The main reason I climbed Mt. Timbac is to see the fire mummies of Kabayan Benguet. Unlike the cave that we visited in Mt. Cabuyao, the mummy caves in Mt. Timbac are well guarded by a locked fence. So you need a guide to enter it to be able to see the mummies. From the house where we stayed for a while, we descended to the caves via the concrete stairs.
It only takes about 10-15 minutes to reach it. Along the way to the main cave, you'll pass by a cave containing some small coffins.
Then we continued walking towards the site of the mummies. The small cave containing at least 8 coffins is locked to protect them from vandalism and theft. Then my guide said a little prayer before opening the lock of the cave - perhaps asking for permission.
We entered the small cave and my guide opened one of the coffins. I must admit, I was scared a bit as the mummy is just beside me. But I am definitely at awe when I saw it. It's my first time to see a mummy. I couldn't explain the feeling. I was afraid and stunned at the same time! :)
According to my readings, the mummification process is done even before the dying member of the tribe draws his last breath by feeding him with salty solutions. The deceased is then cleaned, heated, applied with some herbal mixture and their mouths were filled with smoke to continue the mummification process. The whole process is done over a period of time until they were placed in a fetal position into an oval-shaped wooden coffin.
My guide told me that there is one coffin which contains a family. He pointed me to one of the biggest coffins which according to him has around four mummified remains. We didn't opened it anymore, seeing one mummy is enough for me. Note: Please show appropriate courtesy and respect for the dead. Also, do not touch the mummies to avoid further deterioration.
According to my guide, there are still a lot burial sites which are only known to Ibaloi elders. This is to protect them from theft and eventually sold in the black market.
I was in a state of awe for quite some time upon seeing one of the treasures of the Cordillera region. It is definitely worth preserving as the mummy caves are considered sacred sites for the Ibaloi tribe where they carry out their rituals. Seeing a mummy is definitely the highlight of this 2-day Benguet adventure - a culturally enriching one!
When visiting the Kabayan mummies, the culturally accepted way is to get an Ibaloi guide. You need the guide as he will also coordinate with the caretakers for the keys to open the mummy cave. I highly suggest that you contact my guide, Vince Gapuz at 0919-8524410 or add him in Facebook at www.facebook.com/vince.gapuz if you wish to see the mummies.
I didn't took photos of the mummies. Instead, I asked my guide to provide me with some photos from his file - which I used in this entry. Thanks also to Mr. Gabriel Malvar for the 1st photo.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Manila, take a Victory Liner bus bound for Baguio City. Terminals can be found in Pasay, Cubao or Sampaloc. Fare is about 455 pesos and travel time is around 6 hours.
Option 1 (via KM 55 in Atok Benguet) : From Dangwa terminal at the city proper, take a regular bus bound for Sagada, Bontoc or Abatan. Buy a ticket and tell them that you'll be alighting at KM 55 in Atok Benguet which is the jump-off point to the Timbac trail. Fare is 80 pesos and travel time is about 2.5 hours. From here, you can meet-up with the guide and start the hike to the mummy caves.
Option 2 (via Kabayan, Benguet) : From the Slaughterhouse bus terminal along Magsaysay Avenue, take a regular bus bound for Kabayan which departs at 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM daily. Travel time is 5 hours and fare is around 130 pesos. From the town center, you can meet-up with the guide and start the hike to the mummy caves.
This is part of my "Benguet Twin Hike Adventure" that happened last March 17-18, 2012.
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