Home Art and cultureReligion and PhilosophyThe Hanging Coffins in Philippines: Safety Is Priority
The Hanging Coffins in Philippines: Safety Is Priority

The Hanging Coffins in Philippines: Safety Is Priority

We might be familiar to the idea that people would bury the coffins only. When one person is no longer, they would rest in a coffin which finally ends up deep in the earth. But how about the hanging coffins? In the Philippines, there is a tribe who has long been practicing the tradition of hanging the coffins on the cliffs.

It is the Igorot tribe in the northern part of the Philippines that nailed the coffins to the cliffs at a high height above the ground.

One of the common beliefs about this practice is that when you move the bodies of the deceased higher, you bring them higher to the ancestors.

Another reason for this practice is that the elderly feared the ground burial. Because they knew that water would leak into the coffins which finally rotted them. They wanted a place where their bodies would be safe.

They also feared that dogs would eat up the corpse of the deceased. So if the coffins rest on the high place, dogs cannot find them. Another reason is that people fear the headhunting days. Savages from different parts in Kalinga and Bontoc province would hunt for the heads and bring them back home. These reasons explain why they don’t want their corpse to be in the ground.

The living will tie the corpse with rattan and vines and then cover it with a blanket. It is then placed facing the main door of their relatives. In this way, the deceased could help to pay respects for the living. Cadaver is smoked as a means to prevent fast decomposition and as a way to conceal the rotting smell. After a few days, the relatives would carry the corpse into the coffins. Before the final step, the corpse would be placed in a foetal position when the legs are pushed towards chin. Then wrapped by one more blanket, a small group of men chip holes into the side of the cliff. Then they would hammer the coffin there.

When they reach the funeral site, young men climb up and bring the corpse to the hanging coffins. In the past, people woudl crack the bones to make them fit into small space. But now, the common length for the coffins is two meters in height. Because now people are afraid to break the bones of the beloved ones.

However, the tradition is dying out. Because the young generation is now adopting a new religion which is Christianity. They don’t want to hang their beloved ones on the cliff. Rather, they would choose to bury the deceased in the cemetery and visit them on All Saints Day.

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