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The Igorot Ethnic Groups

Everything you need to know about the Igorot people of the Cordilleras.

 |  23 min read

Statues representing the Igorot tribes of the Cordilleras. Igorot Garden, Baguio City Gideon Ponio, edited (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The term Igorot is an old Tagalog word, meaning "people from the mountains" and is a collective term used to include all tribal groups in the Cordilleras, including Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Tingguian, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys.

The Igorot people live mostly in the mountainous north and central areas of Luzon, particularly the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). The Cordillera region covers 18,294 sq. Km and includes the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

As far as the meaning of the word Igorot itself is concerned, Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, eminent Tagalog Scholar at the turn of the century, stated that it was composed of the root word "golot", meaning "mountain chain", and the prefix "i", meaning "people of" or "dwellers in".

Dr. Panganiban of the Institute of National Language stated that ten years ago, that root word itself is still used in the provinces to mean "hill" but is not common in Manila. In a 1613 Tagalog Dictionary, it is spelled "golor", that is golod. In the language of the Kankanaey or Lepanto Igorot, we find the word ginolot, meaning "native rice", as opposed to the topeng, or 2nd crop rice introduced from the lowlands.

Here's also talk about the origins of the word "Igorot" (1575-2018) given by Maria Carmen Domingo-Kirk at the Annual Philippine Studies Conference 2018 "Representing the Philippine Cordillera: Issues of Cultural Ownership, Commodification and Appropriation" which was held at SOAS University of London on 13 -14 July 2018.

In summary, the following can be said about the word Igorot:

It is an indigenous Filipino Word originally meaning "mountaineer." It appeared in the earliest records of the conquest of Luzon, and by 1700 it was applied by the early Spaniards to Pagans living in the mountains of the present provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, Benguet, Bontok, Ifugao, and extended to Apayao in the 1770s and Kalinga in the 1880s.

It was used by some American Anthropologists to designate all mountaineers of supposedly "Malayan stock" by others for Bontoks and Benguets, by still others for Benguets only, and was finally rejected as a scientific term because of this confusion.

At present, it has the derogatory connotations of "unchristian" and "uncivilized" to some lowlanders, but it is used in books and to newspapers without any such connotations with the approval of some native mountaineers and the disapproval of others.

The Various Igorot ethnic groups

The terms "Igorot" and "Cordillerans" are used to refer to several tribal groups including Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Tingguian, Kalinga, and Kankana-eys.

Igorot vs Cordilleran: What's the Difference?

I suggest we use the term "Igorot" to refer to the various ethnic groups in the Cordilleras while "Cordillerans" should refer to its citizens. There's a difference, right?

Here are the different Igorot tribal groups based on reports released by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts:


The Apayao (Isneg, Isnag, Mandaya, Ibulus, Imandaya, Imallod, Itne'g, Kalina', Apayaw, Iapayaw, Imandaya, Imallod, Idamma'n, Abulog) inhabit the northern end of the Cordillera mountain ranges in the northern portions of the Kalinga and Apayao provinces. The country is mountainous. The lowlands are mostly level swamps of lesser areas that alternate with hills. This is the only part of the Cordilleras that can be traveled by water by the use of boats and rafts.

The Isnags are the earliest residents of Apayao and one of the ethnic groups found in Cordillera Administrative Region of the Philippines.

The territory, however, is not exclusively inhabited by the Apayao alone. Other ethnic groups like the Kalinga and Itawit also occupy pockets. Groups of Negrito are also found, as well as Ilocano farmers, especially in the flatlands.

There are at least three generalized groupings:

  1. Kabugao Mandaya Tawit
  2. Karawagan
  3. Talifugu

The areas of concentration of the people are in the municipalities of Pudtol (21,075), Kabugao (10,651), Kalanasan (8,367), and Conner (3,086)(NSO 1990).

In the province they number about 24,844 with a total national population of some 27,627 (NSO 1980).

The groups are riverine-oriented and practice a slash-and-burn type of cultivation, and presently an intensive type of wet-rice agriculture in the lower reaches of the drainage systems and the floodplains.

Most are traditionally oriented along the banks of the Abulug (Apayao) and Matalag rivers, and the tributaries. Rice is a prestige crop with yams, taro, corn, and sweet potato supplementing the diet.

Settlement areas are usually small permanent hamlets within hailing distance and composed of kin-related households. Multifamily houses are among the most sturdily built in the Cordilleras with nuclear compartments.

The political structure is usually headed by individuals of economic and leadership distinction, mengal, with large kin following. The position is not inherited. The prestige validating feat, sayam, is also indulged in by highly placed males to celebrate propitious events.

Ritual celebrations are attended to by female ritual specialists who are generally mediums. Ritual feasts are usually accompanied by "boasting" by mengals around a ritual stone.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 27,627
Kalinga-Apayao 24,844
Agusan N. 9
Aklan 10
Benguet 281
Cagayan 142
Davao 10
Ilocos N. 2,134
Ilocos S. 37
Laguna 20
Manila 9
Misamis Occ. 5
Mt. Prov. 10
N.Vizcaya 10
Pangasinan 50
Surigao N. 10
Tarlac 11
Tawo-tawi 11
Zamboanga N. 12
Zamboanga S. 12


The Bago (Bago Igorot) were identified first in the municipality of Pugo on the southeastern side of La Union. This is a highly acculturated group whose villages are along major transportation routes between the lowlands and the Abatan, Benguet markets in the highland.

The major ritual practices and beliefs are somewhat related to the northern Kankanay, thus the idea that the people were migrants because of the trade from western Mountain Province.

The Kankanay regard them as such and not as a specific ethnic group. The language is a mixture of northern Kankanay with an infusion of lowland dialects. Most of the individuals are bilingual with Ilocano as the trade language.

Their agricultural activities revolve around a mixture of highland root crops like sweet potatoes, yams, and taro, and lowland vegetables and fruits.


The Balangao (Balangaw, Balangad, Bontoc, Baliwen) are found in the navel of the Mountain Province in the central Cordillera mountain ranges in the municipality of Natonin. The estimated population is 7,000.

Although related to the general Cordillera languages, Balangao appears to be a language branch that developed independently from the central Bontoc, Kalinga, and Ifugao groups. Both physical and social circumscription contributed to the differentiation from the neighboring groups.

The subsistence mode is wet terrace rice farming although the terrace systems are not as extensive as those of the Ifugao. The biannual rice crop production is supplemented by some swidden cultivation of root crops including yam, taro, and sweet potato, and food gathering.

Although the basic culture belongs to the generalized Cordillera culture, it is closer to the Kalinga with whom they are in contact. For instance, their architecture is similar.

However, Christianity has already penetrated the area; likewise in place are the civil structure of government as well as its educational system. Otherwise, much of the indigenous customs still prevail as in marriage and lifestyle as well as in the use of dormitories for men and women.


With a total population of about 65,000 (NSO 1980), the Bontoc (Bontok, Bontoc Igorot, Igorot, Guianes) are found in the Mountain Province of the Cordillera mountain ranges in the upper Chico river region.

Group of prominent men, Bontoc pueblo Jenks

The group is more densely located in the municipalities of Bontoc (18,080), Sadanga (7,245), and Barlig (5,640).

Five subgroupings are usually recognized by social scientists based on dialectal differences:

  1. Central
  2. Talubin
  3. Barlig
  4. Lias
  5. Kadaklan.

The culture is distinguished by the stonewalled rice terracing technology with the use of organic fertilizers-unique among ethnic groups in the country. Fields are irrigated through intricate canals channeling mountain streams, or through the use of raised wooden troughs, or even moved by hand. Rice, the principal crop, is rotated with sweet potato, corn, millet, and beans.

The Igorot man at Bayyo, Bontoc, Mountain Province

The material culture is a generalized Cordillera stream distinguished by the use of pocket hats among the males, and the preference for the ax instead of the bolo as a tool. The communities are organized about the village ward-ato-small political units or male council houses/dormitory/gathering places. Boys, traditionally sleep in these houses as soon as they can.

Here they are introduced to male adult roles in the community. There are girl dormitories(olag) too under the care of elder women. Houses are usually built on the ground with stone and boards, topped by a steep pyramidal roof. Stonewalled pig pens are common.

The political structure is usually headed by individuals of economic and leadership distinction, mengal, with large kin following. The position is not inherited. The prestige validating feat, sayam, is also indulged in by highly placed males to celebrate propitious events.

Ritual celebrations are attended to by female ritual specialists who are generally mediums. Ritual feasts are usually accompanied by "boasting" by mengals around a ritual stone.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 23,552
Abra 5 (NSO 1980:65000)
Aurora 177
Antique 10
Basilan 10
Benguet 6,618
Bohol 21
Bukidnon 113
Bulacan 30
Cagayan 94
Davao 10
Davao S. 11
Davao Or. 49
Ifugao 83
Isabela 11
Kalinga-Apayao 457
Misamis Or. 10
Mt. Province 15,723
Occ. Mindoro 18
Or. Mindoro 11
Palawan 12
Pangasinan 22
Quirino 25
Rizal 22
Zambales 10


The area in the middle Cagayan Valley where tributaries of the Cagayan River merge with the eastern sides of the Cordillera mountains is occupied by the people called Ga'dang.

Some of the more conservative groups may be found in the highlands of southeastern Kalinga-Apayao, eastern Bontoc, and Isabela. From here, they extend into the valley and have become interspersed with the Christian Ilocano and Ibanag, specifically in the Magat River valley in northwestern Nueva Vizcaya. In the lowlands, they are almost indistinguishable from other groups.

Five subgroups are recognized:

  1. Gaddang proper
  2. Yogad
  3. Maddukayang
  4. Katalangan
  5. Iraya

The area of concentration is about Cauayan (5,777 NSO 1990), and in the province of Isabela (50,000 NSO 1980), with a total national population of about 20,850 (NSO 1980).

Traditionally, subsistence is based on swidden cultivation of rice and sweet potatoes, supplemented by cash cropping of tobacco and corn. In the lowlands, intensive wet cultivation is practiced. Settlements are located near streams and their cultivated fields.

Leadership in a community is based on bravery, skills, knowledge of custom law, and economic wealth usually associated with the status of mingal. Peace pacts(pudon) is practiced.

Religion is based on a dichotomy of the earth world and an afterworld, although the former is a major concern. Ritual practitioners are both male and female. Individual prestige feasts are practiced by males at least once in a lifetime. For this, they accumulate wealth to finance the required seven elaborate rituals.

Ga'dang dress, especially that of the upland groups, is very colorful, notable for the use of numerous types of beads of semiprecious stones.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 19,220
(NSO 1980:20850)
Antique 10
Benguet 40
Bukidnon 11
Cagayan 91
Cavite 10
Ifugao 702
Iloilo 10
Isabela 9,878
Kalinga-Apayao 677
Lanao N. 88
Lanao S. 10
Mt. Province 1,557
N. Ecija 10
N. Vizcaya 5,859
Palawan 11
Quirino 65
S. Kudarat 10
Zamboanga S. 10
Manila 32
Makati 118
Q.C. 21


The Ibaloy (Ibaloi, Ibadoy, Igodor, Benguet Igorot, Nabaloi, Benguet, Iniballuy) constitute a large ethnic group that number approximately 112,447 (NSO 1990) and are found in Benguet province, principally in the municipalities of Itogon (12,353), Tuba (11,063), La Trinidad (12,136), Bokod (8,911), Baguio (68,550), and Atok (9,063) (NSO 1980, 1990).

Ibaloy Woman From Benguet Province Ca. 1920's

The population has spread to the neighboring provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, and Nueva Ecija. Kabayan is recognized as the center of Ibaloy culture. The settlements are scattered in the municipalities of Bokod, Atok, Tublay, Sablan, and Kabayan.

A wide range of dialectical differences are known but not clearly studied. Thus far, (1) Ibaloy Proper, and (2) Karao are the subgroups cited.

To some extent, rice terracing is practiced in the lower reaches of the drainage systems. Sweet potato and taro are planted dry in areas that cannot be irrigated. The terracing technology is at present applied to middle latitude vegetable growing. Rice is the principal and ritual food. Animal husbandry is practiced, although meat is traditionally limited to ritual consumption. The group has a long history of gold and copper mining.

The Ibaloy lack the ward system of the Bontoc although in the past there were communal dormitories. A traditional community would have a council of elders (tongtong) whose opinions hold sway over a two-tiered social system: the rich (baknang) and the poor (abitug). Deities collectively called "Kabunian" include the major entity, "Kabigat." Souls of departed relatives (kaamaran) are revered. Ritual celebrations, reportedly numbering more than 40 classes are conducted by mambunung. These include the prestige feast pashit and curing seances that feature animal sacrifice, feasting, and the use of fermented rice beer. The rich in Kabayan used to be interred in coffins after mummification in artificially made caves.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces(Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 112,447
Abra 5
Agusan N. 10
Agusan S. 240
Aurora 29
Basilan 18
Batangas 13
Benguet 86,052
Bukidnon 303
Bulacan 20
Cagayan 198
Capiz 484
Cavite 10
Davao 10
Davao S. 91
Davao Or. 38
Ifugao 85
Iloilo 1,113
Isabela 2,205
Kalinga-Apayao 435
La Union 1,276
Lanao S. 127
Maguindanao 29
Mt. Province 12
Negros Occ. 1,838
Negros Of. 1,314
N. Cotabato 100
N. Ecija 216
N. Vizcaya 13,406
Or. Mindoro 11
Palawan 29
Pangasinan 748
Quirino 1,104
Romblon 160
S. Cotabato 377
S. Kudarat 185
Surigao S. 55
Zambales 29
Zamboanga S. 51
Valenzuela 10
Paranaque 11


The Ifugao (Ifugaw, Ipugao, Ypugao, Hilipan, Quiangan) are world-famous for their spectacular rice terraces especially in Mayaoyao and Banaue where entire mountainsides are sculpted like giant steps.

The national population is over 167,369 (NSO 1990). Concentrations in the province of Ifugao are in the municipalities of Banaue (25,400), Lagawe (15,615), Kiangan (21,329, NSO 1990), and Mayaoyao (23,330, NSO 1980).

Ifugaos of Northern Luzon in wedding dress

The language has been grouped in several ways; one of which is:

  1. Kiangan-Hapao
  2. Banaue-Burnay
  3. Ayangan-Mayaoyao
  4. Hanglulu
  5. Tuwali
  6. Keleyi (related to the Ikalahan)

In the whole province, they number some 117,281 (1990 provincial estimates).

The basic subsistence technology is wet rice cultivation in massive rice terraces covering entire mountainsides, and dry cultivation of other crops like sweet potatoes. During the offseasons, the terraces are planted with vegetables.

Some amount of food gathering is still practiced, along with minimal hunting in the remaining forested areas. The group is noted for its wood carving-usually associated with ritual-and weaving.

The group is famous for its very complex indigenous religion marked by a cosmology that includes hundreds of deities. There are elaborate rituals that accompany personal and social events, participated in by choirs of ritual practitioners.

Among the many celebrations is that of the elevation of a couple to the rank ofkadangyan-the most prestigious rank in the society that involves the carving of a prestige bench-the hagabi.

A complete set of Ifugao ethnic attire for men usually used by the elite "kadangyan" Ifugaos

The Ifugao are famous, too, for their prodigious oral epic literature like the hudhod and the alim.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 167,369
Abra 16
Agusan N. 10
Agusan S. 21
Aurora 180
Akalan 20
Benguet 7,030
Bukidnon 81
Cagayan 587
Camarines N. 19
Cebu 11
Davao 32
Ifugao 122,260
Ilocos S. 13
Iloilo 19
Isabela 5,858
Kalinga-Apayao 28
La Union 103
Manila 89
Mt. Province 385
Negros Occ. 82
N. Cotabato 21
N. Ecija 358
N. Vizcaya 17,417
Or. Mindoro 31
Palawan 29
Pampanga 20
Pangasinan 261
Quirino 12,149
Rizal 10
S. Cotabato 41
Surigao N. 22
Zamboanga S. 31
Marikina 30
S. Juan 22
Kaloocan 21
Makati 42
Pasay 20


This group (Kallahan, Kalanguya, Kadasan, Ikalasan, Kalasan) may be found in Imugan and Kayapa in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet living in mid-mountain forests of tropical oak, hence their ascribed name. Segments of this population may be found in the province of Ifugao where they are known as Kalanguya, speaking dialects like Keleyi. This group is concentrated in the southwestern corner of Ifugao. The national population is some 34,000 (Rice 1974).

Like the Ifugao, the preferred food is taro even if the sweet potato is the staple, and rice the prestige food. Planting is done in low terraced fields along with mountain drainage systems and valley flood plains. Pig raising is one of the more important occupations. In the town of Imugan and the surrounding villages about Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, the population is noted for the production of basketry and brooms.

Ikalahan culture is characteristically that of the Cordillera with involved rituals and animal sacrifices and prestige feasts (padit) of men which are held for days accompanied by the sacrifice of prescribed sets of animals. Like the I'wak, meat is consumed principally during rituals and is meticulously shared.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 2,915
N.Vizcaya; Benguet, Ifugao
(DR 1973:34,000
Antique 10
Aklan 38
Benguet 51
Bohol 10
Iloilo 10
Lanao S. 32
Maguindanao 11
Mt. Prov. 9
N. Vizcaya 2,120
Occ. Mindoro 9
Palawan 11
Pangasinan 583
Paranaque 10
Pasay 11


The Isinay (Isinai, Inmeas) is a small group found principally in the municipality of Bambang (1,225), Nueva Vizcaya, and Dupax Sur (265) in Quirino province. The total population is set at about 6,000 (NSO 1980). The language belongs to the northern Philippine, central Cordilleran group.

The subsistence technology is principally wet rice cultivation. There is some swidden cultivation in the higher elevations. Subsistence is supplemented by animal husbandry.

Since the area is linked with the major transportation arteries that connect southern and northern Luzon and thus exposed to intensive trade, culture change is highly advanced and much of the traditional culture is gone.

The population has merged with mainstream society due to the changes wrought by the national power structure, educational system, market economy, and the great religions. Except for the language, the ethnic character is no longer distinguishable.

Population movement theories point to the Isinay country as one of the possible staging areas for the migration of people to the Ifugao highlands.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 5,624
Agusan N. 10
Agusan S. 22
Batanes 1
Benguet 80
Bukidnon 93
Bulacan 41
Cagayan 20
Davao 21
Ifugao 21
Ilocos N. 10
Isabela 75
Kalinga-Apayao 10
La Union 10
Laguna 11
Lanao N. 19
Lanao S 11
Misamis Or. 30
N. Ecija 10
N. Vizcaya 5,003
Pangasinan 12
Quezon 10
Rizal 9
Romblon 9
Surigao N. 36
Zambales 9
Zamboanga N. 10
Zamboanga S. 10
Q.C. 10
Valenzuela 11


This small ethnic group (Oak, Iguat, Iwaak, etc.) has a population of approximately 3,000 (NM 1972) dispersed in small fenced-in villages which are usually enclaves in communities of surrounding major ethnic groups like the Ibaloy and Ikalahan (1970 estimates).

The characteristic village enclosing fences are sometimes composed in part of the houses with the front entry facing inward. Pigsties are part of the residential architecture.

The Iwak are found principally in the municipalities of Boyasyas and Kayapa, province of Nueva Vizcaya.

The subgroups are:

  1. Lallang ni I'Wak
  2. Ibomanggi
  3. Italiti
  4. Alagot
  5. Itangdalan
  6. Ialsas
  7. Iliaban
  8. Yumanggi
  9. Ayahas
  10. Idangatan

Subsistence is based on dry cultivation of taro which is associated with complex rituals using the pig as the principal ritual animal. Focus on cropping is shifted to the cultivation of sweet potato as the staple. Some wet rice is cultivated in the flood plains of mountain streams in the lower elevations.

The social organization is systemic and is based on indigenous religion marked with the use of a ritual house about which a kin-based parish is organized. Associated with the social organization and religion, membership is defined in a meat-sharing system.

Like other groups in the Cordillera, an adult male must celebrate a personal prestige feast(padit) at least once in his lifetime. He would raise and gather a large herd of pigs for the highly complex rituals that may take several days to conclude. Pigs like other animals are only eaten within the context of rituals, and the meat is judiciously shared with all the members of the community.


Historically, this is a mixed group (Calinga, Kalingga, Kalina') but now considered as a more or less homogenous group with an estimated population of 83,963 in the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao. The core areas of the group are in the drainage areas of the Chico River and its tributaries in northern Cordillera.

One of the ways the culture has been grouped is as follows:

  1. Balbalan (northern)
  2. Lubuagan (southern)
  3. Maducayan (eastern)

Another postulated subgrouping is:

  1. Giad'an Balbalasang
  2. Sumadel
  3. Lubuagan
  4. Nabayugan
  5. Ablig Saligsig
  6. Kalagua
  7. Mangali Lubo

There is a little-known highly mobile group in the Kalakad-Tupac area in east Tanudan.

The population is a mixed group thought to be descendants of migrants into the area from the Cagayan Valley to the east and the province of Abra to the west.

The population concentrations are in Pinukpok (13,469), Tabuk (19,835), Balbalan (9,745), Tinglayan (12,306), and Tanudan (9,242). The national population is 91,128 (NSO 1990).

There is a marked difference between the northern and the southern populations due to the introduction of wet rice terracing in the south from Bontoc. An eastern grouping caused by geographic circumscription is also recognized.

The society is organized into endogamous groups stemming from budongalliances. Because of their dress and personal ornamentations, the Kalinga have been dubbed the "Peacocks of the North."

Their octagonal house in southern Kalinga is distinctive, as well as the peace pacts that they enter into to preserve relationships with neighboring groups. Settlement areas are denser in the south.

Agriculture is also carried on in terraces, though less grandiose than those of the Ifugao and Bontoc, and field preparation is done with the use of draft animals. Rice is the principal crop. Swidden crops include beans, sweet potato, corn, sugarcane, and taro. Coffee is a popular cash crop. Distinctive pottery, basketry, and metal craft are known.

Kalinga men carrying harvested rice

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 91,128
Kalinga-Apayao 83,963
Agusan N. 10
Aklan 10
Batangas 10
Benguet 2,527
Bukidnon 11
Cagayan 593
Camiguin 8
Cavite 52
Davao S. 11
Isabela 1,599
La Union 33
Laguna 10
Manila 20
Misamis Or. 7
Mt. Prov. 1,746
Negros Occ. 10
N. Ecija 159
N. Vizcaya 47
Palawan 10
Pampanga 21
Pangasinan 49
Quirino 10
S. Cotabato 9
Zambales 193
Makati 10


The name Kankanaey came from the language which they speak. The only difference among the Kankanaey are the way they speak like intonation and the usage of some words.

In intonation, there is a hard Kankanaey or Applai and a soft Kankanaey. Speakers of hard Kankanaey are from Sagada, Besao, and the surrounding parts or barrios of the said two municipalities. They speak Kankanaey hard in intonation where they differ in some words from the soft-speaking Kankanaey.

Northern Kankana-ey

The Kankanay (Northern Kankanai, Lepanto Igorot, Katangnan, Sagada Igorot, Kataugnan) are found on the western flank of the Cordillera in the Mountain Province just east of Ilocos Sur. They are in the municipalities of Tadian, Besao, Sabangan, and Sagada. Cervantes in Ilocos Sur also has a fairly large Lepanto Kankanai concentration.

The population is estimated at some 59,987 (NSO 1990) in the area about Lepanto and Tiagan to the headwater streams of the Chico and Abra rivers where they practice wet terracing. This type of cultivation, however, was preceded by dry cultivation of tubers, a practice widespread among the peoples of the Cordilleras.

The northern Kankanay are more related in terms of culture to the Bontoc peoples to the north and northeast on the Chico River system. The language (Kataugnan), however, has been classified with the Kankanaey to the south of them in the Amburayan area. There are differences in dialect from district to district.

Roxanne Baeyes from Besao, Mountain Province, Miss Earth Philippines 2020

They have large nucleated communities associated with the terraces especially the Kayan, Bauko, Besao areas. The social organization parallels that of the Bontoc. The ward system of structuring groups is practiced with the institution of the dapay, which is similar to the Bontoc ato. Male meeting houses cum dormitories are separate from those of women.

Mining for gold and copper is extensive in Suyoc and Mankayan, they worked extensively during historical times. Rice, sweet potatoes, and taro are the principal crops. The terracing is similar to those of the Bontoc.

Southern Kankana-ey

The southern Kankanaey are linguistically linked with their northern neighbors, the northern Kankanay. In cultural terms, they comprise a very distinct group. They occupy the area drained by the Amburayan rivers.

They are more similar to the Ibaloi to the south, and like them, the Kankanaey are in the province of Benguet in the northwest and the rest in the old Amburayan area in the highlands above northern La Union, southern Ilocos Sur, and the southern sections of Mountain Province.

Although many cultural traits are shared with the Ibaloy, the languages of the two are not related since the affinity of Inibaloi is with Pangasinan. The terrain they occupy is rugged and steep. There is an estimated population of about 158,313 nationwide (NSO 1990).

They have been described in early 1900 as like the Ibaloy but they celebrate their festivals "more splendidly." There is a marked difference between their language and that of the Ibaloi. But like the latter, their settlements are dispersed. Their terraces have mud walls like those of their southern neighbors, with the same kind of cropping.

During modern times, their agricultural thrusts turned more toward the production of mid-latitude vegetables which are marketed even to the lowlands and cities of central Luzon.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Census 1990 (The NSO census does not distinguish between the two groups. Here the Kankanai is taken to be only the population in Mt. Province. The rest are counted as Kankana-ey arbitrarily for lack of more definitive data.)
Kankanai Total National Population 59,987
Kankana-ey Total National Pop. 158,313
Total National Population 218,300
Abra 9
Aurora 349
Benguet 118,908
Bohol 19
Bulacan 10
Davao S. 10
Ifugao 201
locos S. 10,795
Iloilo 10
Isabela 1,583
Kalinga-Apayao 8,389
La Union 11,837
Laguna 8
Leyte 10
Manila 42
N. Cotabato 22
N. Ecija 516
N. Vizcaya 4,276
Occ. Mindoro 9
Or. Mindoro 29
Palawan 20
Pangasinan 288
Quirino 770
Rizal 10
Tarlac 11
Zambales 69
Zamboanga S. 22
Pateros 21
Taguig 40


Otherwise known as Itneg or literally, Itineg, which means people living near the Tineg river (Tinguian, Tinguianes, Itinek, Mandaya, Tingian), the group has been classified into several subgroupings: Adassen, Binongan, Inlaod, Masadiit, Aplai, Banao, Gubang, Maeng, Luba, and Balatok, although the latter might be a Kalinga group.

The population range is 51,422 with concentrations in the towns of Tubo (4,535), Manabo (3,250), Sallapadan (3,525), San Quintin (3,370), Luba (4,746), and Boliney (3,694) in the province of Abra (NSO 1990).

Outside Abra, they number most in Ilocos Sur (4,920) and Iloilo (1,113). There is a very close affinity with the nearby Ilocano groups with whom they have a continual relationship.

There are two general groupings: the valley Tinggian which are a homogenous and concentrated population found in the lower reaches of the province of Abra that thrive on wet rice cultivation; the mountain Tinggian that depend on dry cultivation and root crops in the higher elevations.

Traditionally, the Tinggian live in fortified villages adjacent to the swidden fields. They differ from other Philippine ethnic groups in that their dress is basically white, with the women are known for the heavily beaded and full lower arm ornaments.

The village is the political unit with a lakay as the head, assisted by a council of elders. The indigenous religion recognizes Kadaklan as the supreme deity, often identified also with Kabunyian, and other animistic deities.

The ritual specialists and healers are usually women. Prestige feasts by men, sayang, are common among the Cordillera groups and usually aspired for by most people with sufficient kin support.

Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces (Arrangement: Population count)
Total National Population 47,447
Abra 39,016
Benguet 343
Bulacan 11
Cagayan 228
Cavite 10
Ifugao 73
Ilocos N. 369
Ilocos S. 4,920
Iloilo 1,113
Isabela 397
Kalinga-Apayao 622
La Union 31
Lanao del N. 5
Manila 31
Mt. Prov. 53
Negros Occ. 9
N. Cotabato 11
N. Vizcaya 20
Pangasinan 9
Quirino 10
Rizal 11
S. Kudarat 33
Sulu 32
Zamboanga S. 10
Caloocan 20
Valenzuela 10
Makati 50

Ethno-linguistic groups listings

  • Apayao (Kalinga/Apayao)
    • Cabugao-Mandaya-Tawit
    • Karawagan
    • Talifugo
  • Balangao (Natonin, Mt. Province)
  • Bontok (Mountain Province)
    • Central
    • Talubin
    • Barlig
    • Lias
    • Kadaklan
  • Gaddang (Isabela, Ifugao, Aurora)
    • Ga'dang proper
    • Yogad
    • Maddukayang
    • Katalangan
    • Iraya
  • Ibaloi (Benguet)
    • Ibaloi proper (Kabayan)
    • Karao (Bokod)
  • Ifugao (Ifugao)
    • Tuwali
    • Ayangan
    • Hanglulu
    • Yattuka
    • Kalanguya
    • Keley-i
  • Isinai (N. Vizcaya)
  • I'wak (Nueva Vizcaya/Benguet)
    • Lalang ni I'Wak (Montang I'Wak)
    • Alagot
    • Ibomangi
    • Itali'ti'
    • Itangdalan
    • I-Alsas
    • Ileaban
    • Ayahas
    • Idangatan
    • Imanggi
  • Kalinga (Kalinga-Apayao)
    • Tinglayan-Balbalasang
    • Sumadel
    • Lubuagan
    • Nabayugan
    • Ablig
    • Saligsig
    • Kalagua
    • Mangali
    • Lubo
  • Kankanai (Mountain Province)
    • Kankanai (Sagada)
    • Bago (La Union, Ilocos S., Pang.)
  • Kankana-ey (Benguet)
  • Tinggian (Abra)


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