People of the Mountains – Igorots of the Cordilleras

Cordillera Mountains, Luzon, Philippines

Three weeks in the Cordilleras of Luzon and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of experiencing the rich cultures that make up the Igorot people. This is a common trend I have experienced while working on the Katutubong Filipino Project and one reason I hope to extended the project longer term, perhaps for another three years. More time is needed. This is especially true when trying to tell the story of the Igorot people who live in six different provinces with over 20 tribes all speaking different languages, practicing different rituals, and have different beliefs and cultures. Visiting the Cordilleras was like stepping into another country for me, a drastic change in geography and people’s general positive outlook and attitude toward their own way of life. Although I wasn’t able to visit all six provinces that make up the Cordilleras, this trip did provide as an excellent introduction to the area and whetted my appetite to learn and experience more on a return trip.

Butbut Kalinga Woman

A Butbut Kalinga Woman looking out of her window one afternoon after inviting us into her home. The tattoos on her arms are used as a form of beautification and identity which is specific to certain Kalinga tribes.

Cordillera Mountains in Luzon

The majestic Cordillera mountains with clouds setting in, Abra Province.

From a historical standpoint, the people of the Cordilleras were never a united people and still to this day there are peace pacts in place to keep order among many of the tribes. The term Igorot is an old Tagalog word meaning “people from the mountains” and is a general term used to include all of the mountain tribes from the Cordilleras. The Spanish adopted this term, but it was generally used in a negative manner referring to savages and backward people of the mountains. However, the Spanish themselves were never able to fully penetrate the Cordilleras during their 300 year colonial period in the Philippines and thus had very little influence on the Igorot people and their way of life. Part of this was likely due to the rugged terrain of the area but also because of the fierce nature of the people, who would not surrender easily to outsiders. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when the American Episcopal church came into some areas of the Cordilleras and people started to convert to Christianity and get formal education.

Today, the term Igorot is often debated among the people of the Cordilleras as to what the politically correct use should be. Many groups now proudly proclaim themselves as Igorots while other tribes still prefer to be called by their more specific tribal names. After three weeks in the area and hearing time and time again people referring to themselves as Igorots I never got the feeling that it is a negative term to use. I refer to the Igorot people in the most honorable and respectful manner.

Lakay Lausan - Tingguian ManΒ  Lakay Wa-aw - Kankanaey Man

Portraits of Lakay Lausan a Tingguian man and Lakay Wa-aw a Kankanaey man. Lakay Lausan is one of the elders in a small village we visited in Abra province. 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.

Traditional Loom Weaving

Traditional loom weaving provides livelihoods for a number of different communities within the Cordilleras. This is a Kalinga woman in her home where she spends her days making different patterns on her wooden loom. The finished products may be sold locally or sent to Baguio.

One of the unique aspects of life in the Cordilleras is that the Igorot people are essentially a self-contained society running all aspects of life from businesses to politics. Unlike many of the other tribes or indigenous communities in the country who have been extremely marginalized and pushed to small pieces of their original land, the Igorot people, generally have maintained much of their land. There are always ongoing issues with regards to ancestral domain, and from what I have been told the process to actually get declared ancestral domain is almost unimaginable. However, the Igorot people have managed to maintain much of their land excluding outsiders or lowlanders from coming in and setting up shop. This has essentially allowed all development to generate from the people themselves.

Checking Beehives

Allan, a well-known man from Sagada, Mountain Province, checking his beehives. He harvests the mountain honey and sells his product primarily to visitors staying at his lodging house or passing through his restaurant. All businesses in Sagada are locally owned and run by Igorot people.

Hiking in the Cordilleras

With the increase of tourism in the Cordilleras, some local and foreign tourists are looking to find more adventurous hiking treks in the extremely beautiful mountains. Sagada in the Mountain Province in particular is often overwhelmed with people visiting that there are not enough rooms for visitors, especially during holidays. I had to sleep with the cook from the lodging house I was staying for one evening because all the rooms were full with a large tour group. However, most visitors only stay for a couple of days exploring the caves and other attractions closer to Sagada. Local guides and porters (such as shown in this photo) rely on tourism and are very knowledgeable about the area.

Sagada Pottery

Local tourists from Manila watch as Siegrid from Sagada Pottery shows them how to create a clay jar. All the clay used here is local and Siegrid is very passionate about her artwork. Sagada Pottery is one of many businesses/products people visiting the area come to see.

Seeing life in Sagada and other city centers in the Cordilleras being completely run and shaped by locals was really very inspiring to see. I can’t think of another place off hand where this same type of system is in place. It shouldn’t be a surprise though seeing that the Igorot people were able to keep the Spanish away for over 300 years. In more recent times, they were also able to rise up and keep President Marcos from building a huge dam on the Chico River in the late 70’s and early 80’s. If the damn had been built it would have displaced a large number of communities and their rice fields. The people were able to join forces with the communist rebels and stop the damn from being built. Today, there is a plan to put a number of windmills around Sagada and the people are highly skeptical of the plan and the feasibility behind it. I don’t think the plans will push through because the people will not allow it too, one way or the other. It’s cases like this that show the true resolve of the people and how maintaining what is theirs is of vital importance to them.

Away from the city centers life is a little more slow pace with a big portion of time spent farming, preparing food, and tending to the house and family. I was fortunate enough to visit a number of different communities on this trip including one that took two days of rugged hiking to reach. The hike through the mountains was one of the hardest hikes I have done in recent memory, but was worth every step being able to experience mountain life and a community still very much isolated in terms of distance.

Fixing Pig Pen

A Kalinga man fixing his pig pen, Kalinga Province. Pigs are an important part of life in the Cordilleras, providing a food source and used for a number of different rituals as well. In some communities I think there were more pigs walking around than people.

Preparing Beans

A Kalinga couple preparing beans for dinner in their home, Kalinga Province.

Meal Time in Cordilleras

Eating and socializing is an important time each day for people to talk and build relationships. After eating the men will generally have a few drinks together and the women will continue cleaning up after the meal. Most of our meals were cooked over an open fire and pitch pine (an oily part of the pine tree) is used for light at night instead of kerosene lamps. My most memorable meal on this trip consisted of wild mushroom soup, fresh green ferns, freshly picked avocados, green mangoes with hot pepper salt, and mongo bean and pork soup.

Tingguian Igorot woman in her home

Portrait of a Tingguian woman having a smoke in her home, Abra Province.

Much of the culture and life in the Cordilleras revolves around rice. From planting to harvest each period represents a time that is honored and sacred in its own way. My trip happened to be during a growing period and I was not able to see a lot of people planting or harvesting rice. There is always some activity though as weeding, keeping birds away, drying harvested rice and other tasks are ongoing. Rice is the staple crop for the Igorots and they have built some of the biggest and most advance rice terraces in the world. Traveling through the Cordilleras you will see some amazing terraces that have been around for millennium. To this day many of the tribes still practice thanksgiving rituals before planting and at harvest time. The Begnas ritual for the Kankanaey and the Bumayah for the Ifugao people are two examples of this. These rituals are usually put together very fast and are never scheduled, so witnessing one takes some patience and timing. Perhaps on my next visit I will be able to witness one.

Planting Rice on Stoned Terraces

Although uncommon for this time of year, I came across a woman planting rice one morning in Kalinga Province. Stoned rice terraces are very common in the Cordilleras and represent an ancient and sustainable system for communal rice production.

Drying Rice in the Sun

Drying rice in the sun is the most traditional method for reducing moisture content and the only method available in most remote locations.

Kankanaey woman having coffee

A Kankanaey woman having coffee with her grandchild during a mid-day break from working in the rice field.

Aside from rice cultivation there are numerous agricultural products grown in the Cordilleras because of the altitude and cool temperature. Coffee is a popular product and most households drink a good amount of the stuff. It wasn’t uncommon to have about 10 cups of coffee a day, but it sure beats the instant coffee I usually drink when out in the field. Vegetables and other produce are grown in abundance and many of them are brought to the lowlands to be sold. Likewise, the forest and mountains themselves are also an important resource for the Igorot people. Hunting and fishing are important parts of culture in the Cordilleras and is often learned at at early age. During my long trek into the mountains I was able to experience a little of this life myself.

Pine Forest in the Cordilleras

The Cordilleras have an unique assortment of habitats that cover the mountains. While hiking you can find yourself in a dry pine forest one minute and then a kilometer down the path entering a wet mossy forest. Eventually you will run into a grassy mountain top or some rices terraces along the way as well. This is a pine forest just after a light rain came down in Abra province.

Wild Pig skulls

The forest still provides an abundant source of wild meat for many families. Wild pigs, deer and birds are still commonly caught by hunters. We spent a couple of nights in the forest at different hunter camps and even ran into a wild pig while hiking (unfortunately my guide did not have a gun on him). Here is a collection of wild pig skulls all caught by La-aw who is shown in one of the picture below.

Marlon the fisherman La-aw the hunter

Two Tingguian men. Marlon is an expert fisherman and La-aw is a mountain man with a lifetime of hunting experience.

Wild Mushroom

Wild mushrooms like this one are abundant in the forest, especially the morning after a heavy rain. My guide was constantly picking different varieties for our meals. The forest is full of different food from mushrooms to wild berries and edible ants.

Dog and Guns

Hunting dogs are an important part of getting wild pig, deer and birds. Without a trained dog it would be very difficult to find anything. These particular guns are owned by a few young hunters we came across in the forest. We ended up hiking with them for awhile and one of their guns misfired while walking. Fortunately, no one was hurt but it was a scary situation and everyone was very lucky. I was behind them about 50 meters on the trail when I heard the gun go off. When we got to the top of the mountain we had them unload all of their guns.

Fishing in River

Marlon and a young boy from his village looking for fish in the river. Children start to learn how to fish and hunt at an early age. Here they are using a small spear style gun to catch the river fish which are fairly small.

Coming back from fishing

A young fisherman coming back from the river with his catch, Abra Province.

Dying carabao

A dying baby carabao on the side of a river. After meeting La-aw we were told that one of his carabaos had been shoot and left to die a day earlier. La-aw hikes for 9 hours to reach the place where he lets his carabos graze for food in the mountains and he was very upset this had happened. The carabao that was killed had a baby which was left by the side of the river to die as well. It would take La-aw two days to hike back to his home and buy milk to try and save the baby carabao and by that time it would have died already. It’s unusual for someone to kill a carabao like this, especially to just leave it there and not take the meat. La-aw was upset and was trying to understand who might have done this.

Abandon Village

An abandon village in the mountains of Abra. We slept in this abandon village one night with La-aw, who used to live here in the 80’s. During that time the Philippine military came to this village and slaughtered most of the people living there, “like chickens,” said La-aw. La-aw was able to escape when this happened and the village has been abandon ever since. His brother was one of the innocent killed. The military still to this day has clashes with the communist rebels who stay in the mountains and during this incident they accused all the of civilians of being rebels. There is a lot of history in the area and this is only one of the many crazy stories I was told regarding the military and rebels.

My visit happened to fall during summer time which is one of the wedding seasons in the Cordilleras. Wedding season really means there are a lot of weddings to attend. I thought it may be hard to find one to document, but the day I arrived there was one being prepared for that I was able to visit. The following weekend there were two more. Most of the traditional wedding celebrations in the Cordilleras now integrate a Christian church ceremony as well as the tribal ceremony and rituals. Most traditional weddings last for two to three days and everyone in the community is invited to attend and eat. I have never seen so many pigs killed before all at one time in preparation for an event.

Wedding preparation

Kankanaey women cutting and preparing vegetables for a traditional wedding. The whole community is invited to the three day celebration which means a lot of food must be prepared.

Men distributing meat

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.

Kankanaey Church Wedding

Many couples now also have a church ceremony as did the couple for this wedding. The ceremony at the Episcopal church was like any other church wedding with all of the traditional tribal aspects happening before or after this ceremony. Each community has different traditional ways of making two people united which are still practiced. Much of this has to do with uniting two families or clans together over time and involves a variety of different food exchanges, animal sacrifices and rituals. For example, I heard that in one particular community (as a final step to unite families) when a woman sleeps over at her mans family’s house and does the dishes in the morning it means the couple is officially married.

Waiting in line

People waiting in a long line to visit the home of the bride during lunch time. Everyone from the community is invited to come and get food at the brides home for three days straight. Wedding gatherings are some of the bigger social events held for the Igorot people.

Cooking in Large Woks

All of the food is cooked in large woks over an open fire. This wedding had four woks which were always full of different recipes being cooked.

Giving money

Part of the practice for the Kankanaey is that all the guests who come and partake in the celebration and eat should give a small amount of money to the couple. Once you give something your name is written down in a notebook, your money placed in a large basket and you are given a token of appreciation. This couple was giving out small wooden bowls as their token.

Playing Gongs (Ganza)

Playing of gongs (Ganza) and dancing is a fun and typical part of the wedding celebration. Any group of people can pick up the gongs and get a dance going and it is all very spontaneous. The elders all they way to the youth enjoy playing the gongs and dancing.

In the village of Buscalan, Kalinga there are still remnants of the one thousand year old ancient art of tattooing (batek) once commonly practiced in Kalinga. Men traditionally got tattooed as a rite of being a warrior or taking a head which was fairly common place up until the time of about WWII. Thus, it is difficult to find men who still have tattoos and younger men don’t especially feel right about getting one to show their identity (because of the meaning it carries). Women on the other hand would get tattoos to beautify themselves, but more so to signify acceptance and the different stages of their life. There are a number of research articles online describing in-depth the meaning of these tattoos and the purposes for getting them if you are interested in learning more. Today, there are still numerous older women in Buscalan that can be found with the tattoos.

The art is slowly fading away, but Fang-od (Whang Od), the last remaining traditional Kalinga tattoo artist has helped bring a lot of attention back to the craft. At 93 years old Fang-od is a lively and very entertaining person who has the energy level of about a 50 year old. In 2010 she was featured on the Discovery Channel television show “Tattoo Hunter” which helped set the stage for other shows and documentaries all bringing a lot of recognition to the art. This sparked a huge amount of interest and today people from all over the Philippines and the world come to visit her and get a tattoo. Fang-od does not have any children, but one of her nieces is now starting to learn the craft. It’s hard to know what will happen after Fang-od passes on, but hopefully the traditional tattooing will somehow continue.

Ghan-nao, tattooed Kalinga woman Tattooed Kalinga Woman

Two tattooed women from Buscalan, Kalinga. Ghan-nao, who is Fang-od’s younger sister is on the left and has one of the more elaborate tattoos that can be seen in the village.

Fang-od giving tattoo

Fang-od giving a tattoo to a local tourist from Manila. 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.

Local tourist getting tattoo

Another local tourist getting a tattoo from Fang-od. I was in Buscalan for four days and Fang-od gave tattoos each day I was there. One day she gave six of them. Everyday new visitors would arrive to have some of her art placed on their body.

Fang-od cooking

Fang-od cooking breakfast in her home. I wanted to show her doing something with fire as that is really her element. It’s fire that allows her to make the soot used to create her tattoos and cooking is something I saw her doing everyday as well.

Blind Kalina Woman

A blind Kalina woman in front of her home. Most of the older women in Buscalan have been tattooed.

Kalinga woman walking

A Butbut Kalinga woman walking back to her home, Buscalan, Kalinga.

My short visit to the Cordilleras was filled with memorable moments highlighted by the people I was able to meet along the way. My guides became friends and the communities where I stayed became familiar places. Although three weeks is not nearly enough time to see six provinces and experience the depth of cultures in the Cordilleras it was certainly one of my more memorable trips. Part of that was because I had new experiences with hiking in the mountains and pushed myself to physical extremes. Another part was because the people were so welcoming and open to sharing their ideas and thoughts with me. A lot of my time was spent waiting and hanging out in different communities, something that I have become very comfortable and patient with over the course of doing this project. I am someone who really likes to be on the move and get things done and it’s always refreshing to spend some time in a place where I can reverse that a little. I am hopeful that the Katutubong Filipino Project will be able to continue as I will be focusing now on finding more funding sources to extend this well received project. For those of you who follow the progress of the project I will be doing an update soon about what’s next and future happens that are currently in the works. Stayed tuned.

Men playing Chess

Men playing chess one afternoon in Buscalan, Kalinga.

Children Playing

Tingguian children playing games in one of the villages I stayed, Abra Province.

Cooking for political event

An elder cooking for a sponsored political event. The election is now over, but during my trip campaigning and politics even reached remote locations. Candidates will come into a community and sponsor a pig or two which is cooked for the entire community.

Sorting beans

I ended up talking with this woman for some time one afternoon while she was sorting beans. Simple interactions like this one are some of the most memorable for me.

Tingguian child

Portrait of a Tingguian child in her home. I don’t usually post photos of smiling children, but this one I could not pass up. Her smile just radiates.

Walking in Rice Terraces

Some of the many rice terraces seen in the Cordilleras. Even if it is not planting or harvest season there seems to always be some activity happening in the terraces.

Igorot woman with child

Another image of an Igorot woman with her grandchild while taking a break from working in the fields.

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Tagged: asia, Cordilleras, documentary, Igorot, images, independent photographer, indigenous people, Kalinga, Kankanaey, Katutubo, luzon, philippines, philippines photographer, photography, professional photographer, Tingguian, Travel, tribe,
Posted on: May 20, 2013

  • harold

    awesome work bro!

  • Great photos and interesting write up. I recently went to Sapa in the mountains of North Vietnam who have a similar lifestyle and surroundings, although it is much more touristy than this place. I’m interested to know how you achieved the light in these interior photos, did you use flash or just use the ambient light in these pics? , , , – thanks!

    • Yeah, the Cordilleras does remind me of Northern Vietnam a little, but very different in a lot of ways as well. Those two photos were taken with ambient light coming from two windows of their home. In both photos there were two sources of window light, but they were sitting closer to one of the sources. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks for taking the time to answer Jacob, you remain an inspiration for me!

  • Really beautiful work mate!

  • Truly a fantastic work, Sir πŸ™‚

  • I found you on FB, and really love your work! Outstanding. Thank you for the interesting documentary on these people and their self-sustained communities in that remote part of the world. I hope they can keep it the way it is forever, and forever protected from the outside world and government infringing on their domain. I’m sure there is so much we can all learn from them. God bless you for the work you are doing.

  • michele zousmer

    really beautiful work. and fascinating subjects. let me know of you ever need an assistant?

    told about you thru catherine wisner. michele zousmer

  • Jacob, beautiful photography and beautiful people. Very inspiring!

  • frank

    Very cool pictures, very impressing. Keep going! Looking forward to see the final work, but I guess, that takes another while.
    Best wishes from Berlin, Germany, frank

  • Great photos and interesting read.

  • Lilia Rose

    Well documented work. Great photos. Wonderful stories. It is nice to read blogs, full of appreciations. Keep travelling Cordillera. – from a proud Igorot.

  • Jenkinson L. Balinggan

    awesome photography! awesome story! proud to be a Cordilleran!.thanks for sharing this story.

  • Jem A Rie

    My blood is a combination of Kankana-ey and that of Ibaoi.,thus., I am an IGOROT and I’m PROUD to be one.
    Though, I wasn’t able to read a part of ibalois in your column but at least I saw some people whom I met posted in your column and read something about kankana-ey people. There were some people who really prefer to be called by their own tribal terms because it’s their pride and because of their own histories too. May the people who continue to discriminate us read your column and find us valuable too.
    Thank you for the effort you put on your column. This is what I call ‘passionate’.

    • Thanks for stopping by and reading this post. I wasn’t able to make it to Benguet to visit an Ibaloi community on this trip, but I hope to be back in the area soon to learn and see more. There is just so much to see in the Cordilleras.

  • Ariel Mayocyoc

    correction bro… those that you refer kankanaeys are not really kankanaeys.. kankanaeys are from benguet, particularly on the northern part. Natives of bauko, sabangan, tadian, sagada and besao mountain province belongs to the Applai tribe not the kankanaey tribe. though they have little similarity in dialect spoken, cultural traditions and practices are different. i’m from Sagada and Besao, a proud Igorot.

    • Thanks Ariel for pointing that out. I’m not an expert on the ethnolingual groups and only write about what I learn on my trips. All of the people I met in Sagada referred to themselves as Kankanaeys speaking the Kankanaey language. So I assume that linguistically Applai is very similar to Kankanaey? I also just took a look at the wiki page ( and it does give some useful information under the Kankanaey section. Does this seem accurate? Thanks again for pointing that out and for taking the time to read through the post.

      • Ariel Mayocyoc

        thanks bro. when we refer to the list of tribal groups in the cordillera given by the National Commission of Indigenous People that was used during the 2010 national census by the NSO. Applai points to the tribes within western mountain province. they are not kankanaey, although they speak some words similar. The elders have spoken according to NCIP.

        • chanlee

          kankanaey is my dialect not applai..

          • Ariel Mayocyoc

            i speak also kankanaey but i belong to the applai tribe.

          • faith baido

            am from Bontoc and when I was young when ask where is applai, they would point out from Sabangan towards Benguet and they speak kankanaey only the intonations differentiates the places, then when ask about lagud someone usually said after Bontoc towards Kalinga.

    • guy aliping

      ariel …aplay and lagod is a geographical locations used by people in mountain province.. aplay people includes besao, sagada, sabangan, bauko, and tadian. lagod people includes bontoc and beyond. kankana-ey is a dialect and aplay people speaks kankana-ey. people who speak kankana-ey in benguet, traced their roots to people of milingan near enodey falls close to leseb, leseb, banao and cagubatan. banao people are called ebne as a subtribe.

      • Mark Liangan

        Correction to all if I may? Applai is a tribal affiliation not a language. Kanakaey is a language.

        Actually in the olden times, the people of the old Mountain Province belong to four distinct geographically separated tribes. The Applai, not “Aplay” are the ones living in present Sagada and Besao; the Bontocs; The Lagods (north of Bontoc)(which originated from the Ilocano word Laod – North) and Sunny side or the present Sabangan, Bauko and Tadian.

        The issue of the use of being a Kankanaey as to being called of being Applai is the lack of proper teachings in the subject native culture and acculturation of the younger generation. For them, Kankanaey is a generally accepted term for the people who speak the same language, even though they have a little variation in terms and intonation.

        It is still disputed where as to the modern Kankanaeys of Benguet originated. One book I read about Filipino history states that “according to old tradition, the Kankanaeys of Benguet claim that they came from Besao, Banao of Bauko or Pingad, of Sabangan.”

      • rufina c.

        I agree.Mr. Jacob Maentz did a great job!Enjoyed reading this.

    • Mark Liangan

      Correction to all if I may? Applai is a tribal affiliation not a language. Kanakaey is a language.

      Actually in the olden times, the people of the old Mountain Province belong to four distinct geographically separated tribes. The Applai, not “Aplay” are the ones living in present Sagada and Besao; the Bontocs; The Lagods (north of Bontoc)(which originated from the Ilocano word Laod – North) and Sunny side or the present Sabangan, Bauko and Tadian.

      The issue of the use of being a Kankanaey as to being called of being Applai is the lack of proper teachings in the subject native culture and acculturation of the younger generation. For them, Kankanaey is a generally accepted term for the people who speak the same language, even though they have a little variation in terms and intonation.

      It is still disputed where as to the modern Kankanaeys of Benguet originated. One book I read about Filipino history states that “according to old tradition, the Kankanaeys of Benguet claim that they came from Besao, Banao of Bauko or Pingad, of Sabangan.”

      • Emma Liza Dacquigan

        I would like to give an insight. Kankana-ey is applied as a language and a tribal affiliation too. As you said Applais are the people in Western Mt Province namely Sagada, Besao, Tadian and Sabangan while Kankanaey’s would refer to the kankana-ey speaking Benguet people. Applai however is not much used as an identity because people of the Western Mt Province use their municipality as identity such as Isagada, Ibesao and etc.

    • Divina Fausto

      I am half Sagada, Mt. Province blood, 1/4 Bauko (Banao-Guinzadan blood), Mt. Provice and 1/4 Kapangan, Benguet blood… And seriously I am unaware of that Applai tribe that my parents belong also “Whew”… Since then I know that I am full blooded Igorota (a proud one too) and my parents’ Language is Kankanaey from different tribe… LOL! All information I knew was that the Language of Cordillerian is Kankanaey in different dialects… Even my forefathers from Mt. Province and Benguet will say they speak in Kankanaey but they will say different from the others… I really need to review my history… :). I know the different provinces of Cordillera but don’t know how it called when in terms of tribe… Peace my fellow Igorots!

      Jacob this write up or article for us is so inspiring and agree with one of that comment “this is what it called passionate-writing”… Although you talk mostly about Kalinga and partly of Abra, Sagada, Ifugao and Benguet, you touched at least the similarity of a Cordillera… That’s undeniably obvious because you stayed a little time and I hope the next time you come back you will find them all those information. There are lot to say about Cordillera and the people. Many mystery and interesting regarding us. I am saying this because I really enjoyed reading your blog of us and I am “nabitin” means I want more LOL! I am one of your fan now I will be following you! πŸ™‚

      • Thanks Divina for your comments. Yup, I plan to go back up to the Cordilleras at some point. I would like to revisit and travel to some of the places I was not able to make it to on this trip. Stay in touch!

        • Camille Belison

          Hi Jacob! Saw your photos and they were all awesome! Are you not considering to go back to Kalinga this weekend? Because I am! Yay! Will be travelling with a friend and a group of people which I have not met yet on the 22nd. Thanks for the insights πŸ™‚

      • Ariel Mayocyoc

        when we refer to the list of tribal groups in the cordillera given by the National Commission of Indigenous People that was used during the 2010 national census by the NSO. Applai points to the tribes within western mountain province. they are not kankanaey, although they speak some words similar. The elders have spoken according to NCIP.

        • Sunny

          Sorry dude, Mr. Guy Aliping had already elaborated on the matter. Older classifications of the sub-tribes are Northern Kankana-ey (Mountain province) and Southern Kankana-ey (Benguet Kankanays). The sub-dialects differ only from intonation and expression of letters used in words (such as B expressed as F, or D expressed as CH, etc..) but basically THE SAME. Speaking of “some words similar” as a point of comparison, I can say Kankanaey (including Tinguian), Ifugao, and Kalinga have the most in common with the Ilocano language, while the Ibaloi has similarities with the Pangasinensis Language.

          One thing that should be taken into consideration in using the term Igorot as a commulative name for the tribes is the Gangsa (Ganza). No other group of people in the world uses the gangsa other that the Igorots.

          Congratualtions to Mr. Jacob for an accurate write-up about the Igorots which can not be found on other articles.

      • Cheryl Lyn Sanchez

        hi Divina. I’m currently conducting a research on the health practices of Igorots regarding pregnancy, delivery and newborn. Will you please give me informations about it? i will be very grateful. thank you very much

  • Hie Dee

    Hi Jacob, it appears that you have managed to collect sizable datas on the Cordillerans despite being time constrained. Hopefully, in the near future you will somehow find sponsors to assist you on an in-depth research on this particularly fascinating and passionate Indigenous people. You have only seen from a distance the tip of an iceberg I would say.

    It might be that the future research you will conduct on the entirety of the Cordillerans might lead you to a greater heights in your career if and only done in a careful and thorough investigative manner to which I believe you are capable of. One’s work is set apart by its uniqueness, dont you think? By the way, my parents are from Benguet and Mountain Province. I hope you have enjoyed your short visit. Thank you for your interest in our culture and blogging about it to the virtual world of social media πŸ˜‰

    • Hi Hie, yes I am hopeful that I will be able to continue this project and secure some more funding. I will be putting a lot of time into finding different avenues in the coming months. Thank you for your thoughts.

  • Joyce Alonzo

    beautiful and stunning work!

    • fairh

      awesome! may your work be spread so the ignorance of other Filipinos be filled with information for education.. it is a great pleasure that somebody appreciate the beauty of the place, how we live and who we are.

      • Divina Fausto

        Agree with you! πŸ™‚

  • Lumawig

    As an Igorot who grew up in Baguio and now living overseas, your photos and stories have triggered a flood of memories. Memories of summer vacations spent in the Province, staying with grandparents and learning the ways of the old. You are doing an amazing job, and taking awesome photos too!

  • Wow, I’m speechless. The experiences, the pictures, everything are amazing. I’m not a big fan of your site and pictures. Can’t wait for what’s coming next from you. πŸ™‚

  • Mark Liangan

    In addition and an more precise explanation of your caption: “Part of the practice for the Kankanaey is that all the guests who come and partake in the celebration and eat should give a small amount of money to the couple. Once you give something your name is written down in a notebook, your money placed in a large basket and you are given a token of appreciation. This couple was giving out small wooden bowls as their token.”

    It is called “Supon” in Mt. Province. Supon is like a tradition of “Paluwagan” or to help the newly weds ease up the burden of the cost of their wedding but with a twist. You, as a newly married couple who received the “Supon” would write down the name’s of the attendees who has given it and would return – either the same amount or more- it back in the future either when there is a wedding and/or death of a family member of the same person. With no interest ofcourse.

    • Thank you Mark for your insight, I’m sure other people reading here will appreciate it as well.

  • daimarie

    whoaw! you have captured great moments, really amazing!

  • Paul Austria

    Your work brought back a flood of memories. Being a half-Ibaloi (from Bokod, Benguet), it’s a shame that I’m ignorant for the most part of our beautiful culture.
    Should you have time to visit Sahod in Karao (Bokod, Benguet). Try some raw native mango there (may sound like an easy dare, but it’s… for you to find out).

    • Paul, now you have my interest in trying this raw native mango – I am a big mango person. I can’t even imagine what it may be.

      • Paul Austria

        There is this big mango tree (well I’m hoping it’s still there) at the back side of the village of Sahod (from the word sak-kod meaning “down” as it is situated at the base of a mountain). It’s been decades since I my last visit. I remember skinny dipping on the cold river and literally hugging and basking at the big rocks for warmth.

        • Divina Fausto

          Interesting! I saw that and fortunately able to experienced picking some of it, the beauty of travelling privately with friends and family. And I had experienced staying in Bila, Bokod for a month when I was studying at least experienced of their culture… πŸ™‚

  • Barbara McFadden

    This should be published to a much wider audience, perhaps The National Geographic. The writing is excellent and the photographs amazing. I enjoyed it so much and know others would too if given the chance.

  • Ysabel

    Superb! In fact, this made me realize that i’m still a foreigner and ignorant in my own land. Hope you enjoyed the Igorot’s warm hospitality though. But I’m pretty sure, you’ll be going back!

  • Rizalyn Andres

    Amazing photos, its our heritage (THE CORDILLERA’S) which we treasure, its in our blood, we carry wherever we are. Its unique, might be somewhat similar to some cultures which only says we might have different cultures worldwide but we are all humans who wants to
    live, love and care for each other.

  • Rey

    Great work! Maybe you could drop by Ifugao some time.

  • Bernard Moses

    Hello Jacob, This Bernard Moses from 261. Man I was blown away by the fantastic pictures in your Blog. You may or may not know that I am a Photographer. I would give anything to get up into those mountains. However, I made a mistake and got married and marriage is not conducive to travel LOL LOL LOL. In the meantime, you keep up the good work. Maybe one day I will be able to follow in your footsteps.

    Bernard Moses

    • Hey Moses! Nice to hear from you. Don’t let your wife stop you from traveling if it’s what you really want to do. Bring her along! My wife travels with me most of the time and we make a very good team together. You should head up to the Cordilleras sometime, catch some cool weather and enjoy the different scenery and wonderful people in the area. Let me know when you are in Cebu!

  • Rex Pe

    Awesome photos and article, indeed! I belong to the Applai tribe and your photo essay stirs up my longing for home. Growing up in the mountains taught me so many things I carry on with me wherever I live and I am glad you found something you can bring along with you in your brief travel in the Cordilleras. My hope is that those who have the opportunity to interact with other cultures (local or not) will come to appreciate and respect them. Goodluck to your next journey!

  • Payatot Pasabing

    nice job sir..keep it up..God bless u

  • MaryAnn Busocan Kroon

    Hi Jacob, What a great interpretation of the Cordillera you have here. I came upon your blog from a link in FB. We are Cordillerans in Sydney wanting to keep the tradition for our future generation while growing up overseas. Your blog summarises an in depth understanding of the life in the Cordilleras. And the photography is AWESOME. With your permission, could we share this article as a “page” in our website of course linking it back to your website. Please let me know. Maryann Kroon – Secretary of PhilCor NSW- Australia. Best regards and more power to you.

  • Margeronald

    Awesome, Great Job, I’m also an Igorot, kankanaey from Bauko, I miss those place in Sagada….

  • Bonzenti,Con Tour

    From top to bottom, I read this article. Though 3 weeks is not enough, I can feel how you deeply immersed to the mountain people with the photos you’ve shared. Seemed to me like I also experience what you’ve experienced down there Jacob. Excellent write up. Good Luck to the project.:-).

  • Jayce

    These are great pics Jacob! Being of Igorot ancestry I feel proud and honored to see this pics (as I have never been to these places myself). Thanks for showing the world Cordillera.

  • Very nice work. Great job!

  • aries rebultan

    thumbs up!!!! how do i get in buscalan kalinga , from isabela.tnx in advance

    • Sidnei Campos Pinto

      Felicitation! Great and beatful photos. Like a voyage for me. Thanks.

  • Therese Finnegan

    I am a huge fan of Cordillera tribes and have collected different artifacts for 25 years. I have soaked in and just about memorized Eduardo Masferre’s photographs of the Cordillera, and now to find yours…. What a treat. This is such important photography that you are doing. Thank you.

  • igorotak

    Amazing work! I love the Cordillera. Amazing people, breath-taking scenery, rich culture. And I just happen to be a ManileΓ±a who is in love with an Igorot. πŸ™‚ Big thanks for this!

  • Mike


    • norman

      thanks for sharing this documentaries…proud of an igorot/cordillera

  • Cliff

    thanks a lot for appreciating our culture in The Cordilleras!,, “IGOROTAK” Great Photos indeed.

  • John Kimo

    Hi Jacob, IGOROTAK… kankana-ey and kalanguya I can give you some insight specially the carino doctrine which applies in our place and we had the Ancestral domain title issued by the NCIP. In these case will also help indigenous people not only in the philiipines but entire the world.

  • dadai joaquin

    your photos are awesome! i love them. i hope i can go visit and experience these places one day.

  • Stumbled upon your blog looking up the Cordilleras and I just wanted to let you know I think your pictures are amazing!! πŸ™‚
    – Jen

  • Amazing Work!
    I’ve been to a few provinces of the Cordillera’s, and like you, it feels like just scratching the surface…
    There’s is more from these beautiful mountains.

  • Carla

    Great piece on my people! πŸ™‚ I hope you will be able to come back and see more of the Igorots and the Cordilleras.


    Thanks for this, Sir Jacob….Amazing….

  • wow.the photos come alive

  • Jonjon Carantes Flores

    Two Thumbs UP!!

  • egayomba

    great experience with great photos,wow!i learned a lot from you.God bless you sir.

  • Great compilation of photos and interesting write up. Who ever read this surely wanted to see this place on their own.

  • KL Reyes

    Hi! I am an Igorot from Sagada and now living elsewhere. These photos are amazing and made me miss home and although Im not an expert about our culture, I feel really proud that it is being positively acknowledged by other cultures. Thank you so much for this and I hope you don’t mind me putting this blog entry as further reading on my essay. πŸ™‚

  • Joel

    I love your photographs, I like to use them as wallpaper backdrop from screen! Thank you!

  • erlynkate

    Amazing Shots, a true testament of the undying spirit of a true igorot…just want to say that igorots are also scattered all over the world, there is not a place that you cannot find a full blooded igorot

  • navisal

    nice shots! great work!

  • joles

    great job jacob! I just hope that the younger generation of the Igorot’s will have the same passion as you have to be proud of our culture and traditions.

  • Barry

    Thank you for the beautiful images! I hope get to visit the Cordilleras again and experience the full diversity of the Igorot culture. If you don’t mind me asking, what camera did you use to take the photos?

  • Suoivel Bagyan

    awesome more photo

  • Penny

    There is one unique tribe in Benguet…that’s the Karao Tribe. I hope you’ll have the chance to go visit them, too. I belong to the Karao tribe and I am proud to be an Igorot. Two thumbs up for your write up.

    • Thank you Penny. I have not heard of the Karao tribe, but you have me very interested now. When I travel back to the area I will be sure to let you know to see if it might be possible to visit. Thanks to taking the time to read the post.

  • Ralph Santoile

    Thank you sir for the wonderful article, Keep it up and God Bless :).
    Matagotago taku ay Igorot πŸ™‚

  • James

    I enjoyed your photos and the accurate description that came with it. I am an Igorot myself from Ibaloi tribe living in the US now and just started taking photography seriously. I am now a big fan of yours and more power to you.

  • lyn

    Good day want to ask if u encounter igorots mking clay jars…its a 3set jars with dragon design it baducally represents as d father,mother and child…i wud like to know if it has a lucky charm like feng sui bcos thats wat d vendor said…,dat having those jars will grant ur wishes n give good life to d owner,iwant to know if dats real,,i hope u conduct a research bout dat tnx…if ever ull find d answer this is my email [email protected]

  • Jones

    nice! hey if ever you visit the cordilleras again, can you include the other tribes as well? like the bontok tribe in bontoc mountain province.. and other tribes going all the way up in northern cordillera.. i think you only visited the applais and kankana-eys of southern cordillera (sorry if i’m wrong or not right) .. thanks again!! please come visit again sir jacob.. love this work of yours. please exclude Baguio if you ever come again. it already lost its reputation as the proud city of the Igorots towering like a kingdom in the mountain High. i don’t wanna say why so.. πŸ™‚

  • lugan_ikit

    Powerful photos, a poignant story: but as time passes, these scenes may only exist in the mind. The young boy fishing in the river reminds me of what I was was once: naked as day, armed only with goggles and a small speargun — hunting for the spiny gachew — the fish indigenous to the Chico and its tributaries. Thanks….

  • mary

    Thanks for giving your precious time to get to know us. I really appreciate you putting our beautiful Arts and Culture to the world in a very positive and inspiring way. I wish you more adventures so we can accompany you along the way (thru your blogs of course :0)) Keep up the great work! I can’t wait to see where your next adventure will take you! May the Lord keep you safe always.

    Mary – Anchorage, Alaska – Bontoc, Mt. Province.

  • Yuriis Centauri

    Thank you very much for your beautiful pictures and heartwarming article sir Jacob. Im from Natonin, mountain province, one of the lesser known tribes of the Cordillera region, and are called Iferangao’s. It is so gratifying to know that at least there are still a lot of people who appreciate the Cordillerans and find us worthy. Its just so sad that in this day and age, there are still people who think Igorots are monkey people, so I thank you very much for the love and appreciation you’ve show. God bless you sir. And thank you.

  • Guest

    Amazing Shots and Informative Blog! Was fortunate to experience our culture growing up like the 3-day weddings and distribution of “yawyaws” (meat in bags to visitors). Very glad to see in pictures; that Igorot culture is alive and well to this day! Kudos also to our elders at home and abroad for they’ve ingrained the passing of knowledge to the next generation; for despite away from our homeland, our elders made sure that the music, arts and culture are being passed down…Your blog educates a lot of us but most especially the next generations. For that, a big thank you…The pictures beacons me to go visit home.

  • Amazing Shots and Informative Blog! Was fortunate to experience our culture growing up like the 3-day weddings and distribution of “yawyaws” (meat in bags to visitors). Very glad to see in pictures; that Igorot culture is alive and well to this day! Kudos also to our elders at home and abroad for they’ve ingrained the passing of knowledge to the next generation; for despite away from our homeland, our elders made sure that the music, arts and culture are being passed down…Your blog educates a lot of us but most especially the next generations. For that, a big thank you…The pictures beacon me to go visit home.

  • vee gamboa

    Very informative and entertaining blog.. love it!!! Waiting fo more updates… proud to be an igorot.. hope you can visit benguet as well as the different municipalities .. πŸ™‚

  • Stephanie

    Wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing!



  • David

    Awesome and fascinating pictures. I am well impressed by the writing to. More captivated in reading as my tribe’s (The Nagas, NE India) cultures and many practices are like those of Igorots: The head hunting, terrace cultivation, tattooing, mass marriage feast, Souvenirs of Buffalo horns and animal jaws and even the landscape. Like them we The Nagas were also educated and given Christianity through American and European missionaries. I mean the similarity just made me left in awe. Without any Hesitation, I will surely continue to follow. Wish you all the best in keeping up for more updates….

    • Thank you David for your comment and perhaps someday I can visit you in India to see your tribes culture as well. Thank you again and all the best to you.

  • Lonelysoul Abs

    thanks for sharing a part of our culture.

  • Jollee

    Most of us Igorots would welcome you anytime Mr. Jacob. Permission please to share your article and pictures (will post your link) that it may inspire other Igorots to know more of their culture/tradition and non-Igorots who might wish to learn of the Igorot amazing race. So far you have the briefest summary on the relevant cultures of the Igorots, worded well for understanding and perfectly captured the images of Igorots in your photos that say thousand words about them in silence. Am from Besao, and I thought all along that am a Kankana-ey (generally used for ethnicity)because I speak Kankana-ey, now I have learned from the contributions too of those who commented that we, eBesao belongs to the Applai tribe. Your article is absolutely more than a good read. Bow.

    • Thank you Jollee. Yes, by all means please feel free to share this post and the pictures. It’s always good to hear that the conversation around these stories help people better understand or dig deeper into the topic. Having these open dialogs is really part of what I hope these photos and writing will accomplish.

  • Apple Cruz

    I dont know if my question is out of topic but i hope your admin will post it. Anyway its a relevant topic especially to most women here in Baguio. I myself admire the beauty of the Cordillera before i got married.

    Why are most Igorot men alcoholic?

    Im married to a highlander and sad to say, most men in his family are alcoholic. In addition, most of them are unemployed mostly engaged in casual mining, construction and other low paying jobs. Im not generalizing but this is what i witnessed in the 10 yrs of marriage.

    The worst part is, they allow their wives to do farming works, (they sometimes call gardening), and they just wait for their wives to bring home the bacon.

    Before i got married, i was warned by a friend who’s working in DSWD baguio and another friend who is a Gabriela activist that most women who reported and had documented cases had issues involving unemployed and alcoholic “native” husbands.

    Many RTC judges also mention that annulment cases here in Baguio involve husbands who had no stable work, and when the wife goes abroad to work, they spend the wife’s money in drinking and women. Most men would just wait for the next cannao, birthday, wedding, wake (lamay) and go home with pieces of large meat, drunk. Because they are close knit, family members never discuss these problems openly, making the wives suffer in silence.

    One judge say its because of their culture. Is this the other side of the Cordillera? The world is moving, the culture should not be stagnant. If its culture, its nice to see their culture from as a “tourist” but once you blended with them, the worse comes out-alcoholism and allowing the women to do all the work. Some things must change.

  • Jeanel Francisco Pangindian

    I just viewed this in 2015 and up until now, I hope they’re doing fine there in CAR. Oh, I hope someday I can produce photographs like yours. It’s reflects their life as a whole without any corruption of my respect with their lifestyle and tradition πŸ™‚

  • Ravi Sohal

    hello, I would like to use some of these photographs for my thesis. I am creating a online resource and virtual tour museum based on the Cordileran culture. I have been looking for pictures and these were amazing, If you dont mind. Can you pm me if its fine to borrow some of these pics. tnx

  • Γ‰toile Infinie

    I would like to join you and learn more about my own culture..

  • baguioXchange

    Awesome photography and documentary

  • Claudio Romano

    Really amazing service

  • Forgive me for not noticing the texts. The pictures seem to tell all the stories you have seen in the Mountain Province.

    Absolutely fascinating.

  • Shyra Mae Eduardo

    Wow !! I enjoy what you’ve posted. I can share also what I know about the difference of Kankana-ey and Ebaloy. But I’m not much on the differences of kankana-ey at Mt. Province cause some of them don’t want to be called kankana-ey. What I know is some have their own so called tribe also but most of them speak hard kankana-ey.

    I hope you can also visit Benguet in the future ^_^

    The tribes in Benguet was divided into 3 major tribe:
    a) Kankana-ey: The most populated tribe (Kibungan, Buguias, Mankayan)
    b) Ebaloy: The most silence and a little bit shy type
    c) Kalangoya: The smallest population comparing to Kankana-ey and Ebaloy

    Municipalities of Benguet:

    Atok : Ebaloy and Kankana-ey

    Baguio : Mixed people(Tagalog and Ilokano,etc) but was originally the home of Ebaloy tribe

    Bakun : Ebaloy and Kankana-ey

    Bokod : Mostly Ebaloy

    Buguias : Kankana-ey

    Itogon : Mostly Ebaloy

    Kabayan : Mostly Ebaloy and Kalangoya

    Kapangan : Ebaloy and Kankana-ey

    Kibungan : Kankana-ey

    La Trinidad : Mostly Ebaloy but already mixed people (Ilokano, Kankana-ey and Ilokano)

    Mankayan : Kankana-ey

    Sablan : Kankana-ey and Ebaloy

    Tuba: Mostly Ebaloy

    Tublay : Ebaloy and Kankana-ey

    The wikipedia is not updated actually and does not give all the information. In Benguet, your language is the name of your tribe already it’s easy right πŸ™‚ I grew in Benguet that’s why I know all about it. I’ve been also trained about our culture and dances so that it would be able to preserve cause sadly now a days teenagers really doesn’t know how to their own traditional dances πŸ™ πŸ™

    Hope this helps ! ^_^

  • Igorotage

    Thank you for sharing sir Jacob. Hi guys, also join our community, . Igorotage is a simple yet awesome Igorot community and an out of the box solution to help promote the Igorot identity, the culture and the Cordillera.

  • Sixto Bayangan

    I am a certified Igorot and I must say that there are still lots to learn about our lifestyle.This is just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, some of the cultures are being driven out by the modern day era. I wish that a more detailed documentation will be made so that the culture of our great ancestors will be preserved and not forgotten. Since we have been slightly “touched” during Spanish colonization, we have the stronghold on how Filipinos lived in the early days. Most importantly, to inform the misinformed and the ignorant. Excellent photos though!

  • Zeenah Aquisan

    wow! I’m an Igorota from Benguet. This made me want to explore more. Your works inspire us. Thank you! Awesome.. so awesome. πŸ™‚

  • Sheila Alano-Tipayno

    Your photos are AMAZING as well as how you’ve documented all of these in just a short period of time! I am a cultural dancer since my undergrad years, and I have always been fascinated by Igorot dances. Now, I am happily married to an Ibaloi, and I became even more interested to learn not only the Ibaloi’s but all of the Igorot tribes’ cultures. I hope that you’d be able to return to CAR so that you could explore more of the other tribes. I will be very delighted to read about my husband’s tribe next time ;). And if you could and hopefully would, have photos of the different traditional outfits, or even just the different kinds of weaving that is distinct to each tribe. Thank you so much for this. I have enjoyed reading it. πŸ™‚

  • Rain

    Hi Jacob, you’ve got nice photos, πŸ™‚ can I use them in some of my FB posters? πŸ™‚

  • James Reli


  • Leona Beckles Davis

    Hey! I’m going to travel to take photos of people and their cultures doing their everyday lives and all sorts. What I’d like to know is how was it for you using our digital camera? Did you find it hard or easy? Was changing lens a problem or did you just stick with zooms? Did people react bad to having a camera pointed at them? Were the people very open to you following them around with you constantly pointing a camera at them?? I just have so many question, I so interested to know how the full experience was for you. Leona.

  • Evelyn Dicang Telino

    Learned a lot about other parts of Cordillera.Im in the Benguet area and reading does a lot of information for me .
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Lou

    What language do Igorot’s Speak?

  • peps nigga

    A very nice documentary sir… You may also want to visit and explore the(our) culture of the eastern Mountain Province specifically the municipality of Barlig, Natonin and Paracelis.

  • UnKnown

    I think you have something wrong..

  • Michelle

    This is a stunning collection of photos that comes complete with a collection of great stories. thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚

  • Your photos are beautiful. Please get in PM me at Facebook. Thanks. Riza Matibag-Muyot

  • Nathanael Flores

    thank you so much for this.

  • Paul T Badon

    Thank You very interesting

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