Friday, October 28

8 places to visit this All Souls' Day in the Philippines

As All Saints Day and All Souls Day is coming near, most of us are packing our bags and heading off to our respective provinces to visit our beloved departed ones. For me, I won't be able to go home for the third straight year as I have to report for work to support my family's needs.

Anyway, I saw this from one of the facebook pages I usually frequent to and I find it quite interesting so I would like to share it with you. I may write something about it in my own words very soon =D.

8 places to visit this All Souls' Day in the Philippines
By Gael Hilotin for Yahoo! Travel

Paying respect to the dead can be traced back to as far as the era of modern homo sapiens when the remains of a Neanderthal man was unearthed with animal fragments and flowers suggestive of early funerary rites. All Souls' Day in the Philippines is one considered as one of the most important holidays. It is the time of the year when most people working in the city go home to their respective provinces to pay respect to their departed loved-ones.

But if you are one of those not-so-lucky-people who's not able to secure a flight or bus seat back to your province, here is a list of some interesting places considered as dark tourism destinations that you can visit to pay respect to the departed and at the same time, learn some history of the Philippines.

1. Hanging Coffins of Sagada, Mountain Province

In a rugged province north of the Philippines, there lies a sleepy town of Sagada where the locals still practice the hanging coffins - an ancient funerary rite of the Kankana-ey, one of the six ethno-linguistic tribe of the Igorot (indigenous inhabitants of the Cordillera region). The body of the departed and the coffins are transported separately to the Echo Valley - the sacred burial site where their ancestors are buried. It was originally practiced for the Kadangyan (the rich and the powerful) only, but now anyone who has gone to certain Kankana-ey rites during their lifetime is given the same privilege.

Sagada is one of the most frequented tourist destination of both the foreign and local tourists alike. It is famous for its culture, the warmth of its people, delicious food, artsy restaurant and its diverse natural beauty; from its majestic cave to the flat rice terraces, the beautiful falls, and its breathtaking sunrise. 

2. Kabayan Mummies and Opdas Cave in Benguet

If in the Kankane-ey culture they have the hanging coffins on the other hand, the Ibaloiculture (another ethno-linguistic tribe of the Igorot) practice mummification to preserve the dead. The mummification process uses salt and herbs before placing the body under fire, the mummies are then placed on capsule-shaped coffins and finally buried in a man-made cave dug out on solid rocks like the Tinongchol Burial Rock. In the town of Kabayan in Benguet where these mummies are found you can also find Opdas Cave, the biggest burial cave in the region which houses around 200 bones and skulls. 

3. Intramuros, Manila 

The beauty of the Philippines can be seen not only in its beautiful white sand beaches but also on its rich cultural heritage which involves not just indigenous culture but also long years of colonization. Under the Spanish rule, Intramuros, a poster city for discrimination was built where only the Spanish ruling classes were allowed to live. Located in the heart of Manila, it earned the moniker of the "Walled City" because of its fortified walls where it houses colonial churches, stately houses, plazas, universities and government buildings. The famous prison cell of the Philippine national hero - Jose Rizal is also found in Fort Santiago inside Intramuros. Some of its stately structures where heavily destroyed during the World War II.

Intramuros can be explored by foot, pedicab or ride a kalesa, a horse drawn carriage introduced to the Philippines by the Spaniards. Old Manila Walks by Ivan Man Dy is a recommended walking tour for an in depth familiarization of the city. 

4. San Joaquin Cemetery in Iloilo 

Cemeteries are defined as a burial site of the dead and often conjure images of macabre tales. But in the Philippines, you'll find old colonial chapels in cemeteries which are turned into tourist spot because of its architectural style and historical importance. One of the most beautiful and best-preserved old colonial chapel is San Joaquin cemetery in Iloilo which houses an octagonal chapel cemetery built in 1892 decorated with classical motif inspired by Baroque architecture.

Iloilo province is well-known for its delicious foods and imposing colonial churches like the Miag-ao Church which is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

5. Sunken Cemetery in Camiguin 

Another remarkable cemetery in the Philippines flocked by tourists is the sunken cemetery of Camiguin which is marked by a massive iconic white cross that looks like its floating in the sea. The cemetery where the ancestors of the locals are buried was swept by four historic eruptions of Mount Vulcano which started in 1872. Camiguin is famous for its white-sand beaches, springs, waterfalls, and lush jungles. 

6. Lake Mapanuepe in San Marcelino, Zambales 

In June 15, 1991 the eruption of Mount Pinatubo created havoc in Zambales and its neighboring provinces. The volcano's eruption redesigned and gave rise to some tourist spots in the province like the crater lake and majestic beaches. Hidden on the other side of the massif, is a another outcome of this catastrophe - Lake Mapanuepe which is unknown to many tourists.

When Mt. Pinatubo erupted, lahars descending along volcano channels to Marella River blocked its tributary Mapanuepe River and generated natural lakes. The Mapanuepe River overflowed to the village of Anglao and Bajaoen covering their houses, and livelihoods thus, the name Lake Mapanuepe was born (adopted from the name of the river itself). Sailing through its lake will bring you to the sunken church of Bajaoen 

7. Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay 

One the most famous catastrophes that hit the Philippines is the eruption of the legendary Mt. Mayon in Daraga, Albay leaving a lone church belfry of an 18th century church as the only remnant of its past.

Mt. Mayon is a world famous volcano known for its almost perfect cone. The best time to visit the Cagsawa Ruins is early in the morning around 6 AM when the sky is cloudless giving visitors a full view of its iconic beauty. 

8. Dominican Hill in Baguio City 

Dominican Hill is one of the sites in Baguio hunted by spirit questers. Built in 1913 by the Dominican priests as a vacation house, it served as niche of refugees fleeing from the Japanese soldiers during the World War II but was heavily bombed later. It was reconstructed and acquired by Diplomat Hotels but due to the unfortunate death of the owner in 1987, it ceased operations and was left in ruins. Dominican Hill offers a breath taking panoramic view of Baguio City and best visited during mid-afternoon and before the sun sets. Baguio is best known for its cold climate, pine trees, strawberries, ukay-ukay, Panagbenga, bohemian culture, talented artists and artsy cafes and museums.

As defined by Dr.Philip Stone of the University of Lancaster in 2005, Dark Tourism is the act of travel and visitation to sites, attractions and exhibitions which have real or recreated death, suffering or the seemingly macabre as a main theme. You may rarely hear this term but it's undeniably something that a multitude of tourists have participated in, though often unknowingly.

Dark tourism's entertaining value like any other forms of tourism has its ethical issues but there is definitely a good side to it like the commemoration of the departed, educating tourists, jobs for the locals, disaster learning and getting a better grasp of our dark past.

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