October 29, 2011

Sagada Burial Rites Featured In 'Making An Exit', A Book About How Different Cultures Mourn Their Dead

Looking for a good read? Sarah Murray's latest book might just whet your reading appetite. Even more so if you're a Sagadanian because the town of Sagada is prominently featured in the book. In a chapter called 'Raising Pigs: A Get-Together in the Philippines', Murray narrates her observations when she took part in a Sagada funeral.
'Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre — How We Dignify the Dead' is the product of Murray's travels just after her father's death. She set out on a world tour to better understand how people from all over the planet send away their dead. The journey took her to places like Ghana, Iran, Bali, Mexico, India, and of course, the Philippines. Her stay in Sagada is among the highlights of the book.

In an article in the 'Washington Post', Rachel Newcomb called 'Making an Exit' the 'Eat, Pray, Love' for the afterlife. An excerpt from the article:
In the Philippine mountain village of Sagada, she takes part in a dramatic funeral that combines the rites of Christianity with the pre-Christian practice of burying the dead, wrapped in ceremonial blankets and compressed into the fetal position, “in wooden sarcophagi that are left hanging on cliff faces or lodged in the fissures and caverns of Sagada’s jagged forests of stone.” For a moment, Murray envies the clearly prescribed ritual and the communal certainty it seems to provide the villagers. But for her the benefits of being part of a close-knit society are outweighed by the limitations, especially the expectation that one will never stray far from the confines of one’s village existence. In fact, one of the implicit themes of this book is how death rituals are altered by our highly mobile, global existences.

Here's the synopsis of the book from Publisher's Weekly:
Murray (Moveable Feasts) takes readers on a charming and informative tour of how different cultures dispose of and mourn their dead. We follow her to an elaborate royal cremation in Bali, where sadness and signs of grief are discouraged (for fear they'll impede the soul's journey to the next life), and to Ghana, where Murray has her own coffin commissioned in the shape of the Empire State building. No matter how far-flung the location--in Sagada, the Philippines, where caskets hang from cliff faces, or the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily, where mummified corpses still wear their 18th-century trappings--Murray's mind wanders back to the English countryside, where her father had recently died. Despite being a lifelong atheist, her father had requested his ashes to be scattered in a churchyard--a move that has left his daughter perplexed. Part cultural study, part eulogy for the author's beloved "Fa," and part meditation on coming to grips with mortality, the book concludes with the author creating a novel solution for her own final arrangements, one that matches her wit, ebullience, and joie de vivre that permeates her story and make it difficult to put down. In less capable hands the subject matter might be morbid or disturbing, but with Murray at the helm, this journey in search of death is full of life.
In a Philippine village, locals hold an all-night vigil for a neighbor. (Photo and caption by Sarah Murray)

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1 comment:

  1. It's really nice of you to share this interesting blog to us. It's really important for the majority that when it comes to burial, certain practices are taken in consideration.
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