially for writers and archaeologists who finds it amazingly interesting.
Learning about the Igorot’s ways of paying respect to their dead loved ones and preparing their exit towards life hereafter, makes me realize their strong religious belief. ( and how complicated their mourning rites are.) When someone dies at birth, young age, old age, sickness, accidents or crimes, Their rites are done differently. Unlike for Catholics like me well, You die , you are mourned at your wakes, buried in cemetery or Cremated with a priest blessing your human body. Igorots have their ways as well. ways means wayyyyssssssss.
According to A Sagadan Educator Dinah Elma Omengan, in northern villages of Mountain Province ( Sagada being one of its municipality),”the baby’s corpse is bathed and dressed in a white shirt and diapers.The body is placed in a box lined with a thin white cloth.
If the baby died during the day, burial immediately follows. But if the baby died at night, family and community members watch the corpse until the next morning and burial takes place as soon as the sun rises.
During the burial, a hen is butchered and an old man prays: You are gone. We pray that your destination is good and we, whom you left behind, will stay healthy.
The bereaved parents stay home for a week-long ngilin (mourning). On the eighth day, a chicken is butchered to end the mourning period, a signal for the parents to return to work on their farms and move on with their lives.”
She also stated in her book How Sagadans cope up with loved ones death caused by sickness, accident or murder.
In Sagada’s Bangaan village, community members would stop the body of a murdered person from being transported during market days.
They perform a ritual at the public market. A dog is butchered during the pre-burial ritual where an elder prays: We offer this dog, which will seek revenge on who had destroyed you because we did not see who did it (murder). You, sun, help the victim. But if the murder happened at night, you, moon, have seen the killer. If not, maybe the stars have seen the killer. And if it was cloudy, maybe the clouds have seen the killer.?
The people then cook the meat. After they partake of the meal, the corpse is taken home for other burial rituals to be performed.
The most common post-burial rite is the “daw-es,” which seeks to cleanse all grief and pain.
For the villages of Patay (Poblacion), Dag-dag, Demang and Ambasing in central Sagada, the daw-es ritual for someone who was murdered also involves butchering a dog. An old man prays that the rite ward off the misfortune that had befallen the family and the community to allow them to live in peace.
Piluden-Omengan has documented other Sagada pre-burial rites called “sakeb” and “liplipet.”
In the sakeb, an old man takes a piece of “etag” (preserved salted pork) and prays that no one else in the community suffers the same fate as the murder victim.
In the liplipet, a day-old chick is killed and an elder prays for bad fortune to leave.
The same burial rites are performed for people who die from accidents and suicides.
“The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our separate ways, I to die, and you to live. Which of these two is better only God knows.” ― Socrates
No matter how their practices are as complicated as they are, I admire them for doing all these for their loved ones. Even after their death, They are well taken care of. Bereaved families and relatives until now practices the same rituals but are no longer that strict though. Meaning, What I may have read about their rituals today may not be totally the same as what the modern Sagadans are practicing. Though, they may have still retained some. Read Murray’s first hand experience of attending Sagadan Wake here. and A local’s writing about Igorot’s Traditions here.The way they bury their dead in the cemetery at the Calvary Hill may seem like a tale for me until I knew that yes, they really bury their dead accordingly. And during All Soul’s Day, Instead of Candles, They create bonfires as offering to their departed loved ones. When one died because of old age they have the very right to be buried on higher grounds, on cliffs, hence the Sagada Hanging Coffins.
This is the first time I have seen a cemetery atop a hill so I am totally astounded. It feels like I am in a scene of a horror movie of some sort. Anyway enough of the creepy stories coz it is almost midnight now while I am typing this entry so I will stop the burial stuff here. =D
After my quick walk around the cemetery we decided to walk our way to a route I believe is the path towards the Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins. By right one should get a tour guide coz there was no sign at all saying that is that way to the Coffins (or I may have missed the sign. did i? ) I am really stubborn and stingy when traveling. Prior to our bus ride going to Baguio I have read that you can actually just walk your way towards the Coffins without a guide. But the narrow and steep walkways are tricky and we somehow got a little lost. I hate to admit that I should have not tagged along to this American guy and his local guide coz I wanted to be proud of not paying a sum for something that everyone else have done without seeking a guide’s help. But towards the end of our little walkathon with the 2 new friends, 200 pesos was nothing.
Some coffins we saw along the way.The size of the coffins doesn’t signify their size when they departed.
The path was steep. There are series of ups and downs and slippery mud along the way. It entails a lot of careful steps going down the hill. I was wearing just my slippers so it was a challenge for me. I was wearing my favorite one so I was also bothered not only of slipping but of destroying my slippers. hahahaha Good thing his one tough guy. He survived Sagada As well.
When we reached the Hanging Coffins, of course I was amazed. They are real. They are really hanging right there. But I did not really went near the coffins. I forgot why I didn’t! ( i am so sorry glitches and all with my memory because of my recent operation. hahahaha but seriously. )
There is also this chair tied with a coffin at the rock face said to be used by the dead before they finally rest into their coffins. It is quite unimaginable how the locals actually put the coffins up there without any help of machineries . All they need are ropes, rods, ladder and few good men. Imagine the scenario? Come one be imaginative. yes. go on. good.
I do not know much of how the Igorots or the Sagadans believe on sending off their loved ones to the next life. If it is for the corpse to be nearer to their creator, to save them from being eaten by dogs or any scavengers or to save space and make more space for them to grow crops and save natural space or just to make the bereaved families always remember their dead loved ones ( forgetting the dead is second death, worse than death itself) . But one thing is for sure, We as human beings have our own belief system and we all differ in faith but we are called to respect each other. Respect begets respect. Love begets love. We will be in our deathbeds soon enough. For now, make your stay on earth worthwhile. We only live once. So live fully.
I am getting quite dramatic here. Just to match with the filter of my photos. hahahaha. I hope we all learn from the Igorots of Sagada. And I hope you guys also learned from my lengthy entry of which I doubt. hahaha.
Imagining how it feels to die,
“Wherever you travel to, there is your home.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita