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Panagbaniit: A Unique Tingguian Funeral Tradition

Panagbaniit, a unique Tingguian funeral ritual, bridges past and present, celebrating life, death, and the afterlife. Discover its significance.

 |  6 min read

The Tingguian people of Abra province have a unique and ancient funeral tradition called Panagbaniit. This ritual is a way to honor the deceased and to announce their passing to the community. Photo: Vera Files (edited)

The Tingguian community, a subgroup of the Igorot collective within the Cordillera Administrative Region, predominantly resides in Abra province. They come together to participate in a unique and ancient tradition known as "Panagbaniit." This ritual is at the heart of Tingguian culture, signifying their deep-rooted beliefs in the afterlife and their unwavering commitment to honoring their ancestors.

Understanding "Panagbaniit"

At the core of Tingguian funeral traditions lies the unique and deeply symbolic ritual known as "Panagbaniit." This age-old practice serves a dual purpose in Tingguian society. It functions as both an offering to the spirits of their ancestors and as a solemn announcement that a member of the community has passed away. This essential ritual bridges the gap between the ancient customs of the Tingguian people and the modern world they inhabit, ensuring that their ancestors are not forgotten.

The heart of Tingguian culture beats with a deep-seated belief in the afterlife and an enduring connection to their ancestors. "Panagbaniit" goes beyond being a mere ritual; it serves as a profound expression of their spirituality and their unwavering connection to their cultural heritage. Through the offerings and ceremonies of "Panagbaniit," the Tingguian people seek to ensure that the departed find solace and protection in the company of their ancestors.

The Role of the Decaying Chick

An intriguing element of "Panagbaniit" is the presence of a decaying chick at the doorway of the mourning site. This chick, once vibrant and alive, met its fate, skewered on bamboo. While this may appear unusual, it holds a vital role in Tingguian culture. It serves as an invitation, a beckoning call to Tingguian relatives from other towns and provinces. They gather to pay their respects to the deceased, reinforcing the sense of community and shared heritage.

Within the "Panagbaniit" ritual, there are elements known as "Baniit" and "Sangsangit." "Baniit" is an offering made to the spirits of the ancestors, and it also serves as a way of announcing that someone has died. This practice goes hand in hand with "Sangsangit," a solemn chant or dirge that accompanies the offerings during the ritual. Together, these elements form a vital part of Tingguian funeral traditions.

Symbolism and Attire

Beneath the traditional Tingguian white coffin, a rooster is securely fastened to a bamboo trellis. Alongside the rooster, you'll discover a pika (spear) and another burnay containing basi (sugarcane wine). Adorning the coffin itself are two layers of pinapa (loom-woven Tingguian cloth) and a rolled white and red kundiman cloth known as puldos. Additionally, a family member of the deceased wears a wasig (white mourning cloth) as a belt, a specific tradition within their culture symbolizing mourning.

The Tingguian people represent a diverse group, comprising various subgroups, and their customs are deeply rooted in their history. While the rituals may have evolved and adapted over time, they continue to hold significant cultural importance.

Comparing Traditions

In the past, it was common to butcher a pig daily to feed the visitors during the mourning period. However, compared to the olden days, wakes and burials are now simpler.

Rituals in Bucloc

In Bucloc, home to the Masadiit indigenous group, death rituals are still being practiced. Women give a dead person a "ceremonial bath," using the juice of burned ashes of rice straw right after he or she dies to cleanse the soul before entering "singit" (purgatory).

Traditional Announcements

Traditionally, after a person dies, a man would shout three times to announce the death, a practice known as "bokaang." However, in today's modern age, announcements are usually made over social media and radio stations.

Evolution of Practices

While some traditions like the "sangachil" or "paunawa" have been practiced, they might no longer be in use. The "sangachil," which means a bamboo chair where the deceased, who was not embalmed, was made to sit, has been replaced by a more modern coffin.

Embracing Cultural Change

The Tingguian people's traditions remain very much alive, although they have been influenced by the Christian faith. Bible services and praying of rosaries are now also held during wakes, and the deceased is blessed in the church before interment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the Tingguian funeral tradition of Panagbaniit? Panagbaniit is a unique Tingguian funeral ritual with dual significance, serving as an offering to ancestral spirits and an announcement of a community member's passing.

  2. What role do ancestral spirits play in Panagbaniit? Ancestral spirits are believed to protect the deceased in the afterlife, making offerings an essential part of the ritual.

  3. Why is a decaying chick placed at the doorway during Panagbaniit? The decaying chick symbolically invites Tingguian relatives from various places to pay their respects and reinforce the sense of community.

  4. What are "Baniit" and "Sangsangit" in the Tingguian tradition? "Baniit" is an offering to ancestral spirits, while "Sangsangit" is a solemn chant or dirge performed during the ritual.

  5. How have Tingguian funeral traditions evolved over time? Traditionally, grand wakes with animal sacrifices were common, but modern times have seen simpler practices.

  6. What are the death rituals in Bucloc, home to the Masadiit indigenous group? In Bucloc, a ceremonial bath is given to the deceased using the juice of burned rice straw, cleansing the soul before entering purgatory.

  7. How have modern means, such as radio stations and social media, influenced death announcements in Tingguian culture? While traditional methods like shouting three times (known as "bokaang") are still respected, modern technology has led to announcements via radio and social media.

  8. How has Christian influence affected Tingguian funeral rituals? Bible services and rosary prayers are now incorporated into Tingguian wakes, reflecting the influence of Christianity.

  9. What is the significance of preserving Tingguian cultural heritage in the modern world? Preserving Tingguian cultural heritage ensures that the rich traditions, like Panagbaniit, continue to bridge the past and present, maintaining their unique identity.

  10. How do Tingguian funeral traditions symbolize the enduring connection to their ancestors? Through rituals like Panagbaniit, the Tingguian people seek to provide solace and protection for the deceased in the company of their ancestors, reflecting their deep-seated beliefs in the afterlife.


In the heart of Abra, the Tingguian people continue to maintain their rich cultural heritage while embracing the changes of the modern world. "Panagbaniit" stands as a testament to the timeless significance of preserving the past as they journey into the future, where the honoring of their ancestors remains a central pillar of their identity. It is a vivid illustration of how cultural traditions persist and adapt to modernity, ensuring that their unique heritage endures.

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