Igorot, or Cordillerans, is the collective name of several
Austronesian ethnic groups in the Philippines, who inhabit the
mountains of Luzon. These highland peoples inhabit all the six
provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region: Abra, Apayao,
Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, and Mountain Province, as well as the
adjacent province of Nueva Viscaya.
2 Cordillera ethnic groups
2.6.1 "Hard" and "Soft" Kankanaey
3 Ethnic groups by linguistic classification
5 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
The word "Igorot" is an exonym, derived from the Austronesian term for
"mountain people" (formed from the prefix i-, "dweller of" and golot,
"mountain range"). During the Spanish colonial era, the term was
variously recorded as Igolot, Ygolot, and Igorrote, compliant to
Ifugao or Ipugao (also meaning "mountain people") are
used more frequently within the Igorots themselves, as igorot is
viewed by some as slightly pejorative.
Cordillera ethnic groups
The Igorots may be roughly divided into two general 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. Prior to Spanish colonisation of the islands, the
peoples now included under the term did not consider themselves as
belonging to a single, cohesive ethnic group.
They may be further subdivided into five ethnolinguistic groups: the
Bontoc, Ibaloi, Isnag (or Isneg/Apayao), Kalinga, and the
A Bontoc man (c. 1903)
The Bontoc live on the banks of the Chico River in the Central
Mountain Province on the island of Luzon. They speak Bontoc and
Ilocano. They formerly practiced head-hunting and had distinctive body
tattoos. 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.
A traditional Bontoc ritual during a wake with a death chair.
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.
A traditional Bontoc house, 1903.
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.
Main article: Ibaloi people
The Ibaloi (also Ibaloy and Nabaloi) and Kalanguya (also Kallahan and
Ikalahan) are one of the indigenous peoples of the
live mostly in the southern part of Benguet, located in the Cordillera
of northern Luzon, and
Nueva Vizcaya in the
Cagayan Valley region.
They were traditionally an agrarian society. Many of the Ibaloi and
Kalanguya people continue with their agriculture and rice cultivation.
Their native language belongs to the
Malayo-Polynesian branch of the
Austronesian languages family and is closely related to the Pangasinan
language, primarily spoken in the province of Pangasinan, located
southwest of Benguet.
Baguio City, the major city of the Cordillera, dubbed the "Summer
Capital of the Philippines," is located in southern Benguet.
The largest feast of the Ibaloi is the Pesshet, a public feast mainly
sponsored by people of prestige and wealth. Pesshet can last for weeks
and involves the killing 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.
Ifugao man from Banaue
Ifugao (also known as Amganad, Ayangan, Kiangan, Gilipanes,
Quiangan, Tuwali Ifugao, Mayoyao, Mayoyao, Mayaoyaw) are the people
Ifugao Province. The term "Ifugao" is derived from "ipugo"
which means "earth people", "mortals" or "humans", as distinguished
from spirits and deities. It also means "from the hill", as pugo means
The country of the
Ifugao in the southeastern part of the Cordillera
region is best known for its famous
Rice Terraces, which in
modern times have become one of the major tourist attractions of the
Philippines. The Ifugaos build their typical houses called fales,
which consists of a kitchen, bedroom and a worship room altogether. It
is a triangular house elevated with 4 wooden posts. There is a ladder
but it is hanged or removed so people or animals cannot enter the
Aside from their rice terraces, the Ifugaos, who speak four distinct
dialects, are known for their rich oral literary traditions of hudhud
and the alim. The Ifugaos’ highest prestige feasts are the hagabi,
for the elite; and the uyauy, a feast for those immediately below the
Alim and Hudhud Oral traditions of
Ifugao people of the
Cordillera Administrative Region
Cordillera Administrative Region in
Luzon island of Philippines. In
2001, the Hudhud Chants of the
Ifugao was chosen as one of the 11
Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It was
then formally inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in
Main article: Isnag people
An Isneg woman.
The Isnag, also Isneg or Apayao, live at the northwesterly end of
northern Luzon, in the upper half of the Cordillera province of
Apayao. The term "Isnag" derives from a combination of is meaning
"recede" and unag meaning "interior." Thus, it means "people who live
The municipalities in the Isneg domain include Pudtol, Kabugao,
Calanasan and Conner (Peralta 1988:1). Two major river systems, the
Abulog and the Apayao, run through Isnag country, which until recent
times has been described as a region of "dark tropical forests," and
endowed with other natural resources.
In one early account, the Isneg were described as of slender and
graceful stature, with manners that were kindly, hospitable, and
generous, possessed with the spirit of self-reliance and courage, and
clearly artistic in their temperament. The Isnag’s ancestors are
believed to have been the proto-Austronesians who came from South
China thousands of years ago. Later, they came in contact with groups
practicing jar burial, from whom they adopted the custom. They later
also came into contact with Chinese traders plying the seas south of
the Asian mainland. From the Chinese they bought the porcelain pieces
and glass beads which now form part of the Isnag’s priceless
heirlooms. The Isnag have been known to be a head-taking society since
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
Isnag people are also known as the Isneg, which is composed of the
sub-groups known as the Ymandaya and Imallod. Their places of abode
are found in the different municipalities in
Apayao as follows:
Ymandaya (Isnag)- Calanasan (Bayag)
Imallod (Isnag)- Kabugao, Conner, Pudtol, and some part of Luna
The Isnag speak Isneg and Ilocano.
Isnags are also found in the eastern part of the Province of Ilocos
Norte specifically the municipalities of Adams, Carasi, Dumalneg,
Solsona, and Piddig and northwestern part of the Province of Cagayan
specifically the municipalities of Sta. Praxedes, Claveria, and
Lubuagan, Kalinga perform the muscle dance.
The Kalinga, also known as Limos or Limos-Liwan Kalinga, inhabit the
drainage basin of the middle Chico River in Kalinga Province. The
Kalinga are sub-divided into Southern and Northern groups; the latter
is considered the most heavily ornamented people of the northern
The Kalinga practice both wet and dry rice farming. They also
developed an institution of peace pacts called
Bodong which has
minimised traditional warfare and headhunting and serves as a
mechanism for the initiation, maintenance, renewal and reinforcement
of kinship and social ties.
They also speak the Kalinga, Ilocano, and Limos languages. 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.
Main article: Kankanaey people
A Kankanaey chief from the town of Suyoc, in Mankayan,
The Kankanaey domain includes Western Mountain Province, northern
Benguet and southeastern Ilocos Sur. Like most
Igorot ethnic groups,
the Kankanaey built sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the
rugged terrain of the Cordilleras.
Kankanaey houses are built like the other
Igorot houses, which reflect
their social status. Two famous institutions of the Kankanaey of
Mountain Province are the dap-ay, or the men's dormitory and civic
center, and the ebgan, or the girls' dormitory where courtship between
young men and women took place.
Kankanaey's major dances include tayaw, pat-tong, takik (a wedding
dance), and balangbang. The tayaw is a community dance that is usually
done in weddings it maybe also danced by the Ibaloi but has a
different style. Pattong, also a community dance from Mountain
Province which every municipality has its own style, while Balangbang
is the dance's modern term. There are also some other dances like the
sakkuting, pinanyuan (another wedding dance) and bogi-bogi (courtship
"Hard" and "Soft" Kankanaey
The name Kankanaey came from the language which they speak. The only
difference amongst the Kankanaey are the way they speak such as
intonation and word usage.
In intonation, there is distinction between those who speak Hard
Kankanaey (Applai) and Soft Kankanaey. Speakers of Hard Kankanaey are
from the towns of
Sagada and Besao in the western
Mountain Province as
well as their environs. They speak Kankanaey with a hard intonation
where they differ in some words from the soft-speaking Kankanaey.
Soft-speaking Kankanaey come from Northern and other parts of Benguet,
and from the municipalities of Sabangan, Tadian and Bauko in Mountain
Province. In words for example an Applai might say otik or beteg (pig)
and the soft-speaking Kankanaey use busaang or beteg as well. The
Kankanaey 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.
The Kankanaey are also internally identified by the language they
speak and the province from whence they came.
Kankanaey people from
Mountain Province may call the Kankanaey from
Benguet as iBenget while
the Kankanaey of
Benguet may call their fellow Kankanaey from Mountain
The Hard and Soft Kankanaey also differ in the way they dress. Women's
dress of the Soft dialect generally has a colour 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.
Hard dialect women dress in mainly red and black with less white, with
the skirt or tapis which is mostly called bakget and gateng. The men
formerly wore a g-string known as a wanes for the Kanakaney's of Besao
and Sagada. The design of the wanes may vary according to social
status or municipality.
Ethnic groups by linguistic classification
Political map of the Cordillera Administrative Region.
Below is a list of northern
Luzon ethnic groups organized by
Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur)
Nueva Vizcaya Province and Isabela Province)
Cagayan Province and Isabela Province)
Yogad (Isabela Province)
Kalinga (Kalinga Province)
Itneg (Abra Province)
Balangao (eastern Mountain Province)
Bontok (central Mountain Province)
Kankanaey (western Mountain Province, northern
Nueva Vizcaya Province)
Kalanguya Keley-i 
Kalanguya Kayapa 
Kalanguya Tinoc 
Karao (Karao, Bokod, Benguet)
Nueva Vizcaya Province, western Quirino Province)
Igorot society and
The gold found in the land of the
Igorot were an attraction for the
Spanish. Originally gold was exchanged at
Pangasinan by the
Igorot. The gold was used to buy consumable products by the
Igorot. Both gold and desire to Christianize the
Igorot were given
as reasons for Spanish conquest. In 1572 the Spanish started
hunting for the gold.
Benguet Province was entered by the Spanish
with the intention of obtaining gold. The fact that the Igorots
managed to stay out of Spanish dominion vexed the Spaniards. The
gold evaded the hands of the Spaniards due to
A seated Bulul, the anthropomorphical representations of rice
divinities protecting the seeds and the harvest of
Samuel E. Kane wrote about his life amongst the Bontoc, Ifugao, and
Kalinga after the Philippine–American War, in his book Thirty Years
with the Philippine Head-Hunters (1933). The first American school
Igorot girls was opened in
Baguio in 1901 by Alice McKay
Kelly.:317 Kane noted that
Dean C. Worcester
Dean C. Worcester "did more than any
one man to stop head-hunting and to bring the traditional enemy tribes
together in friendship.":329 Kane wrote of the
"there is a peace, a rhythm and an elemental strength in the
life...which all the comforts and refinements of civilization can not
replace...fifty years hence...there will be little left to remind the
young Igorots of the days when the drums and ganzas of the
head-hunting canyaos resounded throughout the land.:330–331
In 1904, a group of
Igorot people were brought to St. Louis, Missouri,
United States for the St. Louis World's Fair. They constructed the
Igorot Village in the Philippine Exposition section of the fair, which
became one of the most popular exhibits. The poet T. S. Eliot, who was
born and raised in St. Louis, visited and explored the Village.
Inspired by their tribal dance and others, he wrote the short story,
"The Man Who Was King" (1905). In 1905, 50 tribespeople were on
display at a Brooklyn, New York amusement park for the summer, ending
in the custody of the unscrupulous Truman K. Hunt, a showman "on the
run across America with the tribe in tow."
During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Igorots fought
against Japan. Donald Blackburn's World War II guerrilla force had a
strong core of Igorots.:148–165
In 2014, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a veteran indigenous rights of Igorot
ethnicity was appointed UN
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of
Ethnicities of the Philippine Cordilleras
Demographics of the Philippines
Ethnic groups in the Philippines
Indigenous peoples of the Philippines
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Luzon or Thirty Years
with the Philippine Head-Hunters, New York: Grosset & Dunlap
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Victoria Tauli-Corpuz begins as new
02 June 2014
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