Sagada, Mt. Province - Hanging Coffins

Photo by: Aldrin J. Garces
While numerous societies cover their dead outside of anyone's ability to see underneath a memorial gravestone or a plaque, a few social orders in China, Indonesia and the Philippines have been hanging their precursors conspicuously on bluff appearances for a considerable length of time. Sagada in the Mountain Province of the Philippines is one area where the act of hanging coffins proceeds right up 'til the present time.

Hanging coffins in Echo Valley, Sagada, are predominantly reserved for Igorot elders with families, because it is believed that the younger generations will benefit spiritually from the success of the ‘burial.’ Family members may also wish to carry the corpse to its waiting coffin at the cliff edge in order to be contaminated by the bodily fluids which are thought to contain the talent and luck of their dead relative.

Allegedly, the corpses within the coffins are dressed in family colours and prints to ensure their souls are recognised by their ancestors in the next life. Traditionally, cadavers were forced in to a foetal position within a coffin carved from a tree trunk – often crafted by the deceased themselves before they passed away.

Photo: Dr. Ranier Neu
Some of the time a seat is additionally hung with the casket, probably the one in which the body was propped up soon after passing, as a component of the complex demise custom. The hanging boxes (and seats), coupled with the frequenting echoes of the suitably named Echo Valley, unquestionably make a captivating last resting spot.