Kabayan Mummies Burial Cave – Philippines

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

(c) 2014, Robyn LaRue

The Kabayan Mummies, also known as the Fire Mummies, of the Philippines can be found in the caves of Kabayan.  The corpses in the caves are probably one of the most unique in the antiquity of Earth’s civilization.  The process of mummification began before death, where a person would ingest a salty liquid.  Immediately after death, the corpse was washed and placed over a file, drying out all of the fluids.  Tobacco smoke was also blown into the mouth to dry out the internal organs.  Herbs were then the final step and rubbed all over the dehydrated corpse as a means of preservation.  The corpse was then placed into a pinewood coffin, transported to the burial cave, and laid to rest within the cave’s natural niches.  The entire burial process is estimated to take several weeks to months to finish.

The mummies are believed to have been first created between 1200 by the Ibaloi tribe.  This mummification process slowly died out in the 1500 AD after Spain colonization of the Philippines.

Over time, the burial caves have become an endangered location because up until the 21st century, the caves were left unprotected.  Vandals and grave robbers were the main culprits to the mummies’ desecration.  There are only about 50-80 mummies left within the caves, and their whereabouts have not been disclosed to prevent further vandalization.  Several of the mummies are on display at the Kabayan museum.

An obscure place to visit, for sure.  However, the care and love that went into the mummification process is simply beautiful.

I was not able to find any creative commons photos to post nor a video that had a good enough quality.  So please search for “Kabayan Mummies” or “Fire Mummies of Kabayan” and look at the search result photos.  The mummies are absolutely breathtaking – in a good way.


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6 thoughts on “Kabayan Mummies Burial Cave – Philippines

  1. Always amazing to see how different cultures think about and deal with death. I thought it was interesting that these mummies are in the fetal position. Makes me wonder about how they might have connected birth with death. It’s also interesting how in most mummy films, the mummies are the evil ones. I mean, there’s usually *some* criticism of those plundering the burial sites, but the mummies end up being the enemies. I keep thinking as I read your stuff, what’s the real source of the horrific: the supernatural, or the human?

    • You know, I had that same passing though about the “fetal-position”. Leave life in the same position as coming into it. Though how would they know babies sit like that within the womb? An interesting thing to ponder…

      I never understood why mummies are always depicted as evil. Is it because they wake up angry to find their burial treasure ransacked, as you have suggested. Which then leads into your thought about the true source of horror. I personally believe it is human. And my posts will always lean towards that direction. That doesn’t mean that there is no malice on the supernatural end… but the humanity takes up a major share of the evil. Not all humanity – but a large portion of it.

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