Kabayan cave still closed

A KABAYAN mummy cave will remain closed to the public.

Clarifel Abellera, officer-in-charge of National Museum (NM) in Kabayan, said the Timbac cave has been sealed off since 2016 due to ongoing research under the management of the NM.

Abellera said the Timbac cave holds century-old mummies of Kabayan, Benguet, adding that if the caves are kept open to public, it would mean faster deterioration of the mummies.

A solution was presented in May during a forum with stakeholders using chemicals to stop the deterioration process, but the consequence would be a permanent sealing of coffins to protect the public from hazardous chemicals.

Abellera said it was during the forum that stakeholders manifested they still prefer the natural way of preservation for the Timbac mummies, which have been considered natural cultural treasures of the highland town that should be preserved and protected.

"We are hoping that with the new administration, there will be a time, those experts who conducted the research will present to the stakeholders and mayor of the town," Abellera said.

Kabayan Mayor Faustino Aquisan said that compared to mummies of Sagada, Mountain Province, there are mummy caves in Kabayan that require four to five hours hiking.

He said strict guidelines have been implemented, with prohibition on photography and touching of objects inside the caves.

Aquisan said old folk in the Benguet town promote the natural way of preservation just like that of Apo Anno, a revered ancestor, in Buguias, Benguet.

But while Timbac cave is closed, tourists can still visit the NM in Kabayan, which is home to female mummies, artifacts on local death rites and rituals, as well as plants used in mummification process.

The mummy caves of Kabayan, Benguet and Sagada and Alab of Mountain Province were designated as National Cultural Treasures under the Presidential Declaration 260 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos on August 1, 1973.

In the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act, possession of mummies is a violation.

Kabayan mummies sites are: the Tinongchol Burial Rock, Timbac Burial Rock Shelter, Pongasan and Kangal Burial Rock and National Museum in Kabayan.

In the outline review of Philippine Archaeology in 1947 American Anthropologist Henry Otley Beyer, he said one of the most interesting types of remains in the sub province is the great number of burial caves and niches containing wooden coffins, bones and especially dried mummies.

Mummification started in the 18th century and end of the 19th century. The process spans 60 days to two years, depending on the socio economic status of the departed.


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