called Ibaloi mummies, Benguet mummies
This group of mummies, made by members of
the Ibaloi tribe, were found in caves in an area around Kabayan, a town in the Benguet
province of the Philippines (north of Manila). Well-preserved human mummies were initially
found in Timbak cave, Bangao cave, Tenongchol cave, Naapay and Opdas. However, when the mummies were rediscovered
in the early 1900s, many were stolen then and later, including the "smiling
mummy" (stolen in the 1970s) which was known for having an intact set of teeth.
The mummies, which were laid to rest in
mostly unprotected caves, have been designated as one of the 100 Most Endangered
Sites in the world by Monument Watch, a non-profit organization dedicated to the
preservation of important monuments and sites.
on this point. Some believe that the mummies were
created by the Ibaloi between 1200 and 1500 A.D. in five towns in the Benguet province of
the Philippines and buried in caves. Others believe that the mummification
practices date to 2000 B.C. What isn't in doubt, however, is that when the Spanish colonized the Philippines in the
1500s, they discouraged the making of mummies and the practice died out.
It appears that only tribal leaders were
mummified, though this theory may change with more discoveries and tests. The
mummification was begun, if possible, shortly before a person died. The person swallowed a
very salty drink to start the process. Then, after death, the body was washed and
seated in a chair that was set over a glowing fire. The purpose was not to burn the body
but to dry the fluids by exposing it to external heat. Tobacco smoke was then blown into
the person's mouth to dry the inside of the body and internal organs. Finally, herbs were
rubbed on the body. The drying/smoking process would have lasted many weeks and perhaps a
number of months before the mummy was finished. Then it was taken to a cave for burial.
(Source: Reuters, 4/22/99)
The National Museum of the Philippines
is conducting a comprehensive survey and documentation of around 50 caves around
To date, 28 human mummies have been accounted for and are in a state of considerable
deterioration. Research and studies on the preservation and development of the mummy
sites is being undertaken by the conservators of the National Museum of the Philippines,
according to Orlando
V. Abinion of the National Museum. Abinion believes that 100 other mummies are located in
the 200+ caves of Benguet.
The Governor of
Benguet, Raul Molintas, is also seeking the return of approximately 80 other mummies.
What's special about them
They have been declared a National Treasure of the Philippines.
2. The National
Museum of the Philippines recently returned the mummified and intricately tattooed body of
Apo Annu, a tribal leader in the Benguet province (140 miles north of Manila) who died 500
years ago. His body had been stolen from a burial cave near the town of Natubling in the
between 1918 and 1920. Museum curator Orlando
Abinion said the mummy was stolen by a Christian pastor between 1918 and 1920 and wound up
as part of a sideshow in a Manila circus; the mummy changed hands a number of times until
1984, when an antiques collector donated it to the National Museum. According
to Reuters, Apo Annu was "heavily tattooed--the mark of hunters and warriors...[and
is covered with] dried flesh, brownish in color. In a sitting position with arms held up
to his face, Apo Annu looks like a man praying to the heavens." He was dressed in the
clothes of a tribal chief before he was placed just in a wooden coffin inside his burial
3. Some residents of
the area believe that the region has been cursed by droughts, earthquakes, and famine
since the mummy of Apo Annu was looted. To insure that Apo Annu stays put, the local
government has built a fence around his resting place in the cave and has offered to pay
for other security measures.
These mummies are on
display in their natural caves. In fact, officials
know of between 50 and 80 other mummies, but they will not give their locations for fear
that the public will desecrate them. A small museum in Kabayan may also display a few mummies.
Where to find more information about him
the Kabayan mummies have had few chances to tell their story to the world. This is one of
the only places on the web to find them mentioned.
article to date is one in the July/August 2000 issue of Discovering
the editors of Scientific
includes 5 photographs on
the mummies. The article by Robert Locke is entitled "Saving
Scientific Study of Mummies
by Arthur C.
includes 2 pages on the mummies in the chapter about mummy geography.