IGOROT Ethnic Groups

Friday, November 13, 2009

igorot man - masferreThe Cordillera region of Northern Philippines is the ancestral domain of the Igorots. It is comprised of the six provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province plus the lone city of Baguio. 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.


Alternative/Associated Names: Bontok, Bontoc
LOCATION: Central Mountain Province

The Bontocs live in the banks of the Chico River. It used to be a group that was known because of its head-hunting practices. 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 around 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. In addition the Bontoc 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.

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 as 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.


Alternative/Associated Names: Ibaloi/Nabaloi
LOCATION: Southern Benguet

The Ibaloi live mostly in the southern part of Benguet. An agricultural people cultivating rice in terraced fields, they have some affinity in language with Pangasinan, its southern neighbor. Baguio City, the Cordilleras lone city and dubbed as the “Summer Capital of the Philippines” is also situated in Ibaloi country.

The Ibaloi’s major feast is the Pesshet, a public prestige feast of the wealthy, that could last for weeks and involving the butchering and sacrifice of dozens of animals. One of their more popular dances is the Bendiyan Dance that could be participated in by as many as a hundred men and women dancers.


Alternative/Associated Names: Ifugao, Amganad, Ayangan, Kiangan, Gilipanes, Quiangan, Tuwali Ifugao, Mayoyao (Mayoyao, Mayaoyaw)
LOCATION: Ifugao Province
DIALECT: Four distinct Ifugao dialects

The country of the Ifugao in the southern part of the Cordillera region is best known for its famous rice terraces, which in modern times have become one of the big tourist attractions of the Philippines. The Ifugaos build their typical houses at the edge of their fields. As distinctive aspect of these house 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.


Alternative/Associated Names: Isnag, Dibagat-Kabugao-Isneg, Apayao
LOCATION: Northern Apayao

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

As dry rice farmers, 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 grown is coffee.


Alternative/Associated Names: Linimos, Limos; Limos-Liwan Kalinga
LOCATION: Kalinga Province
DIALECT: Kalinga, Limos

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 they have developed an institution of peace pacts which has minimized traditional warfare and head hunting and serves as a mechanism for the initiation, maintenance, renewal and re-enforcement 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.

The Kalinga society is very kinship oriented and relatives are held responsible for avenging any injury 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.


Alternative/Associated Names: Northern Kankana-ey; Sagada/Besao Igorot, Western Bontoc, Applai
LOCATION: Western Mountain Province, Southeastern Ilocos Sur Province, Northern Benguet
DIALECT: Northern Kankana-ey

The Kankana-ey’s domain includes Western Mountain Province, Northern Benguet and Southeastern Ilocos Sur. Like most Igorot ethnic groups, the Kankana-ey built sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordilleras. 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 girl’s dormitory where courtship between young men and women took place.

Kankana-ey’s major dances include takik, a wedding dance and ballangbang.


1. "PHILIPPINE ETHNIC MOTIFS Vol. 3" as part of the Okir project by the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines and the Philippine National Museum)
2. UNREACHED PEOPLES `81 -- David C. Cook Publishing Company
3. Cordillera Philippines
4. BIBAK NE Homepage


Anonymous November 24, 2010 at 12:28 AM  

Just a question... which group do the Tinguians fit in?

IL January 7, 2011 at 6:52 AM  

Hello, it is really interesting, thanks for this description.
One question... i have been in the Philippines around 1995, i visited the Banaue rice terraces and in walking in the forest, i met a man in loincloth and with a lance. He was very small like the pygmy people. Can you tell me which ethnic group he belongs to ?

IL February 22, 2011 at 4:35 PM  

It is a pitty you did not answer, i am a bit disappointed... Maybe you are very busy.
Good continuation !

Anonymous February 23, 2011 at 5:24 AM  

I think He would belong to the Ifugao tribe.

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