In the serene hills of Sagada, Mountain Province in the Philippines, a tribute to the departed unfolds as the local community kindles flames, keeping alive the age-old "Panag-apoy" tradition. This unique Sagadan custom, aptly named the "Festival of Lights," presents a distinct way of honoring their ancestors on the eve of All Saints' Day, deviating from the conventional use of candles to ignite bundles of pinewood. The origins of this practice traced back to the highlanders' resourcefulness in the absence of conventional candles.
Unlike candles, the resilient pine wood, known locally as "saeng," proves robust against the mountainous winds and frigid temperatures that define this highland town, renowned as a captivating tourist destination. The flickering flames and the ensuing smoky veil serve as an enchanting backdrop for both self-captured moments and keepsake photographs.
The aroma of smoldering pine wood, akin to incense, has captivated the senses of tourists, some of whom have journeyed from Manila to partake in this extraordinary experience. The mountainous terrain, ensconced amidst towering pine trees, features a temperate climate and a modest population of just over 11,000 residents. Visitors are transported to a bygone era, experiencing the unique harmony of a tranquil community steeped in history and adventure.
However, tourists need to respect the solemnity of "Panag-apoy." The commemorative ritual commences with an Episcopalian mass, followed by the recitation of the names of the community's departed, resembling a somber roll call. The visual impression from a distance mirrors a forest alight with an otherworldly fire, an ethereal tribute to the dearly departed.
As the flickering flames of the "Festival of Lights" continue to illuminate the darkness, they symbolize not only the enduring connection to the past but also the spirit of a people who have found a way to celebrate and remember their loved ones in a manner uniquely their own. Sagada's solemn and picturesque tradition, as illuminated by the old pine wood, remains an ageless symbol of cultural continuity, embracing both the wind-swept present and the cherished legacy of a mountain town that captures the hearts and imaginations of all who venture there.