Unique fire mummies Kabayana
Mummification - a relatively well-studied ancient rite of preserving the bodies of the dead - is mainly associated with the embalmed Egyptian mummies. However, surprisingly well-preserved remains found in the Philippines, shed light on the existence of another type of mummy - fire. The uniqueness of the Kabayan fire mummies is that, unlike most antiquities, they are still located in their natural environment. The caves that keep their secret have been repeatedly looted, and are now considered a threatened place.
The caves were first discovered by loggers at the beginning of the 20th century, when industrial activity began in the forests in the north of the Philippines. They were left unprotected, as a result of which they were partially looted. Now they are open to the public, but they are not so easy to find, because the locals and the government of the Philippines are trying to preserve their whereabouts. To the most interesting caves you need to climb the mountains for a long time on foot with a local guide, who must necessarily be a descendant of ibaloi - otherwise the mummies will be angry.
The entrance to the cave is covered with lattices, but with a guide you can get directly inside and find yourself literally at arm's length from mummies, which have kept their secret for many centuries. Mummies clearly see tattoos on the skin, some have teeth and even hair.
In the body of fire mummies all internal organs are preserved. It is believed that the process of mummification began during his lifetime, when the dying man was given a drink of a salt drink, beginning to gradually dehydrate the body. After death, a difficult process continued, sometimes taking several weeks or even months. The body was thoroughly washed and placed above the heat source in a sitting position. Thus, the ibaloi could accommodate more remains in a narrow cave. The bodies were never directly exposed to open fire, but simply “smoked” over the smoldering fire. The heat from the smoke gradually completely removed all fluids from the body, leaving it hard and dry.
When the body was completely dried outside, they proceeded to the final stage - drying it from the inside. Ibaloi blew tobacco smoke into the mummy’s mouth to dry the internal organs.After that, the completely dried body was rubbed with herbs and placed in a small oval-shaped wooden coffin inside one of the caves.
Despite the obvious antiquity and fragility of the remains, some mummies of Kabayan were stolen and sold in Europe for considerable money. A problem of this magnitude forced the Philippine Foreign Ministry to intervene to ensure the return of as many remains as possible to their burial site. In 2004, eight mummies were returned to the caves, but many still remain undiscovered.
One extremely noticeable disappearance occurred in 1919. It was covered with intricate tattoos of the body of the leader Apo Anna, who died about 500 years before. As it turned out later, the mummy was abducted by a Filipino pastor during a visit to the caves and after some time surfaced as an exhibit on display at a circus in Manila. After that, the mummy changed owners several times until in 1984 it was finally transferred to the National Museum. The museum promptly notified the government, and the body was returned to the cave and reburied with all appropriate rituals.
Like many other places of ancient burials, the caves of Kabayana are surrounded by many superstitions. Locals believe that as a result of the desecration of the grave of Apo Anna, a curse is on their land, causing drought, earthquakes and famine. To ensure the continued safety of the mummy, the government built a special fence around its burial site and offered to pay for any other necessary security measures.
Although the Ibaloi no longer practice mummification (this art was lost with the arrival of the Spanish colonialists in the 16th century), they still worship mummies as their ancestors, consider caves to be sacred territory and conduct rituals there.