Filipino tribe brings back dead with "clothing" ritual

Mon Feb 1, 2010 3:47am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michaela Cabrera

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Members of the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe in the Philippines do not leave their dead in the grave for long, digging up the remains of loved ones in an unusual revival ritual that itself is slowly dying out.

The "kutkot" ritual is a tradition of bringing the dead back to life. A Filipino word for "scratch" or "unearth," it entails dressing up the remains of the dead in cloth so that they take on a human form again.

Many of the nearly 100 indigenous peoples' groups across the archipelago hold rituals for the dead, but very few among the 25,000 Hanunuo Mangyans remaining in the central island of Mindoro still practice kutkot, which has fallen victim to modern influences.

For some, kutkot is an obligation that tribal members must perform, in keeping with clan practice or honoring a dead relative's request.

A year after tribesman Hulyong Antonio was buried, six of his children and other relatives traveled to his grave and unearthed his coffin to perform kutkot.

"This man told his children, 'Whatever happens to me, you have to do the kutkot ritual, in the same way that you did for your mother,'" Baryos Gawid, Antonio's nephew, said.

The family members cleaned the skeleton, then wrapped the parts in a large cloth. The ritual involves an elaborate process of draping the cloth around the bones in such a way that it resembles a sort of mannequin, called a "sinakot."

Only a few Mangyans have mastered this skill. The cloth must be tied taut with a string and bulked in certain areas to create a human shape, much like a mummy, only in this case wrapped after the corpse is exhumed.   Continued...