The Unique Kabayan Fire Mummies

Mummification – Relatively well-studied ancient rite preservation of dead bodies – mostly we associate with the embalmed Egyptian mummies. However, remarkably well-preserved remains found in the Philippines, have shed light on the existence of both types of mummies – fire. Uniqueness fire Kabayan mummies that, unlike most antiquities they are still located in the natural environment. Caves, keeping them secret, have been repeatedly looted and is now considered to be the place endangered.


The Unique Kabayan Fire Mummies

Kabayan – The municipality as part of the province of Benguet in northern Philippines. About 30% of the population of the province is ibaloi people whose ancestors owned the secret of the unique process of mummification. Ibaloi believe that the dead can help the living to solve complex questions of life and share the acquired wisdom, but only if their bodies remain in-corrupt. That is why the mountains are hundreds of the dried bodies of their ancestors, starts dating XIII century.


Caves were first discovered by loggers in the early XX century, when the forests in the north of the Philippines started commercial activity. They were left unprotected, whereby they were partially robbed. They are now open to the public, but they are not easy to find, because the local people and the government of the Philippines try to keep their whereabouts. The most interesting caves takes a long time to climb the mountain on foot with a local guide, which must be a descendant of ibaloi – or mummy angered.



The cave entrance is closed lattice, but with a guide, you can go directly inside and be literally at arm’s length from the mummies, for many centuries, which keep their secret. In mummies clearly visible tattoos on the skin, some even preserved teeth and hair.


The body of the fire mummies preserved internal organs. It is believed that mummification process began during his lifetime, when the dying allowed to drink hydrochloric drink, gradually begins to dehydrate the body. After the death of continued difficult process, sometimes taking several weeks or even months. The body is washed thoroughly and placed on a heat source in a sitting position. So ibaloi could fit in a close cave longer remains. Body never directly exposed to open flames, but simply “Copts” over the smoldering fire. The heat from the smoke gradually completely eliminated all the liquid from the body, leaving it tough and dry.


When the outside of the body was completely dried, they proceed to the final stage – drying it from the inside. Ibaloi tobacco smoke was blown to dry the internal organs in the mummy’s mouth. After that completely dried body is rubbed with herbs and placed in a small wooden coffin oval inside one of the caves.


Despite the apparent fragility of the remains of antiquity and some Kabayan mummies were stolen and sold in Europe for a lot of money. The problem of this magnitude has forced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines to intervene to ensure the return of as many of the remains to the place of their burial. In 2004, eight mummies were returned to the caves, but many still remain undiscovered.


One very noticeable disappearance occurred in 1919. It was covered with intricate body tattoos leader Apo Anna, who died about 500 years before. As it turned out later, the mummy was abducted Filipino pastor during a visit to the caves and after a while emerged as an exhibit, on display in a circus in Manila. After that mummy changed owners several times until in 1984 it has not been finally handed over to the National Museum. Museum immediately informed the Government, and the body was returned to the cave and reburied with all due rites.


Like many other places of ancient burial caves Kabayan surrounded by many superstitions. Locals believe that as a result of the desecration of the grave of Anna Apo on their land is cursed, causing drought, earthquakes and famine.To ensure the continued safety of the mummy, the government erected a fence around a special place of its burial, and offered to pay any other necessary safety measures.


Although ibaloi longer practiced mummification (this art has been lost with the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the XVI century), they are still revered as the mummies of their ancestors, the cave is considered sacred territory and carried out rituals there.

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