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Inayan Culture: The Igorot Way of Life

Inayan Culture is the Igorot way of life, a unique and important cultural value deeply influenced by the Supreme Deity, Kabunian.

Inayan is a unique cultural value of the Igorot people that guides them in their daily lives. Learn about its history, core principles, and how it influences their actions, from morality to their approach to the environment. Clinton Aniversario

In the Cordillera Administrative Region, the Igorot people have a unique culture called Inayan, which is deeply influenced by their reverence and fear of a Supreme Deity known as Kabunian. It's not just a belief; it's a way of life for them.

Inayan is a crucial Igorot value that helps them maintain balance and harmony in their daily lives. It's all about respecting all living beings, be it humans, animals, or plants, and it stems from the belief that their actions are accountable to this Supreme Deity. This divine accountability inspires them to do good and maintain a peaceful life.

This article will explore the significance of Inayan culture among the Igorot people. We'll look at its history, core principles, and how it influences daily life and social structures. We'll also discuss how Inayan influences their actions, from matters of morality to their approach to the environment.

Join us in understanding the beauty of Inayan culture and its role in promoting balance and respect for all living things.

Historical Roots of Inayan

The historical roots of Inayan culture are both intriguing and deeply intertwined with the Igorot way of life. The term "Inayan" originates primarily from the Kankana-ey dialect, particularly among the Applai Tribe in Mountain Province, including communities in Besao, Sagada, Bauko, and Tadian. "Inayan" symbolizes the essence of respect, harmony, and balance that are central to Inayan culture and remains significant among these communities.

A Shared Cultural Heritage

Inayan is not exclusive to the Kankana-ey people but extends its cultural heritage across various Igorot ethnic groups. While the terminology may differ, the core values of Inayan-such as respect, love, and peace-resonate deeply with all Igorot communities.

  • Among the Bontok people, the concept of Inayan is reflected in the term "nga-ag."
  • The i-Benguet, or Benguet Kankana-ey, refer to Inayan as "lawa."
  • In Ifugao communities, it is known as "panyo."
  • In Benguet Ibaloi culture, Inayan is expressed as "panyew."

These linguistic variations serve as a testament to the rich tapestry of Igorot culture. While the terminology may differ, the shared values and principles of Inayan remain consistent, acting as a common thread that unites all Igorot ethnic groups.

Inayan's historical roots and its diverse expressions across Igorot dialects reflect the enduring significance of this culture within Igorot communities. It transcends linguistic boundaries and serves as a timeless guide for promoting balance, harmony, and respect within the Igorot way of life, connecting the past with the present and ensuring a bright cultural legacy for future generations.

Inayan culture is the moral compass of the Igorot people, guiding them away from harmful actions and towards a life of goodness and peace. Photo: Clinton Aniversario

Inayan Culture: A Conceptual Overview

Inayan culture is deeply ingrained in the lives of Igorot communities, signifying a profound reverence and fear of a Supreme Being. It serves as a moral compass, guiding individuals away from engaging in harmful actions and unpleasant deeds, much like the universal ethical principle encapsulated in the Golden Rule, "Treat others as you would like to be treated."

Inayan is a reflection of the values and principles that shape the Igorot way of life, emphasizing the importance of balance, harmony, and reciprocity. At its core, Inayan culture is a set of unwritten principles akin to an unwritten Ten Commandments that individuals strive to uphold in their daily lives.

Inayan and the Universal Ethical Principles

In many ways, Inayan aligns with universal ethical principles. Just as Confucius said, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself," Inayan fosters a similar principle of acting with caution and empathy to maintain harmony and balance within the community. This concept, often known as the Golden Rule, advises us to "Treat others as you would like to be treated."

Spiritual Foundation

Igorot spirituality centers around a belief in a Supreme Being, referred to as Kabunian, Alawagan, Lumauig, or by other names. This belief forms the core of Inayan culture and influences values like Laaton, May Kasiyana, Lawlawa Baw, and more, which serve as guiding principles in everyday life.

This belief in Kabunian shares similarities with teachings found in the Bible. Much like biblical principles, Igorot spirituality emphasizes the consequences of one's actions. It is believed that wrongdoing can lead to punishment by Kabunian, the Igorot deity. This belief underscores the importance of living a virtuous and honorable life among the Igorot people, instilling a commitment to being good individuals.

Inayan as a Guiding Value

Inayan is akin to the universal concept of "karma," emphasizing that our actions have consequences. It serves as a reminder to individuals to respect cultural norms and taboos, fostering discipline, order, and harmony within families, clans, villages, tribes, and the natural environment.

Practical Role of Inayan

In daily life, Inayan plays a pivotal role among Igorot people. It instills a cautious attitude and a healthy fear of the unknown, guiding individuals to avoid unnecessary risks and deterring them from engaging in undesirable behavior.

Inayan in Action: A Living Concept that Guides the Everyday Lives of Igorot People Photo: Clinton Aniversario

Inayan in Action

Inayan culture isn't merely a set of tenets and principles; it's a living concept that profoundly influences the everyday lives of Igorot people. While the core principles are essential, it's the practical application of these taboos and principles that truly defines Inayan.

The Inayan system encompasses a range of taboos, which should be strictly avoided. These taboos include theft, adultery, murder, disobeying parents, illegal logging (violating the batangan system), being selfish in doing good (mangbokod di gawis), and more. These taboos serve as explicit guidelines for maintaining harmony and order within Igorot communities, making Inayan a tangible and vital aspect of their daily existence.

It is Inayan to Commit Adultery

In Inayan culture, adultery is viewed as a serious transgression, and its consequences can be significant.

"Sakem" Among the Applai Tribe

Among the Applai tribe of the Mountain Province, specifically in Besao, the concept of "sakem" is particularly relevant. "Sakem" signifies that when a parent commits adultery, their child may experience severe repercussions, potentially falling critically ill, and in some cases, even facing the risk of death. The seriousness of the child's illness and the potential dire consequences are believed to be directly related to the gravity of the immoral act.

The Impact on the Applai Tribe

This belief in "sakem" strongly influences the people of Besao, making them some of the most faithful and dedicated partners you'll come across. Infidelity is exceptionally rare in this community due to the fear of causing harm to their children. The possibility that their actions may lead to the death of their child underscores the importance of morality and fidelity in Inayan culture.

A Reminder of Moral Integrity

The commitment of the Applai tribe to their partners and families illustrates the enduring impact of Inayan principles on their way of life. The belief in "sakem" serves as a potent reminder of the consequences of one's actions and reinforces the value of moral integrity within the community.

Inayan culture is the moral compass of the Igorot people, guiding them away from harmful actions and towards a life of goodness and peace. Photo: Clinton Aniversario

It is Inayan to Kill

In the Inayan culture of the Igorot people, the sanctity of life, respect for others, and the pursuit of peace are fundamental principles. Inayan acts as a peacekeeper, promoting respect, love, and harmony among individuals and communities, shaping their interactions and guiding their actions.

Sanctity of Life

Among the Igorots, the act of killing is a direct violation of the principles that underlie Inayan culture. These principles emphasize the sanctity of life and the importance of maintaining harmony and balance within the community. The act of taking another person's life disrupts this delicate equilibrium and is believed to bring severe repercussions.


A fundamental tenet of Inayan culture is the concept of reciprocity, emphasizing that actions have consequences, and individuals are responsible for their deeds. When someone commits murder, it is not just a transgression against the victim but also a breach of the moral and ethical code that binds the community together. The perpetrator of such an act is subject not only to legal consequences but also to the spiritual consequences dictated by the beliefs of the Igorot people.

Spiritual Consequences

In the Inayan culture, there is a strong belief that those who take a life will bear the weight of that act throughout their existence. This burden is believed to manifest in various forms, including illness, misfortune, and a sense of restlessness and guilt. It is said that the spirits of those who have been wronged by the act of murder may haunt the perpetrator, seeking retribution.

Community Sanctions

Furthermore, the community often imposes sanctions on those who commit such a grievous offense. These sanctions may involve isolation from the community or rituals aimed at cleansing the individual of the stain of their actions. The consequences of taking a life are not limited to the individual; they affect the entire community, as the act of killing disrupts the harmony that Inayan culture seeks to preserve.

Peace and Harmony

Inayan culture places great emphasis on the importance of peace and harmony. The act of taking another person's life is viewed as a grave transgression, disrupting the community's equilibrium. In the Igorot community, disputes and conflicts are often resolved through peaceful means and dialogue, ensuring that the values of respect and understanding prevail.

PLTCOL Byron Allatog

Inayan in Law Enforcement and Military: Exemplary Officers

The concept of Inayan has found its way into the practices of law enforcement and the military, promoting peace and security. Figures such as PLTCOL Byron Allatog have advocated community-based approaches to various issues, including the drug problem. During his tenure as Bogo City Chief of Police, he oversaw the rehabilitation of hundreds of drug surrenderees, emphasizing a commitment to non-violence. His approach resulted in a significant positive impact, with no casualties reported, earning him recognition from the Metrobank Foundation Inc.

These individuals, often hailing from the Cordillera region, embody the principles of Inayan and have become some of the finest officers in their respective fields. Their unwavering commitment to peace, integrity, and community-based solutions is a testament to the power of Inayan culture in shaping exemplary law enforcement and military officers. The Cordillera region, particularly its law enforcement officers, is known for its exceptional discipline, making them some of the most respected and disciplined cops in the Philippines.

The Cordillera region's "home of the most disciplined cops" reputation is due in part to the Igorot people's Inayan culture.

Inayan Perspective in the PNP: Chief of Police's Policing Approach

Police General Santos Azurin, Jr., the 28th Chief of the Philippine National Police (CPNP), has adopted the "INAYAN" perspective in policing. His flagship program employs the MKK=K ("Malasakit + Kaayusan + Kapayapaan = Kaunlaran") framework. By focusing on compassion, order, and peace, PGen Azurin seeks to establish transparent police operations that incorporate the Filipino value of "MALASAKIT." This approach is aimed at earning the trust and support of the people, creating "KAAYUSAN" within communities, and ensuring the safety of every individual. The ultimate goal is to provide "KAPAYAPAAN," a life without conflict, where peace and security reign, allowing "everyJUAN" to live without fear, walk the streets, and pursue their daily activities without hindrance.

These efforts reflect the integration of Inayan values into law enforcement and military practices, emphasizing peace, security, and the well-being of the community, while maintaining a strong commitment to non-violence and respect.

In conclusion, within Inayan culture, the act of killing is viewed as a profound violation of the core principles and beliefs that guide the Igorot way of life. It is a taboo that carries heavy consequences, both in the spiritual and social realms, reinforcing the importance of preserving life and maintaining the balance and harmony that are integral to the Igorot community.

It is Inayan to Lie, Cheat, Steal

In the Inayan culture of the Igorot people, honesty, integrity, and respect for others are highly valued principles. Lying, cheating, and stealing are considered grave transgressions that not only harm individuals but also undermine the foundation of trust and reciprocity that Inayan culture seeks to uphold.

Upholding Integrity and Moral Values


The act of lying is seen as a betrayal of trust and an affront to the principles of honesty and transparency. In the Igorot community, individuals are expected to be truthful in their words and actions. Whether it's a simple promise or a complex agreement, honesty is held in the highest regard. For instance, when an Igorot gives their word, they are expected to honor it, and breaking a promise is seen as a breach of trust.


Cheating is a violation of the principles of fairness and reciprocity. In the Inayan culture, individuals are expected to play by the rules and act with integrity. Cheating in any form, whether in games, business transactions, or interpersonal relationships, is viewed as a breach of trust and an offense against the community's moral code. For example, in everyday life, an Igorot vendor is known to provide the exact amount of goods they promised to customers. Any manipulation or dishonesty in trade is considered a grave offense.


Stealing is considered a serious offense that not only harms individuals but also disrupts the community's sense of security and trust. In the Inayan culture, individuals are expected to respect the property and possessions of others. Theft, whether petty or grand, not only leads to material loss but also erodes the sense of reciprocity and respect that underpins the community.


Dishonesty in any form is discouraged within the Igorot community. Whether it's providing false information, misrepresenting oneself, or being untruthful, such actions are contrary to the values of integrity and transparency. In everyday interactions, honesty is held in high regard, and dishonesty is considered a breach of trust.

Inayan in Governance

The commitment to Inayan values extends to governance, where Igorot leaders are renowned for their honesty and integrity. In a world where ethical governance can be a rare commodity, Igorot leaders are often seen as beacons of uprightness. They are guided by the same principles of Inayan culture that shape their everyday lives.

In Igorot governance, the trust of the people is considered sacred, and leaders are expected to act with transparency and serve their communities with unwavering dedication. The political landscape in the Cordillera Administrative Region, where the Igorot people predominantly reside, is marked by leaders who prioritize the welfare of their constituents and adhere to the principles of Inayan.

Igorot leaders are recognized for their commitment to public service and their refusal to engage in dishonest practices such as corruption, fraud, or deceit. They are often held up as examples of integrity in a field where ethical lapses are not uncommon.

Honesty Among the Igorot People

Igorot people are renowned for their unwavering honesty and integrity. This commitment to honesty extends beyond their cultural values and deeply influences their behavior in daily life. When an Igorot individual comes across a significant sum of money or valuable belongings, their immediate instinct is to make every effort to return them to their rightful owner.

This unwavering honesty extends to various facets of society, including public transportation. Igorot public utility vehicle (PUV) and public utility jeepney (PUJ) drivers are celebrated for their integrity. If a passenger leaves behind belongings or cash, these drivers go to great lengths to ensure the items are returned to their owners.

Their actions reflect not only a commitment to the principles of Inayan culture but also a testament to their unwavering honesty. It is this dedication to honesty that sets the Igorot people apart as some of the most trustworthy and honorable individuals, earning them the reputation of being the most honest people in their communities and beyond.

In conclusion, within Inayan culture, lying, cheating, and stealing are considered grave violations of the core principles and beliefs that guide the Igorot way of life. These actions not only harm individuals but also undermine the trust, integrity, and reciprocity that are integral to the Igorot community's well-being, both in everyday life and in the realm of governance.

The Igorot people's Inayan culture is a testament to their commitment to living in harmony with themselves, others, and the natural world. Photo: Clinton Aniversario

It is Inayan to Destroy the Environment

In the Inayan culture of the Igorot people, there is a deep reverence for the environment and a strong belief in the presence of Anitos-ancestral spirits that inhabit sacred sites in the natural world, such as rivers and wells. These Anitos are considered guardians of the environment and are believed to bring blessings or curses depending on how the environment is treated.

Respect for Sacred Sites

An essential tenet of Inayan culture is the respect for sacred sites in the environment, believed to be inhabited by Anitos. These locations are regarded with great reverence, and it is taboo to destroy them. Disrupting these sacred places is considered a grave offense, as it is believed to bring about misfortune or curses.

Conservation and Sustainable Practices

In the Inayan culture, there is a strong emphasis on the responsible use of natural resources. When gathering materials like wood or foraging for food, individuals are expected to take only what they need, leaving the rest intact. This sustainable approach to resource utilization ensures the environment remains in balance and continues to provide for future generations.

Inayan Culture and Environmental Preservation

The Inayan way of life is deeply intertwined with the preservation of the environment. Igorot people believe that by maintaining a harmonious relationship with nature and showing respect for the Anitos, they can secure the well-being of their communities. Practices such as sustainable agriculture, responsible hunting, and eco-friendly resource utilization are integral components of Inayan culture.

In conclusion, within Inayan culture, the destruction of the environment and sacred sites, believed to be inhabited by ancestral spirits (Anitos), is considered a violation of the core principles and beliefs that guide the Igorot way of life. Upholding respect for the environment and practicing responsible resource use are essential elements of Inayan culture, emphasizing the importance of coexisting harmoniously with the natural world and the spirits that inhabit it.

Because It is Inayan...

In the rich tapestry of Inayan culture, being a good person is the ultimate aspiration. It encompasses myriad values, principles, and actions, both big and small, that contribute to the well-being of individuals, their communities, and the environment they call home. It's a reminder that even the little things, like small acts of kindness or gestures of respect, play a crucial role in upholding the values of Inayan.

Inayan culture offers a profound lesson in living harmoniously with others and the natural world. It encourages individuals to strive for personal growth, not only for their own benefit but also to create a positive ripple effect that enhances the lives of those around them. It serves as a reminder that the path to being a good person is paved with unwavering respect, honesty, and integrity.

The Igorot people, through their adherence to Inayan values, exemplify the beauty of a life well-lived and serve as a testament to the power of culture in shaping individuals and communities. Their deep connection with nature, their sense of reciprocity, and their unwavering respect for one another are a testament to the timelessness and universality of the principles of Inayan.

In conclusion, the Inayan way of life is a celebration of being a good person, and it serves as a timeless blueprint for fostering mutual respect, integrity, harmony, and responsibility in the world we all share, where even the little things contribute to this profound cultural tapestry.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Inayan culture, and who practices it?

Inayan culture is a unique way of life practiced by the Igorot people in the Cordillera Administrative Region of the Philippines. It is deeply influenced by their spiritual beliefs, particularly their reverence for Kabunian, the Supreme Deity.

2. What are the core principles of Inayan culture?

The core principles of Inayan culture include respect, harmony, reciprocity, and integrity. These principles guide the Igorot people in their daily lives, emphasizing a harmonious relationship with all living beings.

3. How does Inayan culture influence daily life among the Igorot people?

Inayan culture plays a significant role in daily life by shaping interactions, behaviors, and values. It inspires individuals to be good and maintain peace, impacting their relationships, environment, and governance.

4. What is the history of Inayan culture, and how has it evolved over time?

Inayan culture has a rich history within Igorot communities, handed down through generations. It has adapted to societal changes while holding onto its core values, making it a lasting cultural heritage.

5. What are some practical examples of Inayan culture in action?

Practical examples include the taboos against lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, and killing. Upholding these principles promotes trust and harmony within Igorot communities.

6. How do the Igorot people view honesty and integrity in Inayan culture?

Honesty and integrity are highly valued in Inayan culture. The Igorot people prioritize these principles in daily life, both individually and in their governance.

7. How does Inayan culture relate to the preservation of the environment?

Inayan culture emphasizes environmental preservation by respecting sacred sites inhabited by ancestral spirits (Anitos). The Igorot people practice sustainable resource utilization, leaving a minimal ecological footprint.

8. How does Inayan culture contribute to maintaining peace and security in the Cordillera region?

Inayan culture contributes to peace and security in the Cordillera region by fostering non-violence, promoting community-based solutions, and encouraging a commitment to integrity and non-corruption among law enforcement officers and leaders.

9. How do the Igorot people view acts of kindness and respect in Inayan culture?

Acts of kindness and respect, regardless of their scale, are highly regarded in Inayan culture. They contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment, reinforcing the values of Inayan.

10. What is the significance of linguistic variations of the term "Inayan" across Igorot dialects?

The linguistic variations of the term "Inayan" among Igorot dialects highlight the shared values and principles of Inayan culture. While the terminology differs, the core principles remain consistent, uniting all Igorot ethnic groups.

11. What is "ay inayan"?

"Ay inayan" is an expression used among the Igorot people to convey a wide range of emotions, including frustration, disappointment, and disgust. It may not be directly related to "Inayan culture," which primarily encompasses the cultural values, principles, and way of life of the Igorot people. One humorous theory, which I propose, suggests that Igorot parents may have tried to instill the importance of 'Inayan' culture in their children to the extent that it became an earworm, leading to it being the first phrase they would utter and eventually transforming it into an expression.


In conclusion, Inayan culture is a remarkable way of life practiced by the Igorot people, deeply rooted in their reverence for a Supreme Deity, Kabunian. It serves as a moral compass guiding individuals to lead lives of balance, respect, and harmony with all living beings. This culture has a rich history, transcending linguistic boundaries and uniting various Igorot ethnic groups under shared values and principles.

Inayan culture aligns with universal ethical principles, emphasizing the importance of acting with empathy and caution to maintain harmony. The belief in a Supreme Being and the consequences of one's actions underscores the commitment to virtuous living and good deeds.

In the practical application of Inayan, taboos like lying, cheating, and stealing are considered grave offenses. The governance in the Cordillera region reflects these values, with leaders known for their honesty and dedication to public service.

Furthermore, Inayan culture extends its influence to environmental preservation, with a strong emphasis on responsible resource utilization and respect for sacred sites inhabited by ancestral spirits.

Inayan is a celebration of being a good person, reminding us that even the smallest acts of kindness and gestures of respect contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the environment. The Igorot people serve as living examples of the timeless principles of Inayan, promoting respect, honesty, and integrity in a world where these values are often needed most.

Ultimately, the Igorot people and their Inayan culture offer valuable insights into how culture shapes individuals and communities, serving as a universal blueprint for fostering mutual respect, harmony, and responsibility in our shared world.

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