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Published: December 24th 2010
Good-bye beach, ocean and coastal sun...hello cool, crisp mountains!
One flight to North Luzon and a 9 hour bus ride later, we arrived in the stunning Cordillera Mountain Range. Our first stop was Kabayan, home to the Ifugao hill tribe people. Nestled at the base of Mt. Timbac (~2400m above sea level) and surrounded by picturesque mountain peaks, we began our 6 hour climb up Mt. Timbac to come face-to-face with 200 year old mummies! Between the grueling hike and pristine conditions of the mummies, we were in a state of aw.
The mummification process used by the Ifugao is like none other in the world. The process begins as the person draws in their last breath or directly at the time of death. They are bound in a seated position on a wooden chair that is placed outside of the traditional longhouse, where they are fed a salt water and herbal solution. The body remains on the chair until most of the internal fluids have drained. Unlike Egyptian mummies, individuals are placed in the fetal position unbound and smoked for 6-12 months with all of their internal organs! The smoke forces parasites and other microorganisms out of body,
completing the preservation process. Depending on the individual, post-death tattooing using a tomato based dye is used to decorate the drying skin. This process is no longer practiced by the Ifugao, challenging knowledge transfer of this practice to future generations.
We feel extremely lucky to have witnessed this piece of history.
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