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Apr 28, 2013

Sagada All Saints Day: Burnt Pine Woods and Thick Black Smoke

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Local Sagadans burn pine wood instead of candle to commemorate their dead loved ones on November 1.

November 1 is called the “All Saints Day” and Novemer 2 as the “All Souls Day”. We often commemorate our dead loved ones on November 1. We bring candles, lit them up and pray for them. Some people even bring food (the dead one’s favorite when he/she was still living) as their “atang” (offering). In other parts of the country, some even rejoice, bring their whole family to gather, eat food over the grave, and sing. But it’s a different event when you visit Sagada for this important day.

Interview. (You can turn on HD.)

Nothing Beats Plain Nature Adventure: Sagada

I would have posted this article sometime last year in November, but I don’t have much time to start my Sagada articles as I still have to finish bunch of articles relating to Subic, Baguio, Manila and even Cebu. Came 2013 when I started Sagada posts, and here we are at my Sagada ender post. This is an untimely post about their celebration of All Saints Day, but it’s still a worthy post that you have to know.

Even big media networks came to Sagada in this particular occasion. Marked 2011 and the reporters of CNN came to cover such. Last year, TV5 came to interview people and gather information about Sagada’s All Saint’s Day. I and my friend have also worked with a reporter from Philippine Daily Inquirer to collect information and we were lucky to interview one of the old people who know more than what actually the event was. I included here a short clip of the interview.

If it was common to light a candle over the grave, in Sagada, they burn woods of pine trees. It was a very old tradition, dating back to the time before the Americans came. During the old times, early Sagadans use pine woods to create a torch, burn it and it will serve as their beacon in getting to the deepest of the caves in Sagada, where the early graveyards were. It was the Americans’ idea of putting up a centralized cemetery in Sagada, but to the extent that they still did not use candles as part of the ceremonies. Early Sagadans were pagans (or people who believe that gods exist everywhere like the rocks or the caves) as told by Christian, a local Sagadan.  Secondly, pine trees were the most available material during that time and until these days.

The burnt wood of pine trees smell like incense, according to tourists who even came from Manila to witness such. We interviewed them about their insights, and they told us that Sagada’s celebration is very unique and cannot be found elsewhere. They were just supposed to do the caving and nothing else, but when they knew about the unique ceremonies of the people on November 1, they came to see it.
 
Sagada cemetery

The priest on his way

The burning of pine woods creates thick black smoke that is unsuitable to people who have asthma. Individual sessions of burning woods start as soon as the priest starts blessing the graves. This particular ceremony, unlike in other parts of the Philippines where people can start anytime (or even before November 1), only happens from 5 PM until the night. If you’re planning to see such, be there before 5 PM. Anyway, seeing a glimpse of it is already enough, because I do not recommend first timers, especially those who have allergies to smoke and asthma, to stay long. We did not stay long in the cemetery. We want back to church right after.

Foreign tourists were also amazed how Sagadans celebrate this particular day. Some of them whom we interviewed were atheists, or people who do not believe in God or there is one God. Some others came all the way from Oregon, USA and were satisfied to witness such.



Came 7 PM and we went back to Christian’s home. I ate their home-cooked etag and it was tasty. Christian told me that November 1 and 2 were like December 24 and 25 in Sagada, because this is the most important gathering date of the people there. They cook etag and kakanin, which were only made and served during these days. Some of the Sagadans work in Baguio City and go home during these days. Christian also said that more locals who work in Baguio prefer to go home on November 1 or 2 rather than go home for Christmas.
 
Pine woods were burnt during the ceremony
This was the last part of my very own itinerary in Sagada. I woke up as early as 4 AM in the morning for the 5 AM bus bound to Baguio. These dates (October 30 – November 3) were one of the peak seasons in Sagada, other than the Holy Week. I was lucky to ride the 5 AM bus because tourists were lining up (and it was very long) just to ride a bus going back to Baguio City.

Sagada is one of my most meaningful trips because I learned a lot of their culture and history. And I appreciate it. I hope you do to if you visit Sagada sometime too.

 Nothing Beats Plain Nature Adventure: Sagada Travel Series (20 - 30):
Part 26: A Quick Breakfast Inside Dalikan Restaurant, Sagada
Part 27: A Visit to the Old Village of Sagada: Home Weaving and Etag
Part 28: Lemony Lunch @ Lemon Pie House in Sagada
Part 29: When They Call It Halo-Halo in Sagada
Part 30:  Sagada All Saints Day: Burnt Pine Woods and Thick Black Smoke.
Travex Travels GUIDE: Three-Day Sagada Itinerary and List of Expenses

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