Beautiful Sagada is famous for its “hanging coffins” suspended on the rocky limestone precipice not to mention its mystical caves, rice terraces, waterfalls, and temperate weather.
Nestled in a valley, Sagada with 11,244 people, is a fifth class municipality in land-locked Mountain Province (Lalawigang Bulubundukin), Philippines.
Interestingly enough, Sagada is one of the few places in the country that has preserved its indigenous culture with little Spanish influence and has become the only Philippine town that is predominantly Anglican (Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin is a known landmark at the centre of the town.)
Foreign and local people include Sagada as a must in their itinerary mainly because of the “hanging coffins”, the old tradition of rock burial rooted with history and culture as old as time. The Sagada people have been practising such burial for more than 2,000 years.
“Hanging coffins” are literally wooden coffins suspended by ropes or strong wires on the high walls of mountain as a traditional way of burying people. It is noticeable that the coffins are fairly small (most measure only about one meter in length) because the cadavers are forced into a foetal position within the coffins. The Igorots believe that a person should exit the world in the same position that he entered it. To be buried this way we also learned that among other things one had to have been married and had grandchildren. Coffins are placed on the cliffs for two important reasons – to prevent bodies from being taken and desecrated by beasts and animal scavengers or thieves and also for the spirits to rise up easily for the soul to be blessed eternally.
To reach the location of the hanging coffins you have to walk down the Echo Valley passing through a public cemetery.
This ancient funeral custom by some ethnic groups of hanging their ancestors prominently on cliffs can also be found in various locations of the world including southern China and upland Sulawesi in Indonesia for the same reasons.
Sagada has many natural wonders. Sagada has two waterfalls – Bokong (Small Falls) and Bomod-ok (Big Falls). Other places that can be visited are rice terraces and Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves. If you are ready to get wet and dirty, “spelunking” in Sumaguing Cave is a must-try. “Spelunking” or “caving” is a recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems, also known as “potholing” in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
There are two ways to Sagada: from Baguio through La Trinidad in Benguet to reach Halsema Road, the highest mountain highway in the Philippines and regarded as Philippine most dangerous road and from Manila via Banaue where the famous Banaue Rice Terraces are. From Banaue to Sagada is approximately 3 hours passing through breathtaking countryside views.
Note: On 11 March 1966 the old Mountain Province was divided into 4 separate provinces – Mountain Province (Bontoc as the capital), Benguet (La Trinidad), Kalinga-Apayao (Tabuk), and Ifugao (Lagawe). In 1995 Kalinga-Apayao was further partitioned into 2 separate provinces – Kalinga with Tabuk as capital and Apayao with Kabugao as capital.