Today is All Saints' Day, the day when Filipinos flock to cemeteries (and cause massive traffic jams in the process) to pay their respects to departed loved ones. Since the majority of Filipinos are Catholics, they tend to follow a specific set of rules and customs when conducting funerals.
But what about non-Catholic Filipinos? How do they make sure that their dead are adequately prepared for the next world? Let's take a look at some of those fascinating burial traditions below.
In Ilocos, burial rites are called "pompon." If an Ilokano man dies, it's his wife's responsibility to prepare his body for the wake. She's the only one allowed to dress him in funeral clothes, since it's believed that the husband can still communicate with the living through her.
During the wake, the coffin is placed in the center of the house parallel to the planks of the floorboards. A wooden log is also lit outside the house, so that the dead can ascend towards heaven and repel evil spirits along the way. To indicate that they're in mourning, the women dress in black, complete with a veil called manto that covers their head and shoulders.
Cordillera Administrative Region
In the Apayao province, it's customary for the dead to be buried underneath the kitchen area.
In Abra, on the other hand, the Itnegs or Tinguians dress their dead with the best clothes, have them sit on a chair and "smoke" a tobacco source for several weeks. Afterwards, they bury the body under the house where the deceased once lived.
In Benguet, the dead are blindfolded, tied to a chair in a sitting position and placed near the main entrance of a house. Once the eve of the funeral arrives, the elders perform a bangil rite, where they chant a biography of the deceased. The dead person is then guided towards heaven by striking bamboo sticks together.
In Sagada, Mountain Province, the Igorots hang their coffins on limestone cliffs using wires and ropes (shown above). This is done to bring the dead closer to heaven. The higher the coffins are placed on the cliff, the more beloved they are by the living.
By the way, if you take a look at the bodies inside the Sagada coffins, you'll notice that they're in a fetal position. That's because the Igorots believe this is the best way for the soul to depart peacefully. Also, not every dead body can be buried this way: If the person died from illness or during infancy, they're buried elsewhere, since putting them in the hanging coffins is believed to bring bad luck.
Southern Tagalog Region
In some areas of Cavite, the locals bury their dead in trees. The person to be buried chooses their tree while they're still alive, and a hut is built near the chosen tree. Once the person dies, the tree is hollowed out, and the person is buried vertically within.
In Palawan, prehistoric people buried their dead in the so-called Manunggul jars. These jars are recognizable for their lids, which are carved in the shape of a pair of humans. One human represents the soul heading for the afterlife, while the other represents the boatman a la Charon in Greek mythology. The cover is also carved with intricate designs, and painted with materials like hematite, to complete the look.
The B'laan, who are also known as the "Baraan" or "Bilanes," wrap their dead inside tree barks, then hang the body from a treetop.
The T'Boli, on the other hand, have more elaborate ways of burying their dead. First, the body is placed in a boat-shaped wooden coffin, which is sealed with tree resin to prevent odor escaping from within. Then, it will undergo a wake that can last from one week to one year, depending on how well-respected the deceased was when s/he was still alive. Once the wake has ended, the coffin will be slowly heated over a fire to extract a fluid that can be used for sweet potato dishes.
Unlike most of the peoples on this list, the T'Boli don't bury their dead in a specific place. However, the dead are only interred at night, and the departed's loved ones hold a feast where part of the food is "shared" with the corpse. Afterwards, the deceased's belongings are destroyed, and the living perform purifying rituals to avoid attracting evil spirits.
In Surigao del Norte, the Mamanuas hold a burial as soon as a person dies. The corpse is wrapped with leaves or a mat, placed in a coffin and buried in a sitting or standing position. As soon as the funeral rites are done, the Mamanuas move to another settlement, for fear that the dead will return to haunt them. Sometimes, they exhume the larger bones of the dead for medicinal purposes.
Considering how many ethnic groups there are in the Philippines, this list only scratches the surface of strange yet fascinating burial practices in the country. If you're familiar with other burial practices that should be added here, add them in the space provided below!