Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

Sagada is a town frequented so many tourists. In fact, I believe that it is one of the top tourist destinations in the Philippines. But it is amazing how it never acquires that touristy feel. It seems that the “aura” of tourists is tamed down by the quiet landscape of a small town that is nearly crammed with houses, restos, and stores.

Go to Baguio or Magellan’s Cross, you feel that the spots are really for tourists. But in Sagada, even Koreans yoking DSLRs around their neck do not make you feel that you are in tourist country. The town’s atmosphere is so imposing and permeating that you get cheesy when you blog about it. The Hanging Coffins, being an anthropological and cultural uniqueness, is Sagada’s top sell point. Yet the town only has to present itself as it is.

In Sagada, the passage from this life to the next (which we dryly call “dying”) is a celebrated occasion. By “celebrated,” I did not mean there is some sort of Mardi Gras involved in. The death of a local can bring hoards of people together in solemn (yet not sad) unity. If someone dies, you can see a house filled with people conversing in a calm almost chantic episode.

I did not just make that up. There was actually a wake just few houses from where we stayed. There were really lots of people. The place we lodged in is called Grandma’s House and you will miss the sayote of your life if you do not check in there.

Only chieftains are allowed a hanging burial. They have so much respect for their leaders that they look up to them even if they have already gone to, well, their coffins. The chieftains in smaller coffins are fetal curled so they return in the same position they got to this world. On the other hand (I really hate using transitional phrases), chieftains in regular coffins, being in regular coffins, are lain the regular way.

Most of the chieftains in regular coffins also have regular names (that is, the first-name-last-name combination). Meanwhile, chieftains in the small coffins only bear one name. In the past, Sagada was just like a big household where everybody calls everybody with only one name. Cher, Madonna, and Sting all just have one name but they do not qualify for this kind of burial. You have to be Igorot.

These coffins are hoisted through a scaffold. Two pine trees and you have enough to send Chief into his high place. You will also see some chairs because chieftains are seated during the wake.

sagada anglican church

cemetery in sagada

hanging coffins

sagada hanging coffins

sagada echo valley

hanging chair sagada


Kikit said...

I do remember this place and it was quite awesome. Did you see the real skull a few meters away from the hanging coffins? :)

Bal Marsius said...

Did not, but there was a skull inside Lumiang Cave :D

Chyrel Gomez said...

My friend Mildred posted in facebook and thought the first photo was taken somewhere in Germany. But, it's Sagada, baby.

I should have buried you along with the hanging coffins.

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Bal Marsius