The Lumiang Cave is home to 100 ancient coffins. Stacked one on top of the other, these coffins form an eye-catching wall at the entrance of the cave that rises nine layers high. It has been estimated that the oldest coffins are around 500 years old.
The coffins were placed at the entrance to protect them from the elements, but in the same token, so they could receive daylight that wards off evil spirits that may disturb these souls’ eternal rest. The coffins are very strange, as they are quite small for a full-grown adult. It’s believed the corpses were laid in the coffins in a fetal position. It was done so that the deceased could exit this life the same as they entered.
Most of the coffins are designed from a hollowed-out section of a tree trunk, with a lid firmly secured to the coffin by means of a rudimentary, but effective latch. A few others are thinner and longer, and consist of wooden planks nailed together. Some coffins display a rather plain design, while others exhibit stylized carvings of lizards, which symbolize longevity and fertility.
The tradition of entombing the dead in caves is still alive today among the Applai people, a sub-group of the widespread Igorot ethnic group that is responsible for the signature hanging coffins of Sagada. However, it’s a costly burial, as custom dictates that chickens, pigs, and carabaos be sacrificed during the funeral ceremony in a number that is consonant with the status of the deceased.
Going deeper inside the Lumiang Cave leads to the Sumaguing Cave. This is a two to four hour spelunking hike that will require one to be reasonably brave and fit. To complete the hike, visitors will have to do some beginner-level rock climbing and rappelling, navigate underground pools, and squeeze through narrow vertical and horizontal openings.
Know Before You Go
A mere 10-minute walk from Sagada heading towards Ambasing. The path to Lumiang Cave includes several signposts. A guide is necessary for venturing further inside the cave and connecting with Sumaguing Cave.