June 7, 2023

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Some Ibaloi and Kankana-ey tribe members live with their dead relatives in their homes, a practice still observed until now.

Marcel Taynan-Tagel, a resident of Barangay Ambiong here and a native of Kabayan known for its mummies, said they bury their loved ones in the backyard because of the absence of a public cemetery.

She said those whose families own “mountains” or vast land areas establish family cemeteries, but there are many who have no land away from their residences, therefore have no choice but to bury their dead in the backyard or inside the house in the absence of a backyard.

They also have relatives who opt to be buried within the house as an assurance the property they will leave behind will not be sold by their children.

This is one reason why for some natives who value their homes or have inherited them from their ancestors, a graveyard serves as an inscription more than the value of a document showing ownership.

She said she has relatives who have prepared their graveyard inside their homes, ready when their time comes.

Lorna Familan Tumilang, who comes from the Kankaka-ey and Kalanguya tribes in Benguet whose family resides in a compound at the capital town with relatives from her maternal side, said they also live with their grandfather whose grave is at one side facing the middle of the entire property that is surrounded by their houses.

This is despite his grandfather establishing a family cemetery in another property at Barangay Lubas where his great grandparents and other relatives have been entombed.

“It is like he is with us. They see us when we are having fun and together as a family. They are with us when we come together as a family to handle problems. That was what they want, we see them and we feel them always,” she said.

Beside her grandfather’s tomb is an empty and open tomb, where her grandmother will also be buried when her time comes, a wish her grandfather also made before he passed away.

Marcel and Lorna who are in their early 40’s said they follow traditions of the family although Marcel said they bought a memorial lot at the capital town in case they see the need for it outside traditions.

Marie Rose Fongwan-Kepes, a mix-blood from the Ibaloi, Kankana-ey, and Kalanguya tribes, said the practice of burying their loved ones within the residential compound is a tradition passed on by their elders that she hopes to pass on to her children.

Her father, former Benguet Rep. Nestor Fongwan, who died in December 2019, was buried at the family residence compound in Puguis.

Fongwan-Kepes said it was her father’s wish to be buried there.

Former Mayor Greg Abalos, whose ancestral home is at Km. 6, also has a room where their ancestor is buried.

Fongwan-Kepes said many Benguet people, especially those who grew up in urban areas, modify the practices, particularly those that entail many expenses.

“There are rituals like the cañao during the wake, the butchering of numerous pigs daily while the dead is being watched, and the coffin is made of a carved pine tree trunk that put together the traditional way without the use of nails or a glass,” she said.

A horse is also butchered the night before the burial, which will transport the spirit of the dead going to Mt. Pulag, regarded as the final resting place of the dead natives of Benguet.

Expenses do not end after burial. There are instances when the dead makes his presence felt to a family member through dreams saying he feels cold or there is something that is hurting, the body is exhumed and a cañao and butchering of more pigs are done.

She said those who reside in rural areas strictly observe the tradition but others alter due to modernization, change of mindset, and financial issues.

She advised for people to preserve what they can afford and forego with those they cannot or impractical to their situation. – PNA