The History of the Ibaloi Group from The Philippines

The Ibalois circa 1900s.


The Ibaloi or Nabaloi is an indigenous ethnic group found in the northern Philippines. The Ibalois occupy the southeastern two-thirds of Benguet, particularly the municipalities of Kabayan, Bokod, Sablan, Tublay, La Trinidad, Tuba and Itogon, and the southern portions of Kapangan and Atok (CSG 2003). Called Ipaway by the Kalanguyas, the name is derived from “those who live in the grasslands,” with ‘paway’ as the Kalanguya term for grassland.

In Ibaloi mythology, this group’s origin is traced back to a couple in Mt. Pulog who survived the great flood that Kabunian sent to punish the wicked people. This couple bore many children who intermarried, multiplied and descended to the fertile valleys of Benguet, including Tinek, to become the ancestors of the present-day Ibalois.

On August 1908, the Worcester policy was establishedby the government of Philippines, to organize perceived ethnic groupings and habitats under one province, the Mountain Province, into seven sub-provinces: Amburayan, Apayao, Benguet, Bontoc, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Lepanto. The aim of this policy was to separate the mountain people from the lowlanders (Resurreccion 1999). This is to give a backgrounder as to the concepts of Igorot, meaning “of the mountains” (Scott 1992), Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Kankana-ey, as identifiers ascribed by others.

There are three migration routes of the Ibalois as proposed by Bagamaspad and Pawid (1985). From the Lingayen and Ilocos coasts, the early Ibalois moved to the Southern Cordillera Range through the tributaries of Aringay and Galiano rivers to Chuyo (Bakakeng) and Tonglo (Tili) in Tuba; the tributaries of the Amburayan River to Darew (Gaswiling) and Palaypay (Pungayan) in Kapangan; and third, the Agno River to Imbose (Pacso) in Kabayan and Amlimay in Buguias. It has also been proposed that by 1600 A.D., people started moving to the valley settlements along the Agno River from their settlements around the Mount Pulog area (particularly Tinoc, Hungudan).

Regarding the tracing of lineage, kinship is reckoned bilaterally, that is, from both parents. This makes extended households commonplace in Ibaloi societies. While rich (baknang) households are usually composed of extended families averaging at four to five, poor (abiteg) households are nuclear with the husband, wife and offspring.

Traditional Ibalois engage in wet-rice agriculture, swidden farming, mining, hunting and fishing. The ‘baknang’ (rich) has people working under him such as the pastol who takes care of domesticated animals and assists in the preparation of rituals like the cañao; the silbi who takes care in tilling the land; and the bagaen, a non-Ibaloi slave who does other tasks as required.


Bagamaspad, A. and Zenaida Hamada-Pawid. (1985). A People’s History of Benguet. Baguio City, Philippines: Baguio Printing and Publishing Company, Inc.

Cordillera Schools Group, Inc. (2003). Ethnography of the Major Ethnolinguistic Groups in the Cordillera. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers.

Resurreccion, B. (1999). Transforming Nature, Redefining Selves: Gender and Ethnic Relations, Resource Use, and Environmental Change in the Philippine Uplands. The Hague, Netherlands: Institute of Social Studies.

Scott, W. (1992). Looking for the Prehispanic Filipino and Other Essays in Philippine History. Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers.

  • Raizel Albano

    Currently working as a Regional Reporter for GoUNESCO and Chief Traveler for Anthroonfoot.

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