Unusual Cemetery: The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

By | 05/20/2013

Sagada, Mountain Province offers a fascinating glimpse to ancient times through its world-famous hanging coffins.

Situated six hours away of Banaue, the Lumiang Burial Cave houses a total of 200 coffins that have survived 500 years of natural and man-made disasters. Eerie yet fascinating, the old Igorot tradition of burying their loved ones speaks highly of the tribe’s rich culture.


Bizarre, forgotten tradition

The hanging coffins of Sagada are picture-perfect sight more impressive than any horror fiction. Within the dark corners of the Lumiang Burial Cave lay a stack of coffins which enclose some of the oldest Igorot ancestors. A number of coffins, however, are placed in the highest corners of the cave walls. These coffins are suspended from the limestone cliffs via ropes and strong wires.

Local tourist guides assure visitors that the position of the coffins signify how much  loved ones cared for the deceased. In other words, the higher the coffin, the more valued the deceased was. The coffins were made by hollowing out logs that are apparently smaller than the actual size of the dead. As a result, the body would assume a “fetal position”–a preferred technique believed by ancient Igorots as a way to bring  peace to the departed’s soul.


A step closer to heaven

Sagada hanging coffins are a gem that one can only reach through an exhausting trek. During the Pre-Hispanic era, relatives and loved ones of the deceased would travel the beaten path in order to place the coffin inside the Lumiang Cave. Prior to that, a 5-day pre-burial ritual was required during which the body was preserved using smoke.

The hanging coffins of Sagada may be awkwardly placed but for ancient Igorots, the bizarre tradition was meant to put their loved ones closer to heaven. Sadly, even dangerous heights have failed to stop some tourists from doing bad deeds. Reports said that the bones within the hanging coffins were stolen either as souvenirs or for other purposes God only knows.

Perhaps its about time for the local government to employ all efforts to preserve these unusual yet marvelous reminders of our past. Sagada hanging coffins are not just a tourist spot but also vanguards of history that highly deserve protection.


Interesting facts about the Hanging Coffins of Sagada:

1. Igorot tradition only permitted those who died from natural causes to be placed inside the hanging coffins. Those who either died as infants or from illnesses were believed to bring bad luck if enclosed in the coffins.

2. The ancient Igorots hung the coffins first using difficult techniques that are left to our own imagination. Once the coffins were properly suspended, the bodies wrapped in cloth would then be placed inside them.

3. The person who would get a drop of blood while the wrapped body of the deceased were being passed towards the coffin was considered the luckiest. The blood symbolizes good fortune.


Featured image courtesy of: philippinewanderer.org


17 thoughts on “Unusual Cemetery: The Hanging Coffins of Sagada

  1. Franc Ramon

    Sagada is really very rich in heritage and tradition and the hanging coffin is one that held on to this day in Sagada and it is such a nice tourist attraction.

  2. Working MAMA

    honestly this is my first time to hear about the hanging coffins in our country.. maybe it’s time for me to explore more about our country

  3. Ganessa

    Sagada is a place I really want to explore… hopefully before the year ends I’ll be able to see those coffins up close.

  4. Lui B. Post author

    @Working MAMA Thanks for dropping by! Perhaps you can like our FB page so you’ll be updated about lesser-known Pinoy facts, trivia, and news.

  5. Mai

    I haven’t gotten the chance to go to Sagada yet. But I would definitely see the hanging coffins when I do visit. Eerie as the facts may go. But those are the things that actually help make our Filipino culture more interesting. :)

  6. lovemindanao

    interesting fact about the hanging coffin . Ive almost forgotten these things. Ive visited the place a year ago and I am wondering how I wasn’t able to write about it until now. Maybe it’s time also to share my experience —troubled experience that is.

  7. Wanderer Juan

    I also visited the hanging coffins when I visited Sagada last year. It was an interesting ritual.

  8. Lui B. Post author

    @lovemindanao I would love to read your thoughts about the hanging coffins. I’ll definitely watch out for that. Thanks for dropping by Sir:)

  9. Francis Balgos

    Fascinating traditions, some are faintly similar to burial traditions from Benguet..
    Though honestly, nothing comes closer and bizzare than the fire mummies of Benguet.
    Sagada and perhaps all throughout Mt Province have their own rich heritage, aside from bloody tribal history.
    The hanging coffins are actually fairing much better than the cave coffins, Lumiang is just one of the many sacred caves for burial. Simply put, since hanging coffins are placed out of reach of common vandalizers.

    FYI: We pinoys should be proud of these hanging coffins, we are one of the 3 countries in the world to hang our dead in rock walls.. soon, China will be out of the list, leaving only Indonesia and Philippines to have this unique tradition.

  10. Lui B. Post author

    @Francis Wow. Thanks for that little trivia. I agree. The hanging coffins of Sagada are a rare find and should be protected (from thieves and vandalizers) by all cost. Thanks for putting down your thoughts:)

  11. traveling morion

    One of the top spots in the North I am excited to explore! Sagada is indeed a very interesting place to explore- rich in traditions and cultures

  12. Mark Morfe

    Sagada has been a favorite of mine since 2010. I hope I could visit sometime soon. ^_^

  13. Shirgie Scf

    As far as I know, the deceased body inside these coffins are mummified. I think that is how they bury their dead at Sagada long time ago. It’s good that this was preserved.

  14. Shie

    I didn’t get to see it up close but only from the Echo Valley when I visited Sagada a few years back. This place is really mystique in most ways and one of the many reasons why Sagada remains on top of my must visit destination.

  15. marri

    These hanging coffins are living proofs how the people of Sagada (more than 500 years ago) value their dead relatives. They have to risk their own lives just to place them closer to heaven.

  16. Kim Nieves (@iamkimnieves)

    The hanging coffins of Sagada look so stunning! I want to visit the place too! =)

  17. mj

    Never thought there’s a tourist destination like that in the Ph. Shame on me to know this until just a horrible accident happened this year where bus fell out on cliff near that area and recorded a total of 14 fatalities. Could this be a disturb soul from a Hanging Coffins? Just a thought, I do believe in unseen force…

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