Hanging Coffins, Rice Terraces & Caves in the Northern Philippines

The Philippines is definitely one of my favourite countries- the people are so friendly, the islands and beaches are beautiful and the mountain province is stunning.

I wanted to experience as much of the Philippines as possible in the time I had. I was really intrigued by the Northern Mountain Province of the Philippines after watching the Sky documentary, ‘The Moaning of Life’ featuring Karl Pilkington. In the episode he visits Sagada where they nail their coffins to the cliff face! So, I decided I had to visit this place!

At this point in my trip I was a lone female traveler. I didn’t know a lot about getting around the Northern Philippines and I knew there were some treks involved so I decided to book a tour through G Adventures. This is a company I would highly recommend and have used a number of times now when I didn’t fancy tackling a country completely alone. They are one of, if not the cheapest on the market for small group tours but I often try and book during sales or use my returners discount.

I went in 2014 when they only offered 2 Philippines tours. But now they have some more options and the order of the itinerary has changed slightly. Here is a map of my itinerary (the tour was 9 days):

northernphilippines

Manila

We went on a guided tour of the city- had a look around the parks, Cathedrals and shopping malls. I have included more information about Manila in my other Philippines blog here.

Banaue

We took an overnight bus from Manila to Banaue. Once in Banaue we had a look around the town and visited the rice terraces. It is so beautiful and peaceful here the weather is also much cooler than the humid southern Philippines.

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Banaue
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Locals wearing traditional hats
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Rice Terraces
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Rice Terraces

Batad

After a short jeepney ride along scenic mountain roads we continued our journey by foot on local hiking trails to reach a local village in Batad. Here we stayed with the Ifugao people in a rustic but comfy homestay. We trekked along the huge rice terraces and we were taught how to traditionally prepare rice. We were also treated to a cultural performance where the men and women sang songs and danced in traditional dress.

The Trek:

The Homestay:

The Rice Terraces:

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Me and my tour group and guides

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The Cultural Performance:

Sagada

After another, shorter, bus ride we arrive in Sagada. This is the home of the hanging coffins. One of the most common beliefs behind this unusual burial practice is that moving the bodies of the dead higher up brings them closer to their ancestral spirits. Traditional hanging coffin burials are much less frequent nowadays. With a local guide we walked around to see these coffins- some are so high up in the cliffs that you can barely see them and others are in caves that you can walk right into. The coffins appear small because the bodies are placed inside in the fetal position.

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One of the other activities in Sagada was caving. This was a lot of fun! It was crazy how deep into the cave we went and at the bottom we had a quick swim in a freezing cold pool! Here are a couple of photos but sadly I lost my videos after my sd card got corrupted so these really do not do justice to how incredible it was inside the cave:

Baguio

Baguio was a pretty town with fantastic surrounding scenery. There wasn’t loads to do there but it may have seemed that way to me because I only had a day there. We opted to visit the Botanical Gardens. This was the last stop on our trip before heading back down to Manila.

If you want to read about my time in the Southern Philippines do have a read of my other blog: Jess Travels to the Philippines. Thanks!

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