Sagada panag-apoy

Bonfires and candles light Sagada’s panag-apoy

It's a sight to look at this place ablaze!

It’s a sight to look at this place ablaze!

I quickened my pace as dusk was settling in, past people going down, coming from Sagada’s cemetery up in the hill beyond St. Mary’s Church and just at the edge of Echo Valley. I was determined to go up the mountainside and witness a unique cemetery tradition in the Cordilleras: Sagada’s panag-apoy which is celebrated on 1 November.

I know what to expect but seeing a good portion of a mountain, with splotches of white for sepulchers and gravestones being lapped up with the warmth tongues of fire, the white light of flashes, the sound of people conversing, laughing and the air heavy with pine scented smoke was awe inspiring. Here in Sagada, it was magical!

Better than a night at the Talisay cemetery. READ MORE: Luminous night at the Talisay City Cemetery

I asked people around Sagada on the significance of the panag-apoy. Our guide to Bomod-ok Falls said that it is to warm the dead, which I think is unlikely. And three said that it’s just a tradition with no significance. An old lady told me, “they light the candles for a longer light, the wood for shorter but brighter fire.

Whatever they say, I have my own interpretation, two in fact:

  • Because the cemetery is located near a forested portion, the smoke that the bonfire generates can deter insects, and
  • At this time of the year, Sagada is in for colder nights and the fire from the burning wood counters the cold, and enough time to bond with friends and relatives and meet other Sagadans who have come back home.

Being here, witnessing this, is a sight to behold!

REALITY CHECK: With the popularity of the panag-apoy filtering into social media, do expect to see lots of tourists who wants to witness this unique tradition. Amidst the boisterous event, there are lots of photographers setting their tripods, smartphones and Ipads taking photos for Instagram and FB and lots of camera flashes bursting. Do expect the usual tourist group who are a bit loud and rowdy.

The day is dying and the earth is ablaze!

The day is dying and the earth is ablaze!

Dusk is settling in as Sagadans pay their respects to departed family and friends

Dusk is settling in as Sagadans pay their respects to departed family and friends

As early as 3PM, the bonfires at Sagada's cemetery starts to light

As early as 3PM, the bonfires at Sagada’s cemetery starts to light

One of Sagada's pioneering family, the Masferres

One of Sagada’s pioneering family, the Masferres

Lighting a candle for a departed

Lighting a candle for a departed

Sagadans, tourists and photographers

Sagadans, tourists and photographers

Time to meet old friends

Time to meet old friends

GETTING THERE: GL buses ply the Baguio-Sagada route via the Halsema Highway and during this time, can be loaded with passengers both locals and tourists. The cemetery is just between St. Mary’s Church and Echo Valley where a cellsite is located. Panag-apoy starts at around 3 PM and can last till early evening.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

9 Comments

  1. Estan, Ang Langyaw (@LangyawMedia)
    November 2, 2014 @ 23:47

    @iamchingdee I just posted about the panag-apoy here: http://t.co/xNnKwapnOU

  2. @iamchingdee
    November 3, 2014 @ 6:19

    Awesome! Thanks. 🙂 “@LangyawMedia: @iamchingdee I just posted about the panag-apoy here: http://t.co/12b7MtA80W”

  3. Freddy Panes
    November 3, 2014 @ 9:38

    thanks estan: these photos reminds me of our visit way back then. the people are always kind and enchanting! salamat gid.

  4. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    November 3, 2014 @ 11:49

    Bonfires and candles light Sagada’s panag-apoy #cemetery #sagada http://t.co/viJ78srXP1 http://t.co/3vQ0fu6A9x

  5. Three local delicacies I found in Sagada - langyaw
    November 4, 2014 @ 10:16

    […] for local delicacies whenever I travel and try it. While on this trip to Sagada to witness the panag-apoy, we chanced upon two vendors selling this delicious treats as we were coming back from a visit in […]

  6. gareth
    November 9, 2014 @ 0:03

    why do we light fire? before, we did not have candles, instead, we used the heartwood or candle wood as a replacement. it’s been a tradition to light firewood more than candles.

  7. estan
    November 9, 2014 @ 10:02

    Thanx Gareth for this.

  8. Estan Cabigas (@EstanCabigas)
    November 1, 2015 @ 7:56

    A unique cemetery tradition in Sagada called Panag-apoy. Have you witnessed this before?

    https://t.co/dOJNKhtrSZ https://t.co/NAsEtGRxbn

  9. Estan, Ang Langyaw (@LangyawMedia)
    November 1, 2015 @ 7:58

    A unique cemetery tradition in Sagada called Panag-apoy. Have you witnessed this before?

    https://t.co/bXWmQZu8Us https://t.co/ho9pATjnbG

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