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Mummification Process

When a person was about to die, he was made to drink a glass of water diluted with salt so that the intestines of the person would be freed from any bacterial organism. Guava leaves were boiled and then the water is cooled off to be used to bathe the dead person. A vine known as “besodak” is pounded to produce a greenish juice which they applied throughout the body of the deceased person. This serves as the preservative.

Timbak Mummies

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After this, he is made to sit in a “changadil”, a wooden death chair, with his feet close to his body and his hands folded and resting on his knees. Fire wood was then prepared to be burned and placed in front of the dead. The smoke helps to dry the body. A jar is placed underneath the “changadil” to catch the body fluid that comes out of the dead person’s body.

Constantly, a member of the family closely watches the body making sure that flies would not alight on the body. This process lasts for six months extending to one year depending on the deceased person’s wealth. The dead is buried in a dry place to prevent the body from decaying and to keep the moisture out and maintain the body intact for many years to come.

Origins of Benguet mummification

By Contributor, Roland Rabang

The sciences, both human and applied, are picking up from where oral traditions left off in explaining lingering questions over the practice of mummification in Benguet.

      Tinongchol Mummy Cave 

But scholars and experts still differ over several key aspects of a practice that has been extinct for centuries. For instance, the jury is still out on the determination of the basic substance that would preserve the cadaver.

Scientists from the National Museum sustain oral accounts that salt was the primary ingredient in preserving the remains of at least 12 mummies interred separately in the Timbac and Tinongchol rock shelters in Kabayan, Benguet.

Orlando Abinion, a chemical engineer and conservation project coordinator of the National Museum, says “salt solution” was fed through the mouth of the recently deceased causing a body to dehydrate.

This process draws parallelism in the mummification by ancient Egyptians where the corpse is placed in a tub of salt for desiccation, he says. “The difference is that while the Egyptians embalmed their dead, nothing was taken out of the Kabayan mummies,” he says.

Research updates presented at the University of the Philippines Baguio on Feb. 13 by Abinion and anthropologist Maritess Paz Tauro speak of the National Museum’s initiatives to expand research on the Kabayan mummies using forensics and the social sciences.

Tauro says a close examination of the mummies has allowed them to determine some specific details on the mummified individuals. “The structure of the cranium has provided insights as to whether the mummy is typical male or female,” she says.

The scientific survey is part of the inventory and cataloguing processes being done to establish a reliable body of knowledge on the mummies of Kabayan.

     Bangao Mummies

Systematic vandalism

However, Tauro says even science is stymied by the systematic vandalism done on the mummies in the last century since the most prominent of these, “Apo Anno,” was stolen in 1906.

“Dental structure would have given us an estimate of the age of the cadaver at the time of death but this is already unreliable because in some, the absence of dentition (teething) indicates this was done post-mortem,” she says.

Tauro says souvenir hunters in the past had the tendency to pilfer parts of the cadaver—often taking a tooth or a finger—such that as far as the mummies are concerned, scientists can no longer study a pristine specimen.

There are parts of the dead, however, that can still speak audibly through the centuries. Tauro says the staining of the teeth suggests the active chewing of betel nut during the natural life of the individual.

Body art

Tattoo details, remarkably preserved especially in the case of Apo Anno, are virtual symbolic records of the life of the individual.

Abinion, who has handled Apo Anno for the past 15 years, says parts of the mummy’s body art show animal figures, which suggest that “he must have been a hunter.”

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Detailed explanation of Apo Anno’s tattoos is found in “The Recontextualization of Burik (Traditional Tattoos) of Kabayan Mummies in Benguet to Contemporary Practices,” a 2012 journal article by Dr. Analyn Salvador-Amores, UP Baguio assistant professor of social anthropology.

She writes that Apo Anno might have belonged to a group described in the Ilokano epic, “Biag ni Lam-ang,” as “Igorot a burikan (spotted Igorot).”

Amores says the “burik” patterns were “kin-based and had social and collective meanings among the Ibaloy.” The details on Apo Anno’s tattoos are similar to the 1885 monographs of German scientist Hans Meyer, Amores says. “They appear on the mummy of Apo Anno, which is estimated to be 700 to 900 years old,” she says.

Widespread practice

Unlike tattooing which is an individualized practice, mummification appears widespread when it existed in Benguet, says Tauro. This is seen in the varied ways in which the dead were displayed, indicating that there might have been a good number of people who knew about the process.

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This is because it is likely that the people might have stumbled into the practice in the course of their agricultural practices, says Dr. June Prill-Brett, an anthropologist who was part of a team of anthropologists who surveyed the Kabayan mummies in the late 1960s.

“Pre-Hispanic farmers in Benguet discovered that bacterial lesions on their cattle can be cured using the juice extracted from the patani (Lima bean),” she says. “By association, the farmers must have thought: if the juice can stop the flesh from rotting, this could be done to preserve the dead as well.”

This challenges the belief that salt solution was used in the mummification process.

“Salt was a trade commodity in the highlands and is valued in gold in today’s standards,” says Cordillera photographer Tommy Hafalla. But he says “even the wealthiest “baknang” of the Ibaloy could not have used salt in preserving their dead.”

Belief System

Cañao or kanyao is simply a "festival" or ceremony or liturgy, or service or rite/ritual, of offering. It is a generic term. "Witchcraft" would be too limited or off the mark to describe it. A "kanyao" may be performed for thanksgiving for the health of the community, there could be a kanyao (petitionary/intercessory) for a bountiful harvest; a family kanyao may be performed for healing such as a very simple ritual of "sedey" with the use of water and prayer; a "grand kanyao" has the focus of entertainment, cultural shows and festivities.

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Widespread in the Cordilleras would be the term "menkanyao" lit. "to perform kanyao" or ritual. I know some rituals for witchcraft and had attended several of those rituals and never is the word kanyao ever used as alternate name for any of these. The main ethnic tribes, Ibaloi and Kankana-ey, are not far apart in their system, except that they are dissimilar in linguistics. Their belief system is common to both with little deviation in methods of performance but do not change the intent and purposes. 

The Benguet people believe in the existence of unseen beings that emanate from the sky world and the underworld. That these unseen beings are called spirits thought to have power over man. It is further believed that these unseen beings or spirits can be manipulated by men to his advantage. With this, the people strive to win the favors of the spirits using prayers and material offerings in a ritual. Knowing their attributes and whims is important as a basis to classify said spirits as to hierarchy and generosity.


See also: Who are Ibalois?, Who are the Kankana-eys?,Who are the Igorots?

1. Spirits classified as to hierarchy are:

a.) The maker of the universe, Adika-ila(Kankana-ey)/ Mengos-oschong(Ibaloi, This is the highest and powerful of all the spirit and his realm is in the skyworld;
b.) Diety(gods/goddesses), Kabunyan;
c.) Spirits of ancestors, Ap-apo(Kn)/ Kaapuan(Ib) and people who just died, Kakading/Kedaring. They are believed to move freely from the skyworld to the underworld and back as they wish;
d.) Spirits inhabiting the earth collectively called Anito in kankana-ey/kalutaan in Ibaloi. These underworld spirits when offended, trespassed and brush aside should be violent thereby inflicting illness, death and misfortune to man.
2. Spirits classified as to generosity. Generally, all spirits are regarded as good, however the degree of goodness or badness of the spirits depends on perception of men's action. The degree of offense of man against the spirit is the measure of the degree of his punishment curable only by appeasing the spirit.

a.) The Benevolent spirit, Maeya (Kn)/ Mapteng (Ib), is offered a thanksgiving ritual consisting of animals, food, ricewine and other materials as gifts.
b.) The Malevolent, Makedse (Kn)/ Makedsel (Ib), who caused illness could also be appeased by performing a healing ritual to restore the health of the afflicted by offering similar gifts. The Benguet people regard rituals and feasts as a fulfillment of their aspirations as well as a cure to illness. They believe that the good spirit will give them favors in the form of good health and material wealth.

The Native Priest

The native priests are the chosen spiritual leaders in the community well versed in the belief system. They are consulted in healing the sick, in comforting the victim of misfortune and in the offering of thanks to the deities for fortunes received. They are therefore the counsels of the people in times of joy, sorrow and distress. They are categorized according to their calling.


The Mansip-ok (Kn)/ Mansi'bok (Ib) having been given certain powers to determine the cause of illness, death and misfortune, prescribes the appropriate ritual cure. He uses his own device in determining the cause of the sufferings. 

When a ritual is prescribed, it is given to the Manbunong to administer. He in turn performs the said ritual and the effectiveness of it is in his hands.
In rituals the Mankotom (Kn.) Manchiba (Ib.) interpretes omens and signs which the Mansip-ok and the Manbunong may not decide. The Mankotom is capable of performing the tasks of the other two.

The Rituals
This is the administering of prescribed rituals as a healing cure, protection, purification, sanity, normalize birth and good voyage/journey. The spirits are called upon with offerings of animal, "tapey", food and other desired/prescribed materials of favors received or restored health. In any ritual rice wine, tapey (Kn)/ tafey (Ib) is always used being the traditional wine, and the pig as the traditional animal. Since there are classes of spirits, the rituals are performed to conform with the spirit's demands.

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The Kabunyan/Kavunian, Ap-apo/Kaapuan, Kakading/Kedaring are offered thanksgiving rituals. They receive the most ritual for being benevolent to man. Likewise, spirits that are easily offended and violent, like the Tomongaw/Tinmongaw, Pinten/pinchen, amlag/atoros, pinad-ing/pinad-eng, are offered appeasement ritual called the Dilus(Kn.) chilus(Ibaloy).



In the performance of cañaos, the following gods and goddesses were implored:

  1. Kabigat
  1. Balitok
  1. Pati
  1. Bangan
  1. Amdoyan
  1. Masecen
  1. Kaman-ay
  1. Lingan
  1. Lumawig
  1. Soyan
  1. Maodi

The mambunong was the person who had the sole authority to perform the religious rituals involved in each type of cañao.

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Parental arrangements were commonly practiced among the people. This was called the Kaising. Parents arrive at an agreement. In performing marriage among the rich, first of all, they performed the secyab where twp pigs; a male and a female were butchered. The pigs were killed then placed over the fire to burn the hair. Then, these were washed then butchered. The mambunong examined the bile for omens. If he reads good omen from the bile, cows or carabaos were butchered to welcome good omen. Then the mambunong led the prayer blessing the husband and wife to have long lives and to be successful in any of their future endeavors together.

The people were given a share of food and meat which were distributed to everyone. When night time comes, the mambunong summoned the husband and wife inside the house and put them in bed and blessed them, then left them in the private room. After all the ceremonies the husband and wife were subjected to three-day ngilin(mourning). After three days of ngilin, the mambunong escorted them to the river and blessed them by sprinkling water over them saying. “In the name of Kabunian you will be washed by these waters from sin and you will begin your new life to come.”

The marriage of a poor man is very simple; the male presented himself at the house of the woman with his parents who asked the parents of the girl if they would accept their son. If the parents and their children both agree to the marriage proposal, a date was set for the marriage ceremonies. A pig was butchered during the wedding. After the ceremonies the people recited baclew for marriage. First of all, the parents of the man will sing his baclew and say: “I thank you for accepting my son as a husband of your daughter and I hope you will count him as your real son and that you will teach him about any work regarding family life. He is a poor man but he is strong and wise.” The parent of the girl answers. “As long as in the side of the woman, I accept any man who would love my daughter and it happened that your children are of one heart, one mind and one body. I believe it is the will of God that they will be together forever and ever.”


Benguet is majority peopled by two tribes- the Ibaloi and the Kankana-ey. The Ibaloi occupying the southeast speak the Nabaloy, a linguistic sound nearer to the Pangasinenses. This maybe due to the free movement and interaction of the natives of what is now Benguet to or with the natives of Pangasinan in the Pre-Spanish era. As established by research, the Ibaloi has affinity to the Kalangoya of Tinek, the Mandek-ey(kankana-ey) Manke'dey(Ibaloi) of Buguias and the Kalahan who live along the mountain range from the foot of Mt. Pulag to Imogen including the I-owak of kayapa in Nueva Viscaya.
Dominating the northeast are the Kankana-ey, speaking the Kalkali, a dialect similar to the Bontocs and akin to the Iloko. These two tribes are spread all over Benguet constituting the majority natives who share each other, practice or observe a common ritual or rituals that are otherwise peculiar to their brothers in the Cordillera. At the root of these two tribes appear a kind of people marginally speaking different ethnic dialects and adhering to an admixture of beliefs. They are so called the Bago or Bag-bag-o, who occupy the peripheral areas west and south of Benguet stretching from east of Ilocos Sur to the north of pangasinan.

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Another kind of people is the Katagwan of Kapangan. They are so-called by the nature of their dialect blending Nabaloy and Kalkali, which they call Katagwan, which means modified kalkali. They normally communicate among themselves in modified Kalkali but religiously observe and practice rituals common to the Ibaloi. During feasts, the katagwan sing the native ritual song and chant in Ibaloi, called badiw . Even their music that synchronizes the dancing is performed in Ibaloi while communication continues to be in Kankana-ey. And then there is the Karao group of Bokod in the east. Unlike the other group, they practice rituals peculiar to their own and encompassing their sister tribes in Benguet.

Generally, both tribes raise rice as staple food and for tapey brewing, raise large animals with a lavish care for pigs, dogs, chicken for ritual purposes and feasting. Their customs and taboos are observed as laws orally binding through generations and evolving a belief system that guides the destinies of the two tribes.

Benguet people generally build homes spaced apart from each other, near farms and fields. Traditionally, houses consisted of one room elevated off the ground. Most houses now are made of wood or cement and have metal roofs.

The traditional clothing of Ibaloi, Kankena-ey and Kalanguya men is the kuval or G-string, a piece of woven cloth wrapped around the waists and draped down to cover the loins. The traditional clothing for women was the kambal or blouse, and aten or divet, a wrap around skirt. These now are worn only during traditional ceremonies and on special occasions.

The Ibalois, Kankana-eys and Kalanguyas have a rich tradition of cultural practices, only a few of which are still performed today. The more "extreme" traditions were abandoned due to the influence of American missionaries during the early 20th century. Thus, practices such as headhunting, mummification and body tattooing have all but disappeared.

In the town of Kabayan, Bakun, Kapangan and Buguias, the mummified remains of important persons have been left in burial caves that dot the surrounding mountains. These mummies are very important national treasures, some of which can be seen on display at the local museum.

No recorded history of the Benguet IPs exists until the arrival of the Spanish colonialists in the 1570's. The Spaniards found the people living in various stages of development, in separate communities whose coexistence with each other varied from cooperation to isolation or to tribal wars. The people were either engaged in farming, wet agriculture (rice) or hunting and gathering. When the Spanish first arrived in the Cordilleras in 1572, they found the Igorots living in communities separate from each other. The people were independent farmers, much as they are today.

From 1572 to 1575, Spanish conquistadors made a series of expeditions into the Cordillera region in search of gold. They were unable to find gold, but left a trail of burned and pillaged settlements and slaughtered all who resisted. Expeditions were periodically conducted up until 1668, all of which were repelled by the tribal communities. In 1620, the first major Spanish incursion into the La Trinidad Valley took brief hold of some gold mines, but this endeavor was abandoned six years later.

In the 19th century, Spaniards began sending expeditions into Benguet to subjugate the Igorots. An expedition under Colonel Guillermo Galvey succeeded in establishing Spanish presence in the La Trinidad Valley.

The Spanish were able to conquer and subdue the lowlanders of Pangasinan, La Union and the Ilocos, but their sights were on the Cordilleras in the hope of finding endless amounts of gold in the mountains. This was the primary reason for the conflicts between the Cordilleras IPs and the Spanish.

Efforts also were made to "Christianize" the Igorots, as was accomplished with the lowlanders, but this also failed. For more than 300 years, the IPs resisted and fought the Spanish to a virtual stalemate. The colonialists never accomplished their goals for the Cordilleras. The Igorots still were largely unchristian when the Spanish ultimately were defeated in 1898. They did, however, develop a distrust and fear of outsiders that would stay with them to this day.

The Americans took control of the Philippines in 1900 following the Spanish-American War. They also desired the mineral riches that were known to exist in the Cordilleras, but took a very different approach than the Spaniards. The Americans quickly determined that the highlanders of the Cordilleras remained non-Christian, in contrast with the lowlanders. The Americans encouraged missionaries to spread Christianity to establish a common ethical framework and value set.

They also set up the roads and infrastructure necessary to achieve their interests, thereby making it easier for the military to ensure order. Once this was done, trade and commerce became viable. Then, a system of government, laws and ordinances was established, sources of food identified and nurtured, and schools built and staffed.

Who are the Ibalois?
The Ibalois belong to a distinct tribal group collectively known as Igorots. They are also known as Ipaway which means people living in valleys, plateaus or somewhat sloping areas not covered with dense vegetation. For them, the term paway means a place devoid of heavy vegetation.

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This tribal group dominates the province of Benguet. Hence, when meeting lowland people of other tribal groups, the Ibalois would say, "We are Benguet people." Historically, they are the native inhabitants of that province.

The main occupation of the Ibalois is farming and gardening. A very hardworking people, they have succeeded in making La Trinidad, Benguet as the salad bowl of the Philippines due to their abundant vegetable products like Baguio beans, cabbage and Irish potatoes as well as strawberries. They prefer to spend most of their time working in the fields rather than begging for help. They may not be sociable but they are kind, hospitable, sincere and humble.

In the early 1950s, some of the Ibalois migrated to neighboring provinces of Benguet like Nueva Vizcaya, the Ilocos Region and Ifugao.

The Ibalois are one of the most advanced tribal groups in the country today because of their acceptance of innovations and new technologies.

The native Ibalois practiced parental marriage, that is, parents chose their children's mates. This marriage custom eventually waned, however, due to sad experiences on the part of the children who were not paired off well. The parents of both bride and groom still decide on what to do during the wedding feast and ceremony. The groom's parents who shoulder most of the wedding expenses do most of the decision making.

An Ibaloi wedding celebration is held at the bride's house. Although the dowry system is not observed, it is a must that animals like carabaos, cows or pigs be butchered for the wedding celebration which lasts from two to five days or even longer, especially for rich families. It is considered disgraceful for both parties if no animals are butchered or sometimes if only one or two pigs are butchered.

Native dancing, offering of old coins and other rituals are complied with.

The Ibalois are not selective when it comes to food. They cook their dishes by just adding salt, ginger, pepper or cooking oil. Their main food consists of rice, vegetables and meat. This tribe seldom eats fish because they are not used to it.

For their clothing, the Ibalois have their own beautiful hand-woven costumes: the G-string and the tapis.

A typical Ibaloi house is made of lumber from pine wood, galvanized iron, cogon and sometimes cement. Most families usually prefer lumber over cement as building material because the former makes the interior of the house warmer.

Who are the Kankana-eys?
The Kankana-eys belong to the tribal group collectively known as Igorots. Like the Ibalois, the Kankana-eys are the original inhabitants of Benguet. They dominate places in Benguet like Bakun, the Mountain Trail, Buguias, Kibungan and Kapangan. Today, they are found not only in Benguet but neighboring provinces particularly Nueva Vizcaya.

The Kankana-eys are hardworking, simple and humble. They can make marginal lands productive because they are open to innovations, especially in farming and gardening. They are one of the best vegetable growers in the country. They were the first to explore the minerals in their region, particularly gold which they extract by panning.

The staple food of these people are camote (sweet potato), rice, potato and other root crops like tugi and gabi. Their way of cooking is quite different from that of the lowland people because they just cook their dishes with water and salt, sometimes with sili (hot pepper) and cooking oil.

The marriage customs of the Kankana-eys do not differ much from those of the Ibalois. The Kankana-eys also practice parental marriage. Due to sad experiences and intermarriages with lowland people and other tribes, this practice is already declining. Traditional practices like butchering of many animals, bunong (praying done by their high priest), dancing the tayaw (native dance) and bakliw (singing) still exist.

Many rituals are performed before and during the wedding celebration. For the Kankana-eys, a wedding celebration would not be complete if there is no tayaw and offering of tapuy (rice wine). Wearing of expensive wedding gowns is not a popular practice among them but butchering of animals is compulsory. It is a dishonor on the part of both parties if animals are not killed for the wedding feast.

The Kankana-ey women are known in the province of Benguet as the best weavers of shirts and blankets. They are hardworking, independent and business-minded. Their women can work in their farms without the husband's help.

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Who are the Igorots?
William Henry Scott, in his authoritative Discovery of the Igorots (New Day, 1974), spells it out for the non-Igorot:

Filipinos born on the Grand Cordillera Central are generally known as Igorots, though they might more accurately be referred to by the names of six different ethno-linguistic groups into which they can be divided -- Isneg (Apayao), Kalinga, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kankanaey, and Ibaloi. But historically they all have one thing in common, whatever they are called -- their ancestors resisted assimilation into the Spanish Empire for three centuries.

If the Spaniards had drawn a map of their new colony in the 16th century, all this Cordillera territory would have appeared as part of the provinces of Cagayan, Pangasinan and Ilocos (with the Ilocos-Pangasinan border between Bauang and Balaoan), and an unconquered area called Ituy in the upper Magat valley around the present municipality of Aritao. Mountaineers trading gold in Pangasinan and Ituy were called Ygolotes -- later to be re-spelled Igorrotes -- but mountaineers further north in the Ilocos coast were called by the ordinary term applied to mountain dwellers all over the archipelago -- tingues or tinguianes, from the Malay word for "high, elevated," tinggi, except in Pampanga where they were called Zambales.

In the Cagayan Valley the need for such term did not arise because the more gentle eastern slope of the Cordillera presented no sudden mountain wall, so the Spaniards simply called the Kalingas and the Apayaos infieles (pagans) as they called the Ibanags and Gaddangs of the Cagayan Valley itself. But when they went up to the Apayao River, thye called the mountaineers there by another native name, Mandayas -- literally, "those up above." Then when they made expeditions in to Baguio gold mines in 1620 and Kayan in 1668, they called the people there Igorots too and when they built a fort at Bagabag in 1752 against Ifugao attack from the west, they also called them Igorots or, occasionally, Tinguians.

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Ordinarily the Spaniards called the indigenous populations of their empire both in the Americas and the Philippines indios, a term which originally had no derogatory connotations but was the simple result of Columbus's mistaken notion that he head reached the Orient when he found the New World. As these subject peoples modified their native customs under foreign domination, the Spaniards quickly formed their own image of the indio -- a dark-skinned person wearing pants who attended mass, paid taxes, obeyed Spanish laws, and only went to war when the government told him to. The mountain people of northern Luzon obviously did not conform to this pattern whether called Igorots, Tinguians, or Zambals, so they were collectively referred to as tribus independientes rather than indios.


During the 1887 Philippine Exposition in Madrid, where Cordillera tribes people were put on display for the curiosity of the Spanish peninsulares, a scholarly Spaniard named Don Manuel Anton explained the inaccuracy of calling all non-Christian tribes Igorots, as cited in the same book by Scott.

"The word Igorot, which has acquired such currency in Madrid as a result of the Philippine Exposition, and even the whole country, is understood and used in two different senses out there in the Islands -- one of them popular and the other scientific and anthropological. People call unsubjugated Filipinos Igorots who live in independent tribes, governed by their own laws, or who don't pay tribute to the Spanish authorities, or, as some authors express it in classic Spanish, all mundane and savage indios; but it is also used as the proper name of certain peoples living in the provinces of Bontoc, Lepanto and Benguet.

Benguet serves as the gateway to the Cordillera region and as the center of where the action is in North Luzon. It is endowed with rich human and natural resources and a unique temperate climate. It is also a home to three major tribes namely; the Kankana-eys, the Ibalois and the Kalanguyas. Although speaking different dialects, the people share similar cultures, which are carefully preserved as evidenced by their customs, and traditions being practiced that continue to influence their day-to-day activities. The Kankana-ey tribe constitutes about 36% of the total population, 27% of the Ibalois and Kalanguyas while 24% of the lowlander population, mostly Ilocano speakers. English, Ilocano and Filipino are widely spoken.

The three highland groups differ mainly in language but are similar in their traditional beliefs and rituals. They all believe that spirits and supernatural beings exist who are responsible for bestowing blessings and bounties when they are pleased and honored, as well as inflicting pain and suffering when they are displeased and not heeded. It is believed that these unseen beings (spirits) can be manipulated by man to his advantage. With this belief, the people strive to win the favor of the spirits using prayers and material offerings in a ritual.

The people of Benguet have certain noted traditional feasts and rituals, such as the kosdey, a rite for the fertility of the soil that is observed when the rice blooms in the field. This ritual is done when the moon rises in the month of May. Other feasts such as the tehungas is a purification rite, with a ceremony held to avenge the ghosts of the enemies who killed their people in the past. This ritual also signifies the purification of those whom they have avenged.

What has been popularized as "Canao" by our lowland brothers is neither a Kankana-ey, Ibaloi nor Kalanguya term for the rituals. The Kankana-ey call their ritual affairs as "Sida", "Peshet" for the Ibalois while "Kecheng" for the Kalanguyas. Elders assert that Cañao as understood by outsiders has no meaning or relevance to the rituals.

On the other hand, the Pagan worship referred to the people of Benguet does not find relevance to the belief system of the people. It is actually a taboo for the natives to display images in their homes for purposes of worship, except for the love of art. The worship of idols and images is paganism and that the worshippers are called pagans. The belief system of the natives show that above all the gods and goddesses, there is the Kabunyan, the most high.

Traditional culture is fast transforming in the face of greater contacts with Christian culture. Practices like tribal wars, mummification and body tattooing have all but disappeared. Traditional costumes have also given way to western apparel. Most Benguet residents belong to one of the many Christian churches that have actively proselytized among the Igorots.

Yet the culture of the Benguet people lives on. Traditional Igorot crafts continue to be made by highland craftsmen. Igorot weavers are renowned for their distinctive motifs. They also continue to make ethnic jewelry, which may be simple or complex, each bearing specific names. Igorot woodcraft is also very popular.

Living cultural traditions and important relics can also be found in museums in the City of Baguio, Provincial Capitol and in the town of Kabayan, the seat of the Ibaloi culture. In the different municipalities, the mummified remains of the important men have been left in burial caves that dot the mountains surrounding the town. These mummies are considered sacred to the people of Benguet.
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Origin of Solibao And Gangsa

Long time ago, there was a man named Ogayan who lived in the forest. He tended a kaingin planted with corn and camote and some other plants. One time he went to visit his kaingin and was so surprised to find out that his plants had been stolen by some animals he cannot figure what. This happened several times until one day he decided to make a place where he can lie in wait for the rapacious animals. One time while he was hiding in his hiding place, big monkeys arrived and entered his shelter. He pretended to be dead. So the monkeys carried him to their abode. Arriving there, he overheard the king of the monkeys say: “Take a good care of this person because he is the one providing us with food and let him sleep in the best room.” After two days of pretending to be asleep. Ogayen became hungry so he was forced to get up to his feet.


The monkeys were surprised and were all cheering assuming that they were the ones who saved his life. When they saw that Ogayen was well, they prepared to hold a cañao, a sangbo (cañao to become rich). The monkeys prepared the solibao and gangsa. As soon as the instruments were played, the monkeys began to dance and mentioned him to join in the dancing. Ogayen was quick to learn the movements of the monkey dance. After Ogayen danced, the monkeys all applauded.

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Kinds of Cañaos

There are many kinds of cañaos to celebrate different occasions. The following kids were commonly practiced:

1 .Sangbo – A cañao performed to become rich. If a person dreamt or saw a very unusual thing, he consulted a mansip-ok (a person who knows how to interpret the meaning of dream) for the meaning of that dream. After the mansip-ok told the meaning of the dream or unusual sight, the person concerned prepared the materials needed:  pig , chicken, and tapuy and after a few days held the cañao with the mambunong performing the rituals. The mambunong blessed the pig and chicken before they were butchered. The mambunong told the husband and wife: “You are lucky to celebrate this kind of cañao because it is unusual for a person to be given this luck.” The husband and wife underwent “ngilin” (fasting/mourning) for three days staying at their house within this duration. After three days, they went to the river to take their bath which culminated their ngilin. After theses, they were free to go back to their daily activities.

2. Peshet – A cañao performed by those who were rich, an offering of thanksgiving to Kabunian who gave them the material blessings that they enjoy. This was a big cañao where they invited the Kailian. They butchered about ten carabaos and ten pigs. The ceremony may last for five to eight days before the couples were dispersed from the house of the host.

3. Palis – A cañao to bring back the spirit of a sick person taken by the tinmongao (spirit residing at the creeks). The ritual animal is dog offered to the tinmongao so that it would release the spirit of the sick person and be freed from his sickness.

4. Topia - a cañao to drive out the devil from a sick person and where the person who might have caused the sickness would be affected with the prayer of the mambunong. e.g. if the mambunong prayed that he will get sick and the person really got sick, this was sure sign of his evil work on the other person. The ritual animal for this kind of cañao is a dog or a a chicken.

5. Diyao or Liyao – A cañao to bless a new building and to have more abundant harvest or food for the family as well as the people of the place. If somebody built a house and was about to live in that house, a mambunong was called to perform the ceremonies. Animals like carabaos and pigs were butchered to celebrate the occasion.’

6. Pasang – A cañao to pray for a couple to have children. The mambunong needed one rooster and one mother hen to perform the ceremony. The mambunong called the name of the husband and wife and said the following: “Anyone of you, husband or wife who is married to other living being will come back to earth to your former wife or husband.”

7. Bas-ing – A cañao to ask repentance for having done foolishness to a woman or being lascivious. If a person who was sick was found out that he was sick for lasciviousness, a mambunong was called to pray for the healing of this person by letting him to confess his guilt of doing something against the will of the person concerned (e.g. rape) He had to confess first to the mambunong, before the mambunong asked Kabunian to pardon him for his wrongdoing. The ritual animals for the ceremony were a hen or a rooster.


8. Pecpecley – A kind of cañao that heals the feeling of a person regarding the sex act, if the person losses interest for the opposite sex, the mambunong got one rooster for the ritual and prayed to Kabunian that the person’s feelings returned so that he might have children.

9. Pacde – A cañao participated by all the kailian. This was done during harvest time, so that the product will be bless by the prayers of the mambunong that all the residents of the place might have abundant food during the succeeding year. The expense of the cañao was shared by the entire community and anyone who would violate the rules of the cañao would pay all the expenses incurred during the cañao. One big pig was usually butchered.

10. Amlag – A cañao for a person who was married to a spirit from the sky or heaven.

11. Tomo

12. Maguman – A cañao for celebrating the first death anniversary of a person and ending through mourning period for the husband or wife.

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The following is an account of how a peshit/pedit, the mamintoltlo was performed.


How a Peshit was Performed

In preparing for a pedit or peshit, the head of the family first consulted a mambunong (native priest) regarding what to do with their wealth. If the mambunong told them to celebrate, they performed a cañao to become richer; the sangbo and at the same time the peshit was also celebrated. First of all the husband and wife prepared the fermenting of tapuy and the animals to be butchered during the cañao. It took one and a half month to prepare the tapuy and the bobod (the ingredients to be mixed with the cooked rice to ferment the tapuy). After a month the people met together to discuss who would help in the preparation and later they assign individuals who would do particular work. The women cooked rice and camote and distributed wine to the people and did the other work for the women. During the cañao , the neighbors and the relatives of the host saw to it that no utensil was broken because this pressed bad fortune.

In the mamintoltolo (the first stage of a peshit) where three pigs were butchered; thus, the term mamintotlo (meaning three) the mambunong blesses the pigs laid in front of the houses of the person who hosted the cañao and likewise blessed the person. After the mambunong blessed the person and the animals, the men prepared the solibao. The host of the cañao was the first to dance going around the pigs. After some few minutes of dancing, the mambunong mentioned the person to stop dancing and shouted his prayer to Kabunian that he will bless the person, give him longer life, and that he will be blessed with more richness so that he will perform another cañao so that all the people might have an occasion to gather together again. After the cañao, the host underwent ngilin for three days, then after three days, the mambunong accompanied the family of the concerned to the river and washed them or bathed so that their sins or bad fortune will be washed out and they can begin new lives.

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The following is an account of how a person becomes a mambunong:


How a person becomes a Mambunong

Before a person acquired his authority to become a mambunong, he experiences an unusual dream. For example, if a person dreamt that he defeated a snake barehanded, he was privilege to perform sangbo in preparation to his becoming a mambunong. A mambunong was believed to have been helped by a supernatural being in acquiring his power.

The mambunong were classified into the following groups: those who perform the peshit, those who perform the sangbo, and another group is the mambate. The mambunongs were expected to perform the different rituals from the simplest ones to the more complicated ones.

Aside from the mambunong, there was also a mansip-ok; a fortune teller and at the same time the one who pointed out the causes of the people’s sickness.


Belief Concerning the Moon and Stars

Certain stars and group of stars served as important guides for the people for certain activities. The moon was the reference in counting the days and the months. From the first quarter until the last quarter constituted one month. Twelve full moon cycles constituted one year. Certain phases of the moon indicated omens. If a baby was born during a full moon, this was an omen presagin richness in the future or leadership in the community as well as respect from the people.

When the sinapon big dipper went down into the sea and leveled with the big ocean, the people went fishing or hunting for it was sure that they would have a big catch of fish or game, Other significant stare were liwan, the group of stars pointing the north the batacagan morning star.



In the early times, people made use of shrubs, tree barks and leaves for medicine, Cuts and wounds were applied with alot-ot vines. The leaves were pounded with a piece of wood until it was soft. This was placed on top of the wound which stopped the bleeding and protected top of the wound which stopped the bleeding and protected the wound from infection. Even today, this method is still extensively used. Gitol is a ginger-like plant which emits a strong odor. This was used for cure of snake bites and centipede bites. The bile of a snake was used to cure stomach ulcers or any pain in the stomach.


Oral Tradition

The baclew (Ibaloi) or the day-eng (kankana-ey) is a general term which refer to the ballads sang during different occasions. The Baclew or day-eng was sung as alibaby (friendly conversation) during a peshit. The people who can recite the day-eng or bac-lew were the old folks who understood the meaning which was profuse with idiomatic expressions. The genealogy of the host was traded, other important topics regarding the person who gave the cañao were sung. Blessings to become rich so that he would host a cañao in the future, hopes for meeting again were expressed in the songs. The aboy was sung to impress the person who hosted songs. The aboy was sung to impress the person who hosted the cañao.

There was also a baclew for the dead, ebayos or degoo were last sentiments for the dead were expressed. Likewise the good deeds which were significant to the people of the place or to his family were recounted.

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