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Mountain Province Mountain Province Philippines Travel

Sagada revisited 01: A new cave and a fall

Sagada Echo Valley

Echo Valley, Sagada, Mountain Province

I never get tired of this place. It’s my third time coming here and there always seems to be something new to discover. This time, aside from visiting the sites I missed before, I got a little brush with their culture and appreciated more of our history, probably because I have a couple of companions who are into Philippine Heritage Conservation. This trip made me realize the importance of our past and connections of various events in different parts of the our archipelago. I may blame it to our schools as not being as interesting in teaching history as you experience in a place.

Bone remains of Emiliana

An open coffin remains.

One of the amusing discoveries we found is another small burial cave inside the Echo Valley region not listed on their map. I literally, fell on my way there. I didn’t know what happened but I slipped on a side cliff. I tried to hang on to my life with a tripod on one hand as I didn’t know how high I would fall. My grip failed me and I just let myself fall, and for some strange reason I didn’t feel any fear whatsoever. I found myself only 6 or 7 feet high fall with bamboo tree roots cushioning my fall. Thanks to my mini backpack, I only suffered a few scratches and bruises on both arms. Thank God for that! Hahaha. That was a first for me, and my companion told me that it scared him and was ready to deny knowing me if anything happened! Hahaha.

Going back to that small cave, we weren’t actually looking for it, but we were informed of the burial cave discovery and our other companions who have a different IT with us that day were looking for it, missed it by a turn. Out of curiousity and desire to take a photo of a group of hanging coffins on the west side of the valley, we treaded an unbeaten path and found this small cave, obstructed by thorny plants on the end of the path. My companion investigated it while I took a photo and was startled to find more coffins inside. So this is what they were looking for. One coffin was open with the skull clearly visible. The skull seemed smaller than the usual, like a child, but the coffin was quite long. I didn’t want to dirturb it really but I want to take a good picture and had to reposition the skull. Believe me I had wierd dreams that night of a woman speaking to me in a really strange language. That corpse’s name is Emilaiana by the way.

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Festivals Mountain Province Mountain Province Philippines Travel

A festival of lights

Sagada's Festival of Lights

A unique light show in Sagada’s Cemetary

No, this is not a scene from “Constantine” movie’s hell dimension. This is what the people of Sagada calls the “Festival of lights“. It’s so refreshing to see a different cultural practice being observed up here in the Cordilleras. A fellow traveler akin the practice to those of Mexico’s. So why is it like this? Not candles?

Actually some graves have candles for those who no longer practice the pine wood burning, but majority still follow the tradition. This tradition started when long ago there were no candles available at the province so they have to improvise with pine wood. Before that they have this early afternoon mass which they do a “Roll call” of all the names of the dead since the beginning of recorded history until to the most recent ones who have died. (So imagine the list growing every year and the ceremony grows longer) Then the priest blesses the pine woods which they will be using to burn as pyre at their loved one’s grave. By sundown all of them lights up their pine woods, thus the festival of lights start. From afar it would seem that the forest is on fire.

Sagada is a perfect place to go to during the holloweens, not only from it’s natural hanging coffins and human remains scattered on its vicinity but also in experiencing this “Festival of Lights”. Happy holloween!