Search This Blog


Igorot People of Philippine Island

“Many desperate acts of courage and heroism have fallen under my observation on many fields of battle in many
parts of the world. I have seen last-ditch stands and
innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description
but for sheer breathtaking and heart-stopping desperation,
I have never known the equal of those Igorots. Gentlemen,
when you tell that story, stand in tribute to these
gallant Igorots.” - Gen. Douglas MacArthur 

I was wearing a combined attire of the tribes of Igorot.
Have you heard the word "Igorot or Igorota" or a group of people called Igorot? If you didn't meet any Igorot yet,
well I am one of them. Igorot people live in the Philippines. I am sure you heard of Manny Pacquiao, who is our representative when it comes to boxing, or Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach 2015 and Miss Universe Catriona Gray 2018. Now, you have an idea where I came from. Let me share with you who are we, and why are we called Igorot people. In the Southern part of the Philippines when people hear about Igorots they will think of mountaineers or head taking people. Haha, don't worry not all the tribes of Igorot are so-called "Head Hunters". This practice stops for a long time.

The Philippines, known as the "Pearl of the Orient". The Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila. Luzon is the largest island in the Philippines. The island of Luzon contains 8 administrative regions of the Philippines. One of the 8 is Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). CAR was created in 1989, a special administrative region for the indigenous tribes of mountains. Its provinces are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. CAR, the land of Igorot people.

The word "Igorot" is Philippine Tagalog word for "mountain people" or "mountaineer. It is derived from the prefix i - "dweller of" and golot means "mountain range". The word has been variously spelled during the Spanish colonial era as Igolot, Ygolot, and Igorrote. Before, some lives in the tropical forest of foothills, caves, but most lived in the rugged terrain zone. They are pagan people, living simple lives to appease their gods. Their rituals celebrate their daily lives - a good harvest, health, peace, war, and other symbols of living. Let me show you some of the pictures of our ancestors before.

One of the Igorot Leader

Igorot Warrior
Igorot Warriors
Igorot tribes are subdivided into five ethnic linguistic groups, the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Isneg (or Apayao), Kalinga, and the Kankanaey.

1. The Tribe of Bontoc

Tattoos in Igorot people signify their position in the community.

They speak the Bontoc language. They formerly practiced head-hunting and had distinctive body tattoos. The Bontoc describes 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.

Bontoc warrior in his tattoos.

2. The Tribe of Kalinga

Displaying human heads in their houses signifying an undefiable spirit.
They speak Kalinga. They practice both wet and dry rice farming. They also developed an institution of peace pacts called Bodong 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. Known also to be a head taking OR HEAD HUNTERS society since recorded history.

Head hunters trophy(displayed in Philippine Museum)

3. The Tribe of Isneg /Apayao

The Isneg, also Isnag or Apayao, live at the northwesterly end of northern Luzon, in the upper half of the Cordillera province of Apayao. The term “Isneg” derives from a combination of “is” meaning “recede” and “uneg” meaning “interior.” The Isneg’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 Isneg’s priceless heirlooms. Formerly known to be a head taking OR HEAD HUNTERS society.

Enemies Head is a Trophy to Igorot People

4. The Tribe of KanKanaey

KanKanaey Beauty with her attire.
 They speak Kankana ey. Women's skirt or tapis which is mostly called bakget and gateng. The men wore a g-string as it is called but it is mainly known as wanes for the Kanakaney's of Besao and Sagada. The design of the wanes may vary according to social status or municipality. Kankanaey's major dances include tayaw, pattong, takik, a wedding dance, and balangbang. The tayaw is a community dance that is usually done at 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. There are also some other dance that the Kankanaey's dance like the sakkuting, pinanyuan (wedding dance) and bogi-bogi (courtship dance). Kankanaey houses are built like the other Igorot houses, which reflect their social status.

kankaney lady wearing her tapis(wrap-around skirt)  

 "Eagle Dance"

5. The Tribe of Ibaloi - where I belong :)

They speak Ibaloi also known as Nabaloi, are one of the indigenous who live mostly in the southern part of, located in the Cordillera of northern Luzon. The Ibaloi people were traditionally an agrarian society. Many of the Ibaloi people continue with their agriculture and rice cultivation. The Ibaloi’ 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.

Ibaloi beauty with her attire

6. The Tribe of Ifugao

bulol- Ifugao gods
 It is named after the term "i-pugo" which means "i" from/people and "pugo" (hill), thus it means people of the hill. The Ifugao inhabit the most rugged and mountainous part of the country, high in the Central Cordillera in northern Luzon. Ifugao religious beliefs are expressed in the numerous rites and prayers (baki) that comprise the main body of Ifugao myths. Commonly grouped into three: the Tuwali, the Ayangan, and the Kalanguya or Kallahan.  The bulol or Ifugao rice god is a carved human figurine into which are kept in the house granary, and are usually made in pairs. A consecrated bulol is bath through pig's blood, chants are made in front of the god, and received offerings of wine, ritual boxes and rice cakes

Ifugao tribal house

Ifugao people are well known for their excellent quality carvings of wood. You can see their unbeatable wood carvings in the entire village of Asin Road, Baguio City. The long tradition of wood carving was said started in the town of Hungduan, Ifugao barrio of Hapao. People around the world admire the quality and work of Ifugao people when it comes to woodcarving.

Igorot woodcarvers
A. DANCES OF IGOROT PEOPLE: There is a lot of Igorot dances but I only posted the famous ones.

1. Courtship Dance.
One of the interesting dance of Igorots is performing COURTSHIP DANCE and wedding dance. Here, the couple raise and wave their arms and hands like the wings of a bird in flight. The use of blankets depicting colorful plumes to attract her. The man's movements resemble those of a fighting cock in the preening, strutting, and flying-off-the-ground gestures. A set of four gongs accompanies this dance.

2. War Dance.
 This dance is part of the headhunting and war ceremonials inciting feelings of strength and courage as the warriors prepare to stalk their enemy. Much of the movements are improvised; two camps of warriors are usually featured pursuing each other, culminating in a melee where a fighter from one tribe kills one of his opponents.

War dance of Igorot people.

Canao Dance- Igorot warriors dance in a canao, a feast to celebrate either victory in war, a bountiful harvest, or a wedding.

For centuries the tribesmen of the Cordillera stalked their enemies, lopped off their heads and took them home. Trophy heads, turned into skulls, won the head-taker the respect of his fellows and the admiration of women. Of the six tribes that took heads only the Ifugaos displayed them in works of assembled sculpture. Head-hunting raids, sanctioned and carried out by entire villages, toke place until 1913, the year when American Forces who governed the mountain tribes after the Spanish-American War of 1898, finally persuaded village leaders to give up communal decapitating. But unsanctioned head-taking by individuals continued until well after 1950.
3. Eagle Dance
 It was believe by the Igorot ancestors that eagle has the power to control thunder and rain and believe its ability to fly high to reach the gods. Traditionally performed the eagle dance when divine intervention was needed for rain believing the eagle would carry up their requests to the gods. Eagle dances is performed by the brave Igorot hunters symbolizes heroism, no fear, and unconquered spirited tribe. Originally practiced in Mt. Province, Philippines  and eventually adopted by other tribes.

Igorot performer dancing Eagle Dance

Variation of Eagle Dance
4. Canao 
The canao is a socio-religious ceremony or feast of the Igorots that is held for a variety of reasons— as thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest, to signal the start of another planting season, as part of a wedding ceremony, or to celebrate the birth of a new member of the community, among others. There is much eating, drinking, singing, and dancing during a canao. The Igorots also offer food to their gods during the ceremony.
Sacrifice of animals like cows, buffalos, pigs and other animals is one way of calling the spirits of ancestors and gods to bless the family. When a family member is sick the concerned head of the family are force to sacrifice everything just for the leader of the tribe to call in the gods, spirits of your ancestors to heal the sick family member. This was the belief of Igorot people. 

Authentic customs and jewelries of the tribes of Igorots.

G-String for Igorot Men

Tapis for Women- to cover themselves. Upper extremities are exposed

Igorota Snake Headdress

Kalinga Necklace

Young Igorotas Precious beads and customs

Kalinga woman with her colorful and beautiful custom and priceless heirlooms

Beautiful modern Igorota Miss Payaket with her attire and pieces of jewelry

Lakay Wa-aw is one of the older Kankanaey men still around and at 92 he has nine children and over 30 grandchildren. The two water buffalo horns above him are from two of his children's weddings. His necklace is centuries old and has been passed down from generation to generation. It is made of wild bore tusks and crocodile teeth from the Visayas.

Tattoes. Fang-od giving a tattoo to a local tourist. She uses a thorn from a pomelo tree which is attached to a piece of bamboo. The bamboo that the thorn is attached to is then hit with a piece of wood to drive the ink into the skin. The ink she uses is the soot that collects on the bottom of the cooking pans she uses at home.


Aksiw for Men

E. BURIAL. There are many ways in how different tribes bury their dead before.
Here is one example; the tribe in Mt. Province hang their dead in the caves.

Coffins in Sagada, Mt.Province, Philippines
Igorot's ancestors burnt the fat of their dead under the slow fire and keep them in the coffin after ritual to preserve their dead.


Chants. This is done during the waking nights/ days of the vigil. This is to give respect to the dead and keep the time and people awake during the vigil. Giving tribute. The word for a song or chant to the dead. It is sung purely vocal, spontaneously composed in a story telling prose where words are led by one elder and being followed into a chorus to the end of the sentence/song. The deliverance of voices and the sound it creates is captivating to fear but the actual message really relies on the words. It can either tell a sad or happy experience of the life of dead.

Modern Solibao (Igorot drums)

Pinikpikan- "KILLING ME SOFTLY CHICKEN" - In reality, its preparation is a ritual performed by Igorot tribes to determine the appropriate courses of action and their fate. It takes hours of careful work to prepare an authentic Pinikpikan. The chicken is 'battered' to keep the blood inside the chicken. If it is beaten properly, the chicken will not be bloody when it is cut. None of the bones should be broken during the beating or even the slicing. The process of light beating or "pikpik" is where Pinikpikangets its name.
The chicken is 'battered' to keep the blood inside the chicken. If it is beaten properly, the chicken will not be bloody when it is cut.

My little brother is burning the chicken pinikpikan for dinner.

Rice Wines. Sipping of tapey or tapuy ( rice wine). The people are prayerful and ritualistic and with a jar or glass of tapey when offered , they pray for peace,prosperity and abundance. Sharing tapey in the same cup with visitors after it had been offered to Kabunyan is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. As guest, take a sip not to offend the host but do not take much. Lol, you might get drunk.
Igorot eleders are enjoying the gathering, having jars of rice wines. Igorot people loves to drink their tapey or rice wines during ceremonies(wedding, burial, or any Igorot gatherings.

 Traditional way of distributing meat in any Igorot ceremonies. "Men distributing meat to all of the people who helped cook and prepare the wedding food. As a token for their help different size chunks of meat are given out depending on what the persons role was during the preparation (in addition to being fed). I was even given two bags of meat for being there, apparently photographers have an important role as well. I saw more than 20 pigs killed and a carabao (water buffalo) just to give you an idea of the amount of food being prepared and I wasn’t there the whole time." from Jacob M.

 Etag / Innasin/ Keni-ing

Also known as Igorot smoked meat. Some foreigners call this as Igorot ham. It refers to salted pork and is cooked best with pinikpikan, legumes, or plain vegetables. It can also be deep fried and then eaten with vinegar or hot sauce. Yum.  Igorot ancestors hang their to meat to dry and preservation even now a days.


 Sweet Potato/ Kamote. Aside from rice, one of the favorite food of Igorot people is Kamote.

Weaving.  Loom weaving is part of the cultural and traditional practices among the Igorot natives.Weaving was done by our ancestors and elders to produce blankets and their traditional clothing.The blankets were used for rituals, specifically for wrapping their dead kin and for the bones of their previously deceased loved ones.

 Known as the "Rice Terraces of Banaue " - Commonly referred to by Filipinos as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. I called it stairway to heaven because it looks like a long stairs going to heaven. Historical creation of Ifugao people.

Igorot ancestors kept hunted animal or sacrificed animal bones and display in the walls of the house signifies wealth and protection from bad spirits

I'm thankful that despite our false beliefs and sacrifices to pagan gods, that the one true God still loves the tribes of Igorots.  He didn't forget us, but instead, He saved us. He sent people who had the compassion to face the different tribes of Igorots. We used to worship false gods and spirits, but now we are free from them!  Others still hold onto the old practices but I know in God's perfect timing, our fellow Igorots will realize that we should offer our solibao, gongs, dances, food and ourselves to the one and only living God.

We are known as Igorots because of the historical braveness of our ancestors and of who we are. It is because of them that made us the tribes of Igorot, which is different from other tribes.

General MacArthur acknowledged our fearless ancestors and leave footprints of braveness to fight our freedom by voluntarily attacking the Japanese invaders. We, Igorot's were part of the Philippine History. GOD BLESS IGOROT PEOPLE!

Dear Readers,hope you enjoyed reading about Igorot people. Thank you very much.

Thanks to Jennifer Gomez-Basco for helping me explain the eagle dance. Thanks to Jacob Maentz from United States, for allowing me to post some of his photographs of our people. I encourage you my fellow Igorots and readers to check his inspiring experience when he encountered our people and culture. Thank you Jag Fernando for allowing me to use one of  your picture collection of your great great grandpa Baltazar Acop Fernando (Cosalan) canao for my blog. Thank you very much to all my fellow Igorots in Facebook for your inspiration, insights and pictures to help me make this blog post possible.  To my loving husband Adam Pence, who never stop encouraging me to make more blog post and check my grammar. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.


No comments: