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Igorot ( ) name for the people of the Cordillera region, in the Philippinesmarker island of Luzonmarker. The Igorot form two subgroups: the larger group lives in the south, central and western areas, and is very adept at rice-terrace farming; the smaller group lives in the east and north. Igorot groups formerly practiced headhunting.

Cordillerano, or Cordilleran, is a term used for the people of the hill tribes of Luzon, Philippines, who are residing in the Cordilleramarker and Caraballomarker mountains. This term is an attempt at political correctness, since a current term, Igorot, has caused controversy due to its perceived negative stigma, which is incorrectly connected to backwardness and inferiority. Among the people in the Cordilleras, not all Kalinga and Ifugao accept the designation of Igorot.

Igorot ethnic groups

"Matago tago tako am-in ay igorot"

The Cordillera region of Northern Philippines is the ancestral domain of the Igorots. It comprises the six provinces of Abramarker, Apayaomarker, Benguetmarker, Ifugaomarker, Kalingamarker, and Mountain Provincemarker, plus the lone city of Baguiomarker. The Igorots are grouped into six ethno-linguistic groups, the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and the Kankana-ey. Below are brief descriptions of these Igorot ethnic groups.

The Bontoc

Alternative/associated names: Bontok, and Bontoc.

Location: Central Mountain Province

Language: Bontoc

A Bontoc warrior.

The Bontocs live on the banks of the Chico River. They were once well-known because of their headhunting practices in the olden days but not today. In the previous time, the most distinctive body decoration of the Igorot was the tattoo. The Bontoc describe three types of tattoos: The chak-lag′, the tattooed chest of the head taker; pong′-o, the tattooed arms of men and women; and fa′-tĕk, for all other tattoos of both sexes. Women were tattooed on the arms only. In the past, the Bontoc engaged in none of the usual pastimes or games of chance practiced in other areas of the country, but did perform a circular rhythmic dance acting out certain aspects of the hunt, always accompanied by the gang′-sa or bronze gong. There was no singing or talking during the dance drama, but the women took part, usually outside the circumference. It was a serious but pleasurable event for all concerned, including the children. Present-day Bontocs are a peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice, retained most of their traditional culture despite frequent contacts with other groups.

The pre-Christian Bontoc belief system centers on a hierarchy of spirits, the highest being a supreme deity called Lumawig. Lumawig personifies the forces of nature and is the legendary creator, friend, and teacher of the Bontoc. A hereditary class of priests hold various monthly ceremonies for this deity for their crops, the weather, and for healing. The Bontoc also believe in the "anito"—spirits of the dead who must be consulted before anything important is done. Ancestral anitos are invited to family feasts when a death occurs to ensure the well-being of the deceased's soul.This is by offering some small amount of food to show that they are invited and not forgotten.

The Bontoc social structure used to be centered around village wards ("ato") containing about 14 to 50 homes. Traditionally, young men and women lived in dormitories and ate meals with their families. This gradually changed with the advent of Christianity. In general, however, it can be said that all Bontocs are very aware of their own way of life and are not overly eager to change.

The Ibaloi

Alternative/associated Names: Ibaloi, Ibaloy, and Nabaloi.

Location: Southern Benguet

Language: Nabaloi or Ibaloy

Population: The 2000 National census shows some 93,000+ persons in Benguet classified themselves as Ibaloy, compared to the Kankanaey who numbered 114,000+. This does not include the Ibaloys in Kayapa and all over the world. An interesting information is provided by Otto Scheerer who wrote in 1908 that there were from 12,000 to 15,000 Ibaloys and that they dominated Benguet. Based on the census figures, the Ibaloy have become a minority in their own province.

People and Culture:

The Ibaloi are one of the indigenous peoples of the Philippinesmarker who live mostly in the southern part of Benguetmarker, located in the Cordilleras of northern Luzonmarker. The Ibaloi people were traditionally an agrarian society. Many of the Ibaloi people continue with their agriculture and rice cultivation.

The Ibaloi language belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian languages family. The Ibaloi language is closely related to the Pangasinan language, primarily spoken in the province of Pangasinanmarker, located southwest of Benguet.

Baguio Citymarker, the major city of the Cordilleras, dubbed the "Summer Capital of the Philippines," is located in southern Benguet.

The Ibalois' major feast is the Pesshet, a public feast mainly sponsored by people of prestige and wealth. The Pesshet feast can last for weeks and involves the butchering and sacrifice of dozens of animals. One of the more popular dances of the Ibaloi is the Bendiyan Dance, participated in by hundreds of male and female dancers.

The Ifugao

An Ifugao native playing an instrument.
Alternative/associated names: Ifugao, Amganad, Ayangan, Kiangan, Gilipanes, Quiangan, Tuwali Ifugao, and Mayoyao (Mayoyao, Mayaoyaw).

Location: Ifugao Province

Languages: Ifugao languages

The country of the Ifugao in the southern part of the Cordillera region is best known for its famous rice terracesmarker, which in modern times have become one of the big tourist attractions of the Philippines. They made these terraces with the use of only their hands and simple tools. The Ifugaos typically build their houses at the edge of their fields. A distinctive aspect of these houses is the post just below the floor beams to keep rats from climbing into the house.

Aside from their rice terraces, the Ifugaos are known for their literary traditions of the 'hudhud' and the 'alim.' The term "Ifugao" is derived from "ipugo" which means earth people or mortals or humans, as distinguished from spirits and deities. It also means "from the hill," as "pugo" means hill. The Ifugaos' highest prestige feasts are the "hagabi," for the most wealthy; and the "uyauy," a feast for those immediately below the wealthiest.

The Isneg

An Isnag woman wearing traditional attire, having just performed a traditional dance.

Alternative/associated names: Isnag, Dibagat-Kabugao-Isneg, and Apayao.

Location: Northern Apayao

Language: Isnag

The Isneg (or Apayao) inhabit the banks of the Apayao River and its tributaries in Northern Luzon. Like most erstwhile headhunters, they are slash-and-burn farmers who have recently, under the influence of their neighbors, begun to practice wet-rice agriculture.

As a dry rice farmer, the male head of a household annually clears a fresh section of tropical forest where his wife will plant and harvest their rice. Isneg women also cook the meals, gather wild vegetables and weave bamboo mats and baskets, while the men cut timber, build houses and take extended hunting and fishing trips. Often when a wild pig or deer is killed, its meat is skewered on bamboo and distributed to neighbors and relatives. Nearly all Isneg households also harvest a small grove of coffee trees since the main cash crop of the area is coffee.

The Kalinga

Alternative/associated names: Kalinga

Location: Kalinga Province

Languages: Kalinga

Inhabiting the drainage areas of the middle Chico River, the Kalingas are noted for their strong sense of tribal awareness and the peace pacts they have made among themselves. They practice both wet and dry rice farming and have developed an institution of peace pacts which has minimized traditional warfare and headhunting and serves as a mechanism for the initiation, maintenance, renewal and reinforcement of kinship and social ties. The Kalinga are divided into Southern and Northern groups; the latter is considered the most heavily-ornamented people of the northern Philippines.

Kalinga society is very kinship-oriented and relatives are held responsible for avenging any injury done to a member. Disputes are usually settled by the regional leaders, who listen to all sides and then impose fines on the guilty party. These are not formal council meetings, but carry a good deal of authority. A system of peace pacts called Bodong.

The Kankana-ey

Alternative/associated names: Northern Kankana-ey, Sagada/Besao Igorot, Western Bontoc, and Applai/Aplai.

Location: Western Mountain Province, Southeastern Ilocos Sur Province, Northern and some parts of Benguet.

Language: Northern Kankana-ey There are many kinds of dialects that the Kankana-eys use but it is still the same. The dialects only differ in intonation, words or application.

The Kankana-ey's domain includes Western Mountain Province, Northern Benguet, Southeastern Ilocos Sur and some parts of Benguet. Like most Igorot ethnic groups, the Kankana-ey built sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordilleras. Kankan-ey's of Western Mountain Province from the municipalities of Sagada and Besao identify themselves as part of a tribe called Applai or Aplai. Two famous institutions of the Kankana-ey of Mountain Province are the dap-ay, the men's dormitory and civic center, and the ebgan, the girls' dormitory where courtship between young men and women took place.

CultureThe Kankana-ey's also have difference in the way they dress. The women soft-speaking Kankana-ey's dress has a color combination of black, white and red. The design of the upper attire is a criss-crossed style of black, white and red colors. The skirt or "tapis" is a combination of stripes of black, white and red. The women hard-speaking Kankana-ey's dress is composed of mainly red and black with a little white styles, as for the skirt or "tapis" which is mostly called "bakget" and "gateng". The men wore a g-string as it is called but it is mainly know as "wanes" for the Kanakana-ey's of Besao and Sagada. The design of the "wanes" as they call it may vary according to social status or municipality.

Kankana-ey's major dances include tayaw, pattong, takik, a wedding dance, and balangbang.The tayaw is a community dance that is usually done in weddings it maybe also danced by the Ibalois but has a different style.. Pattong, also a community dance from Mountain Province which every municipality has its own style. Balangbang is the modernized word for the word Pattong. There are also some other dance that the Kankana-ey's dance like the sakkuting, pinanyuan(wedding dance)and bogi-bogi(courtship dance). The Kankana-ey house are built like the other houses of the Igorots which also reflect their social status.


The name Kankana-ey came from the language which they speak. The only difference among the Kankana-ey's are the way they speak like intonation, some words and application. In intonation, there is a hard Kankana-ey or Applai and soft Kankana-ey. Speakers of hard Kankana-ey are from Sagada, Besao and the surrounding parts or barrios of the said two municipalities. They speak Kankana-ey hard in intonation where they differ in some words from the soft-speaking Kankana-ey's. While the soft speaking Kankana-ey comes from Northern Benguet, some parts of Benguet, and from the municipalities of Sabangan, Tadian and Bauko from Mountain Province. In words for example an Applai might say otik or beteg(pig) and the soft-speaking Kankana-ey may say busaang or beteg as well. The Kankana-ey's may also differ in some words like "egay" or "aga", "maid" or "maga". They also differ in their ways of life and sometimes in culture.

A common misunderstanding about Kankana-ey's is about the name "Ibenget" or "Ibontok" given to them by other Kankana-ey's from what province where they came from. For example, a Kankana-ey from the Mountain Province may call his fellow Kankana-ey from Benguet Province an "Ibenget" as they say because he/she came from the Province of Benguet or from the name Benguet itself. Likewise with the Kankana-ey of Benguet, wherein he calls his/her fellow Kankana-ey from Mountain Province "Ibontok".

It should be noted that the Gadannes or Gaddangs were considered a sub group of the Igorots by the Spanish missionaries.


  1. Igorot slant
  2. The Bontoc Igorot

See also

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