Authored by Savannah @the.global.humanitarian
The Igorots of Sagada, Philippines have been participating in an extremely unique burial ritual for thousands of years.
The elderly members of the community will carve their own coffins out of hollowed out logs prior to their death. If they happened to be too sick or unable to carve their own coffin, their families can help them.
Once the individual passes on, their families will tie their corpse to a chair and smoked over a span of a few days for family to come pay their respects. They are then placed inside their coffin (which are quite small and sometimes require bones to be broken to fit them in the foetal position!).
After they are placed in their hollowed-out log, they are put into a coffin which is then hung at the side of a cliff as high up as possible. One of the most common beliefs behind this practice is the belief that the bodies of the dead will reach their ancestral spirits.
They choose to place their family members in the foetal position as they believe it is important to depart the world the same way you entered. Family members will then butcher two chickens and three pigs.
This tradition is slowly dying out as the new generation in Sagada is influenced by modern culture. There is also fear around breaking the bones of their loved ones after death. This may be a tradition that disappears soon.
Visiting the Hanging Coffins in Sagada, Philippines: The Ultimate Guide
How to Get There
If you are travelling from Manila, you will first need to take a car or a bus to Baguio and transfer to another bus to reach Sagada. You can also take a direct bus to Sagada if you are willing to take an overnight bus.
If you are willing to take the overnight bus, visit Coda Lines Corporation to book. If you have a rental car, you can drive from Manila in 8.5 hours.
Although it is possible to drive yourself, it is recommended to take a bus as the roads can be dangerous in the mountain regions due to loose rock, winding roads, and weather.
Once you are in Sagada town, walk past St. Mary’s Cathedral and you will find yourself on the top of Echo Valley with a fantastic view. Walk 15 minutes downhill to reach the hanging coffins.
You don’t need to worry about getting lost as most tourists will be hoping to head to the same spot. The tourism office is also centrally located for any questions or if you wish to book a tour guide.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Sagada is basic. In the high season accommodations can fill up quickly. Booking ahead of time would be wise to guarantee yourself a bed.
Accommodations range from shared rooms, guesthouses, private rooms, to basic hotels. Don’t expect five-star hotels in this region. Here are a few suggestions:
- The Rusty Nail Inn and Cafe
- Isabelo’s Inn and Café
- See Too Ville
- Agape Log Cabin and Restaurant
- Shamrock Tavern Inn
Restaurants to Visit in Sagada:
- Yoghurt House
- Bana’s Coffee
- Strawberry Cafe
- The Sagada Lemon Pie House
- Masferre Country Inn and Restaurant
- Sagada Bistro
- Log Cabin
How Long to Visit
Two full days would be enough time to see the hanging coffins and explore the surrounding villages and sights.
Visiting the hanging coffins themselves should take about 1-1.5hrs. You can hire a guide at the tourism office or take yourself on a 15-minute walk.
Image credit: Dan Lundberg (CC BY-Sa 2.0) via Flickr
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit the Sagada hanging coffins would be in the Summer months as the rainy season brings dangerous roads and often road closures due to landslides.
Things to Remember
Image credit: Rick McCharles (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The hanging coffins are located in Echo Valley, many tourists will take it upon themselves to shout within the valley to hear their echo.
Locals have requested for tourists to keep the noise to a minimum to show respect for the dead.
The coffins are in front of you and a relatively modern cemetery behind. Please remember to be respectful by not shouting, walking under the coffins, or attempting to touch the coffins themselves.
It is perfectly acceptable to bring a camera, a tripod, or a selfie-stick!