Day 2 of our Random Road Trip began at 8AM when everyone started waking up from sleep in our “haunted house”. The plan the day: visit the only known Sarcophagi in the Philippines.
What is a sarcophagus? According to wikipedia, a sarcophagus is a box-like funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved in stone, and displayed above ground, though it may also be buried. The word “sarcophagus” comes from the Greek σάρξ sarx meaning “flesh”, and φαγεῖν phagein meaning “to eat”, hence sarkophagus means “flesh-eating”; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos (λίθος σαρκοφάγος). Since lithos is Greek for stone, lithos sarcophagos means “flesh-eating stone”. The word also came to refer to a particular kind of limestone that was thought to decompose the flesh of corpses interred within it.
And the Philippine sarcophagus we plan to explore are made of those same limestones defined above. Cool.
6. Of Giant Sea Turtles
The trip to the sarcophagi archaeological burial site is located in the Kamhantik Mountain, an hour tricycle drive from Catanauan in the municipality of Mulanay. We organised 2 tricycles to get us to the town of Mulanay to meet Ms. Thelma of the Department of Tourism. We met Ms. Thelma along the port of Mulanay where a group of fishermen where rescuing a stranded giant sea turtle or “pawikan” in local dialect.
The sea turtle was perhaps 4 feet in diameter weighing maybe 150 kilograms. According to the fisher folk, sea turtles after 25 years tend to swim back to the shores where it was born. It seems that this particular turtle wanted to go back and discover its roots. The good men of Mulanay kept the turtle protected and tagged it for research and conservation purposes.
I personally have never seen a sea turtle so close before. They are truly a magnificent creature to behold.
Saving the Turtle
After a few minutes of tagging the stranded sea turtle, it was pushed back to the sea where it swam extremely fast. One of the most lucky and random experience we all had.
7. Of Suicidal Tricycle Rides and Ancient Sarcophagus
After witnessing the sea turtle rescue, we headed out to Mt. Kamhantik, the location of the 2000 year old Philippine sarcophagus. From the description of Deone as we headed towards the mountain, we will just be riding a different kind of tricycle going up the pathway towards the top of the mountain since it might take us hours to get there. What we did not expect is the trip going up via the tricycle is actually a 45 degree rocky slippery terrain where you had to hang on to your dear life as the tricycles sped its way to the top.
Words could not describe the feeling. Seriously. It was a mix of terror, excitement, uncertainty and immense fun!
Once we reached the top, we were greeted with the 2000 year old burial site of our ancestors. Nothing prepared me for the stories I was about to hear. Who would have thought, 2000 years ago, our ancestors have already devised complex burial systems to honor their beloved dead. Carved in pure limestones, the sarcophagi were all lined around the ridges of the mountain with a single one at the top. It is believed that the status of the dead is reflected on the area in which they were buried. Highest being a royalty or a king perhaps or clan chieftain.
Sadly, nothing remained on the site except their tombs as quite a number of treasure hunters ransacked the tombs for gold and other precious items and threw away the bones.
Ms. Thelma shared her stories as well as the history of site which I will talk about in a separate blog.
The visit to the site left us dumbfounded with the richness of our own Filipino culture.
Day 2 ended of our Random Road Trip around 4PM where we headed back to our “haunted house” to pack our stuff for another 6 hour trip to Manila.
All in all, this for me was the most memorable Random Road Trip yet. I can not wait for the next ones.
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Until next time, happy travels!