Caves have always been seen as places of mystery and this is especially true in the Philippines.
The Mountain holds several of the Philippines’ most treasured natural resources. Vast mountains are covered with luscious greenery which creates a view that will mesmerize just about anyone. However, every beauty holds a secret, and this one is not for the faint of heart.
In the late 19th century, loggers were stopped mid-work when they found one of the country’s most horrifying secrets. In the depths of the caves in Mt. Pulag, they uncovered several remains that appeared to be mummified.
These corpses have been identified as the Ibaloi Mummies otherwise known as Fire Mummies. This fascinating mummification goes back as far as 2000 B.C. and has been a practice of pre-colonial tribes residing in the Philippine mountains.
The mummies have gotten their name through the process they underwent. What’s terrifying is that some of the mummies may most likely have started with the process even before they have died!
According to Ibaloi tradition, severely ill individuals who are approaching their demise are made to ingest an extremely salty drink that marks the beginning of their mummification process.
Once they have passed on, their bodies are washed and are put into a seated position. This allows the corpses to dry up instead of getting cremated once they are placed above the flame. Other tribe members would also blow tobacco smoke in the deceased member’s mouth to make the insides dry faster.
The mummification process lasts up to an entire week carefully following Ibaloi rituals. After the process is over, the mummies are kept in wooden boxes and are buried inside caves.
This tradition ended sometime in the 1500s, but some caves surrounding the area are yet to be discovered. Currently, the caves serve as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
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While tourists are welcome to check out the fire mummies, some areas are kept closed for the general public. Travelers who are brave enough visit the area and learn about this thrilling tradition.