April 11, 2016

2453 PHILIPPINES (Cordillera Administrative Region) - Hanging coffins in Sagada

Sagada is nestled in a valley at the upper end of the Malitep tributary of the Chico River, in the Central Cordillera Mountains, enveloped between the main Cordillera Ranges and the Ilocos Range. Perhaps for lack of transportation and willing guides, few conquistadors set foot in Sagada during the Spanish Era, and a Spanish Mission was not founded until 1882. As a result, it is one of a few places that has preserved its indigenous culture with little Spanish influence.

Sagada is famous for its hanging coffins, placed on cliffs, a traditional way of burying people that is still utilized by Igorots, albeit on a much smaller scale than before. The procedure can probably be traced back more than two millennia, and its purpose is to bring the deceased closer to heaven. In ancient times, coffins were made from carved and hollowed-out wood. Not everyone is qualified to be buried this way; among other things, one had to have been married and had grandchildren.

When someone dies, pigs and chickens are traditionally butchered for community celebrations. The deceased is then placed on a wooden sangadil, or death chair, is tied with rattan and vines, and covered with a blanket. Thereafter is positioned facing the main door of the house for relatives to pay their respects, then is smoked to prevent fast decomposition. The vigil for the dead is held for a number of days, after which the corpse is removed from the death chair and is carried to the coffin.

Before being taken for burial, it is secured in the foetal position, then is wrapped again in a blanket and tied with rattan leaves while a few men make holes into the cliff in the support for the coffin. When the procession reaches the burial site, young men climb up the cliff and place the corpse inside the coffin. The bones are cracked to fit the corpse into the small space, which is then sealed with vines. The newest coffins measure to about two metres, because the relatives of the deceased are afraid to break the bones of their loved ones.

About the stamps

The first stamp is one of the two issued on December 1, 2015, to mark the Year of the Monkey:
• Manigong Bagong Taon (10 PHP) - It's on the postcard 2453
• Happy New Year  (30 PHP)

The second stamp is part of the series 2012 Summer Olympics, London, UK, designed by Jay Javier R. Cahilig, Jr. and issued on July 27, 2012:
• Athletics (7 PHP)
• Shooting (7 PHP) - It's on the postcard 2453
• Swimming (7 PHP)
• Boxing (7 PHP)

Sagada - Wikipedia
The hanging coffins of Sagada, Philippines - Rough Guides

Senders: Edna
Sent from Sagada (Cordillera Administrative Region / Philippines), on 16.03.2016
Photo: Michael Wels

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