A work in progress

For many in the the lowlands, the mountain people are generically referred to as "igorot," from 'y-golot,' meaning 'from the mountains.' A pejorative term from the colonized past, 'igorot' has become accepted as a collective catchword that groups together the Cordillera cultures: Bontok, Gaddang, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Ilongot, Isneg, Kalinga, Kankana-ey, Ikalahan, I'wak and Tinguian. Although separate cultures, some groups share deities and rituals, with overlaps and intermingling at their cultural fringes.

Of the colonizers, the Americans were better accepted than the Spaniards, gaining deeper inroads and effecting greater influences and more lasting changes, particularly in education. Although their healing beliefs are steeped in rituals and deities, in general, the tribes access western medicine earlier than the Tagalog and Visayan cultures. English as a second language has survived the assault by nationalistic fervor. The healers, collectively referred to by the acculturated as "shamans" are distinct by culture and rituals. Although modernization, Christianity and education have gained inroads and effected changes in Cordillera traditions and cultures, a system of religious beliefs and rituals with a profusion of deities and spirits, continue to affect many facets of their day-to-day lives. Unlike the lowlands, medicinal herbs do not figure heavily in ther healing modalities. In contrast, rituals and the use of sacrificial animals are dominant in the culture of their healing and beliefs.

Northern Kankana-eys
Southern Kankana-eys
Tingguians / Itnegs

The Bontoks comprise the inhabitants of the central and eastern Mountain Province. They believe in a supreme deity, Intutungcho (intutungtso, the one above) also referred to as Kafunian. Another deity is Lumawig, Kafunian's son, who became earth-bound to the people to teach the arts and skills for survival. There is also the belief in the the existence of spirits (anitos) of the dead who have to be constantly pleased lest they induce misfortunes and diseases. Intermediation is usually done by the insup-ok, a seer or medium who can counter the afflictions caused by evil spirits. through a ritual of prayers (kapya) and animal sacrifices - a plate of rice topped with a chicken leg or breast offered to the spirits. (Also see: Circumcision / Tuli.html) The Bontok's life, from birth to death, is punctuated with rituals (mangmang) with the sacrificial butchering of animals.
     Mangmang, a ritual counterpart of the Benguet cañao, is used to appeal to the anito for a sick person (mangaswak), accompanied by a feast of chicken and pig meats. A smaller version is called the man-manok, serving only chicken and salted meats. It is referred to as chao-es when accompanied by gong playing.

Although the most modernized and acculturated of the ethnolinguistic groups in Northern Luzon, deities and rituals persist. Religion is polytheistic and animistic (the soul in plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomenon). There is no god-worship of statues and carvings. The indigenous god is Kavuniyan or Kabunyan. The Christian God is Shivus, is considered the Supreme being, higher than Kavuniyan. There is also a belief in the spirits of ancestors, amed.
The culture is rife with anitos (nature spirits and ancestral spirits) and rituals. The anitos dwell in mountains, rivers, trees and rocks, and when their abodes are disturbed or destroyed, they can cause illness and misfortune for which rituals and offerings of appeasement are performed.
     Ancestral spirits (ka-apuan) appear in dreams or make their wishes known by causing illness.
     Nature spirits are varied: the amdag, wind-borne with nets to ensnare souls; the ampasit, cave-dwellers who mislead night travelers; tinmongao, cave-dwellers that cause illness or injury to intruders, the pinad-eng, who rule the wild-pigs and fowl of the forests, offered sacrifices by the hunters; butat-tew, who misguide travelers; the banig, spirits of the dying or recently departed, and the penten, spirits of violent deaths, river-dwellers who can cause perils to crossing travelers.

The culture is also rife with rites and rituals. Deities are often invoked for health and illnesses in rituals that usually involve the sacrifice of animals and the drinking of tafey (a native rice beer fermented from the red rice variety) in the background of prayer chanting by the mambunong. Of the 40 recorded ceremonies, some are rituals specifically related to illness:
Ampasit, for sore eyes and sore feet, with a sacrificial chicken offered to the ampasit, pinad-eng, and tinmongao.
Dosad, for chest pains, the mambunong hold his spear against the chest of a pig and prays. After the pig is butchered and cooked, the mambunong repeats the prayer while holding the spear against the chest of the sick person.
Sikop or sigop, a ritual for curing coughs, sans sacrificial animal or tafey, utilizing instead salt and ginger that is rubbed on the patient's neck while praying.
Kolos, for stomach pains and diarrhea, offered to the water-god Kolos, with a pig or chicken and tafey.
Sibisib, to cure wounds, performed without sacrificial animals, with the mambunong praying while placing the instrument or a substitute over the wound.
Basal-lang, performed after childbirth to prevent excessive bleeding and skin disease.
Tomo, a ritual to cure an insane person, a sacrificial dog is offered to departed ancestors believed to have caused the insanity.
Topya, to counteract a curse or cure an illness or physical deformity caused by witchcraft (padpadja) with sacrificial offerings of dogs, chickens, ducks or goats.

Cañao (kanyaw), familiar to the lowland culture as the a community celebration of the Igorots, is a ritual of animal sacrifice, feasting and dancing performed for healing, thanksgiving, entertainment and for asking for a bountiful harvest. It is a ritual common to the Ibaloys, Kankana-eys, and Kalanguayas.

Ikalahan is derived from the word kalahan, a type of forest tree growing in the Caraballo mountain. The traditional celebration is the keleng, a semi-religious feast and ritual that may be used to appease the gods, deities and ancestral spirits for the healing of illness. The ritual is led by the mabaki with prayers and chants (baki) before the sacrificial pig is killed and again, before the serving of the cooked meat. During the sacrificial butchering, the pig's liver is taken to the mabaki for inspection, and if the organ looks ills, he may request another pig to be sacrificed. Two other celebrations, the laga (the smallest form of celebration) and the padit (Prestige feast, most extravagant and expensive) are also rituals of appeasement.

Nestled in the heart of the Cordillera, Ifugao is the country's smallest province, but with a complicated belief of the universe and system of deities. Their flat universe is composed of six worlds: Kabunyan (Skyworld), Pugaw (Earthworld), Dalom (Underworld), Lagud (Eastern World), Daya (Western World), and Kadungayan (Spiritual world).
     Religion is polytheistic, with nature and ancestor worship.They do not acknowledge a supreme deity, but consider Maknongan as the chief god and creator of all things. There are many gods and deities: Matungulan (gods or goddesses of plenty), Manahaot (god of sorcery and deception), Bulul (god of idols), Bibiyo (fairy gods that dwell in trees and rocks) and many other minor gods that can cause illness.
     Their religious beliefs are expressed in a system of ritual called baki, presided over by the native priest, mumbaki. The rituals involve the sacrificial offerings of pigs, dogs, carabaos in the accompaniment of singing, dancing, drinking and myth recitations.
     Among the ifugaos, illness is believed to be caused by an ancestral spirits and nature spirits residing in trees, stones and rivers. The healing rituals are chosen according to who is believed to be causing the illness.
• Ketama - a divination ritual performed for illnesses caused by ancestral spirits, using a deity-possessed medium, through which the spirit expresses his grievances and demands.
• Ayag - the ritual for illnesses caused by vengeful evil spirits. Sacrificial chickens and pigs are offered for the appeasement of deities and spirits. If the patient's condition does not improve, a more elaborate one, if affordable, is performed. Sometimes the mumbaki is asked to call upon all the deities to help bring back the patient to health.

The Isnegs are animistic. Although they have no Supreme Being, the system of beliefs is rife with spirits, of human and animal forms, dwelling freely or in nature habitats of rivers, stones, trees. Illnesses and diseases are attributed to disrespectful intrusions into the deities' domains. As protection, ceremonial appeasements are common, as is the wearing of protective amulets (tanib).
     The shaman figures heavily in the ceremonies. The Anituwan, always a woman presides over the Isnegs' rituals. She chooses and dispenses amulets, diagnoses illnesses, uses various herbs in her concoctions of treatments.

The Kalinga is a recent province that came out of the 1995 separation of the Kalinga-Apayao. Kabuniyan is the Supreme Being. Their deity beliefs are typed into three: nature spirits (pinaing and aran), dead ancestors and relatives (kakarading and anam), and mythological heroes.
      Illness and death are attributed to malevolent anitos and vengeful spirits.
      For a prolonged illness, a medium is called to assess the liver of the sacrificial animal. The preceding night, for appeasement of the spirits, the men gather in merrymaking, dancing the salisid and playing the tungatong. Before the healing rite (dawak) is performed by the medium, the house is decorated with ferns in its four corners. Animals are butchered for sacrifice. If the healing is not successful, a herbalist , nabdadagop, is called with his preparation of plants (balat) that is administered to the patient. If death is imminent, the ritual of songnga is performed, a death ceremony, without the accompaniment of merrymaking, the medium pouring the blood of the sacrificial animal on the dying patient.

This group consists of inhabitants of the Sagada and Besao municipalities. There is a belief in the superior deity Kabunian. Their religion consists of worship of ancestors and nature spirits . The anitos (spirits or souls of the dead) spirits dwell in the village, rocks and caves while the nature spirits dwell in the mountains, rocks, trees and rivers. Illness and death are attributed to the more evil nature spirits. The ancestral spirits are benevolent and invoked upon for good health. However, a family illness may be taken as a sign that the ancestral spirit is hungry, for which a sacrifice of animals is done to share with the ancestral spirits.
      Rituals of healing involve sacrificial offerings of food, usually salted pork and chicken, and occasionally, dogs and carabaos. There are no priests or mediums that officiate the rituals, instead, a village elder is entrusted with the prayers and inspection and interpretation of the bile sac or liver (mamidis), The rituals are always performed in complete silence, lest they become ineffective.
     Sagawsaw, a cleansing ceremony, is performed when one becomes insane. Legleg, another cleansing ceremony, is performed for intractable or incurable skin diseases and boils, done by the river, utilizing a white chicken, for that white that symbolizes cleanliness.
     Bakid, a sacrificial feast, is performed when an old man is taken ill. Three pigs and two chickens are slaughtered. There is prayer chanting, ayeng, asking the gods to heal the patient. Two days later, lapsag, which involves another butchering of two pigs and one chicken, is performed and the meat shared with the people. Another bakid follows, three pigs and two chickens, again for distribution to the people. When the patient dies, another pig is slaughtered that will accompany the baya-o, the farewelll song. Then, another pig for the magapo, and another for a night fall offering, gawa. After a month, a pig is slaughtered. In two months, another bakid, three pigs and two chickens After a year, a lapsag, two pigs and two chickens. The ritual ends with kinaw-ang, the butchering of three pigs divided amongst the people.
     The rituals can force a family into the sale of material possessions, even destitution, and the more acculturated families have shied away from the practice.

They are found in the municipalities of Tadian, Bauko, and Sabangan in the Mountain Province, and Bakun, Kibungan and Mankayan in Benguet.
     There is no worship of idols, icons and sacred places; when found, they are purely decorative. The religion is based on a belief in deities and spirits. The highest in the deity hierarchy is Adikaila of the Skyworld, the creator of all things. Next are the Kabunyan, a collective of gods and goddesses, who include Lumawig and Kabigat who taught religion and rituals to the people. The Southern Kankana-eys also believe in ancestral spirits (ap-apo and kakkading) and earth spirits (anitos).
     The rituals are presided over by three native priests - the mansipok, manbunong, and mankotom - believed to be empowered by Adikaila for counseling, healing, interpreting signs, and performing rituals.
• Mansip-ok, the seer or diviner, is consulted for illness diagnosis and the choosing of the appropriate healing ritual. Diagnosis is achieved through baknew
, the breaking of an a chicken egg (alternatively, blood from a sacrificial chicken) onto a gabi or banana leaf, and after a prayer, interprets the egg for signs and suggestions for cure. (see: Tawas) Sipok, another method, utilizes a flint-on-a-string that would become heavy at the mention of words that might suggest the diagnosis.
• Mambunong is the religious functionary called upon after the diagnosis made by a mansip-ok suggests that an ancestral spirit has been offended. The mambunong communicates with the spirit to lift the illness from the patient.
•Mankontom or manchiba also performs the rituals of the mansip-ok and mambunong. He interprets omens and signs, and In sacrificial healing ceremonies, reads the bile and liver

Of Spanish origin, Tingguian originally referred to all the mountain dwellers in the Philippines. Possibly, it was derived from the Malay word "tinggi," meaning 'mountain' or 'upland.' Later it became exclusive reference to the inhabitants of Abra and the Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte mountains. Many choose to refer to themselves as "Itnegs," probably a name derived from an early Tingguian settlement in Abra.
     A religious people, they believe in numerous supernatural beings (spirits and anitos) inhabiting their land, endowed with powers to guide protect and guide the Tungguian's lives, and who therefore are involved in the religious offerings and rituals.
     The Tingguian's great god is Kadaklan, ruler of the supernatural world. Another deity is Kabunyan, friend and teacher to the people, teaching prayer, the curing of illnesses and protection from evil spirits. There are more than 150 other named spirits.
     Selday is a malevolent spirit who may induce illness if deprived of the blood offering from a small pig.



Ethnography of the Major Linguistic Groups in the Cordillera
Cordillera Schools Group, Inc. 2005

Bontoc Life-Ways / A Study in Education and Culture
Kate Chollipas Botengan
. 1976
Benguet has it All
Mary L. Fernandez, Baguio Midland Courier, April 27, 2008