Mountain/Igorot Suite

updated 28-Jun-2002


The mountainous Central Cordillera region of Northern Luzon is also known by the term "Philippine Skyland." Inhabiting this rugged terrain are six ethno-linguistic tribes known as the Ibaloy, Kankanay, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao, and Bontoc. They prefer to be called by their respective tribal names rather than the collective term Igorot, which was first used by the Spaniards and later by Christian lowlanders. These tribes were generally unfazed by Spanish colonization. This homogeneous group is recognized by their common socio-cultural traits. They hold common religious beliefs, generally nature-related, and make propitiatory offerings to anitos, or household gods. Among these people of the Cordillera, dance continues to be an expression of community life that animates the various rituals and ceremonies. It serves for self-edification of the performers and entertainment for the spectators. They dance to appease their ancestors and gods to cure ailments, to insure successful war-mating activities,or to ward off bad luck or natural calamities. They dance to congregate and socialize, for general welfare and recreation, and as an outlet for repressed feeling. They also dance to insure bountiful harvests, favorable weather, and to mark milestones in the cycle of life.

Apayao Courtship Dance

This dance comes from the northernmost section of the Mountain provinces. Here, the couple raise and wave their arms and hands like the wings of a bird in flight, and the ceremonial blanket worn by the woman is lightly wrapped around her. The man's movements resemble those of a fighting cock in the preening, strutting, and flying-off-the-ground gestures.


Igorot maidens go to the river and prepare for a marriage ceremony. They display not only their grace and agility, but also their stamina and strength as they go about their daily task of fetching water and balancing the banga, claypots full of water, on their heads.

Bangibang Funeral Dance

On the occasion of a violent death, the Ifugao community proceeds to the house of the deceased.  The men shake their spears and shields and continually hop or jog all along the way, while some mean strike resonant sticks called bangibang.   When they reach the house, they all shout "Ha-ha-gui-yoo," circling around the victim and even striking him, urging him earnestly to take his revenge.   Both men and women are adorned with the read leaves of the dongla plant, symbolic of war.


The Ibaloy who inhabit the southernmost mountain regions in Northern Luzon perform victory dances to extol the bravery of the warriors of yesterday. In this version from the barrio of Kabayan, hand movements are downward, suggesting the people's affinity with the earth. The basic step consists of a stamp by the left foot and a light, forward movement by the right. Instrumentalists lead the line, followed by male dancers, while the female dancers bring in the rear.

Bontoc War Dance

see Pattong.


Thanksgiving festivals are one of many occasions for tribal celebrations. The movements in this dance of the Ifugao tribe, imitating those of a rooster scratching the ground, symbolize a thanksgiving prayer to the god Kabunian for a bountiful harvest of rice. Both men and women express their joy in this thanksgiving.


The Gaddang live in the middle of Cagayan Valley and speak a language similar to Ilokano.   Most of them converted to Christianity, and those who live alongside Christianized Ilokano groups have more or less adjusted to settled agriculture of mixed crops.   Small and scattered groups in southeastern Kalinga, eastern Bontoc, and Isabela regions retain their indigenous religion and practice swidden agriculture (the cutting back and burning of existing vegetation to produce temporary farming plots) with supplementary hunting and fishing.  In this dance, the Gaddang imitate birds attracted to tobacco trees.


Originated from the outpost municipality of Benguet, this female dance is performed at celebrations of tribal victory and to give thanks for a bountiful harvest.


A festival dance from Lagawe, it is performed by the Ifugao men and women during a major feast. Accompanying the dance are three gangsa or gongs: the tobtob, a brass gong about ten inches in diameter and played by beating with open palms, and the various hibat or gongs played by beating the inner surface with a stick of softwood.


This Bontoc dance depicts a war ceremony performed by warriors of rivaling tribes.  Idaw, meaning "bird," is celebrated because it was the omen bearer of war.

Lepanto Festival Dance

This dance is performed the Kankanay of northern Benguet and the people of Western Bontoc. It is usually danced at wedding celebrations (when it signifies the well-wishing of the bride and groom) and also after a harvesting season, when thanksgiving is rendered to Benguet god Kabuniyan for the bountiful harvest of the year.


The most revered tradition within the Kalinga is headhunting. A budong or peace pact is made between ili or village clusters to maintain peaceful relations and security. Breaking this pact by causing blood to flow will inevitably result in kayaw or headhunting. The offended village has the right to raid their transgressors and indiscriminately taking as many heads as they can as trophies. Mangayaw or listening to Idao, a mysterious bird, is supposed to lead a group to a successful head hunt.


MIDI File (lumagen.mid)
This is a dance performed at Kalinga festivals to celebrate Thanksgiving.


In times of severe drought, the Bontoc would perform this pagan ritual imploring Kabunian (God) to open the
sky and allow raindrops to water the rice terraces and the mountains.  Participants in the Manerwap climb the mountain to reach a sacred place called fawi where they offer a piece of meat and some rice wine to God.  Tribal folk rule that participants in the Manerwap must be physically strong to withstand the fast required during the rites, when they're allowed only water and no food. Senior members of the tribe perform the rain dance for two days and two
nights, incessantly beating gongs throughout the vigil.


Three Bago Tribe roosters compete against each other for the attention of Lady Lien. They use blankets depicting colorful plumes to attract her.


This courtship dance originates from Western Bontoc and is usually performed at weddings and during festivals like the begnas, celebrated by the community before a harvest or planting. The dance is characterized by free-form interactions between male and female dancers, with each dancer carrying a square-meter piece of brightly colored cloth, held or shaken to convey sentiments such as flirtation or desire. A set of four gongs accompanies this dance.


Also called the Bontoc War Dance, Pattong is part of the headhunting and war ceremonials inciting feelings of strength and courage as the warriors prepare to stalk their enemy. In Central Bontoc, the dance is also performed in February, March, and April, to implore the god Lumawig to send rain, similar in purpose to that of the rain-calling ceremony of Native American tribes. 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.


MIDI file (ragrags.mid)
This is an adaptation of a tradition in which Kalinga women gather and prepare for a budong, or peace pact.


The calloused hands of Ifugao farmers dig the hard soil and push heavy stones off cliffs to make way for a new rice field, part of the world-famous Banaue rice terraces. High-flying sakpaya birds swoop and hover over the terraces as the Ifugao toil. In times of plenty, the Ifugao farmers give thanks to their sakpaya "gods" by donning traditional costumes and imitating their flight in this dance.


The Salip of the Kalinga tribe depicts a warrior claiming his bride by presenting her with a matrimonial blanket. The woman responds by balancing several clay pots upon her head. She follows the man to connote obedience. He simulates the movements of a rooster at love play, aspiring to attract and seize his love. A version of this dance has two warriors competing for the approval of the fair maiden.


When the Kalinga gather to celebrate a happy occasion like the birth of a first-born baby boy, a wedding, or a budong (peace pact), the Kalinga Festival Dance is performed.  This is danced by the Kalinga maiden.  The dance imitates birds flying in the air.  Music is provided by gangsa, or gongs, which are usually in a group of six or more.


The Bontoc tribe performs this flirtation-type dance with five or more male dancers who provide music and rhythms for a male dancer and a female dancer doing a love or courtship dance. The dancers are in single-file forming circular or spiral patterns, and are led by the male dancer, who is immediately followed in the circular path by the chief gongbeater, who usually displays steps more fanciful than those of the rest of his fellow gongbeaters. At one point, he holds his foot sideward in the air, in an eloquent pause.


Kalinga men chant and dance while beating gangsa (brass gongs) and leap around.   This is part of the colorful religious ritual of thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.


This is an Ifugao wedding festival dance accompanied by gongs and is performed by the affluent to attain the second level of the wealthy class.  Wealthy people who have performed this dance are entitled to the use of gongs at their death.

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