Ibaloi people

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1896 illustration of Ibaloi tattoo patterns (burik), which are records of war exploits and status

The Ibaloi (Ibaloi: ivadoy, /ivaˈdoj/) are an indigenous ethnic group found in Benguet Province of the northern Philippines. The native language is Ibaloi, also known as Inibaloi or Nabaloi.[1] Ibaloi is derived from i-, a prefix signifying "pertaining to" and badoy or house, together then meaning "people who live in houses". The Ibaloi are one of the indigenous peoples collectively known as Igorot (igudut, "hill-dwellers"), who live in the cordillera central of Luzón.[2]


The Ibaloy inhabit the southeastern part of Benguet Province. The area is rich in mineral resources like copper, gold, pyrite, and limestone. Plants and animals are also abundant in the forests and mountain areas, and there is an extensive water system that includes the Bued River, Agno River, and Amburayan River. Mount Pulag, the second highest mountain of the Philippines, is found in their territory and is a culturally important area as well, considered the place where spirits join their ancestors.[1]

The Ibaloy are distributed in the mountain valleys and settlements. Their language is called either Inibaloi or Nabaloi. Their ancestors are likely to have originated from the Lingayen and Ilocos coasts, who then migrated into the Southern Cordillera range before settling.[1]


Ibaloy society is composed of the rich (baknang) and three poor classes, the cowhands (pastol), farmhands (silbi), and non-Ibaloy slaves (bagaen).[1]

The Ibaloy have a rich material culture, most notably their mummification process, which makes use of saltwater to prevent organ decomposition. Pounded guava and patani leaves are applied to the corpse to prevent maggot or worm infestation while the body dries, the process taking anywhere from two months to even a year until the body is hardened.[1]

The Ibaloy build their houses (balai or baeng) near their farms. These are usually built on five foot posts (tokod) and contain only one room with no windows. Pine trees are usually used to build the houses, especially for wealthy families, while bark bamboo for floors and walls, and cogon grass for roofs (atup), are used by the poor. For cooking, they use pots are made of copper (kambung), and food compartments (shuyu) and utensils made of wood. Baskets and coconut shells are also used as containers. A wooden box filled with soil serves as the cooking place (Shapolan), and three stones as the stove (shakilan). Traditional weapons of the Ibaloys are the spear (kayang), shield (kalasai), bow and arrow (bekang and pana), and war club (papa), though they are rarely used in present times. The Ibaloy also employ cutting tools like knives, farm tools, and complete pounding implements for rice: mortars (dohsung), which are round or rectangular for different purposes, and pestles (al-o or bayu)of various sizes, carved from sturdy tree trunks and pine branches. Their rice winnower (dega-o or kiyag) are made of bamboo or rattan.[1]

Music is also important among the Ibaloy, with the Jew's harp (kodeng), nose flute (kulesheng), native guitar (kalsheng or Kambitong), bamboo striking instruments, drums (solibao), gongs (kalsa), and many others. They are considered sacred, and must always be played for a reason, such as a cañao feast.[1]

Men wear a g-string (kuval), and the wealthy include a dark blue blanket (kulabaw or alashang) while the rest use a white one (kolebao dja oles). Women wear a blouse (kambal) and a skirt (aten or divet). Gold-plated teeth covers (shikang), copper leglets (batding), copper bracelets (karing), and ear pendants (tabing) reflect the benefits of mining for gold and copper. Lode or placer mining is followed by ore crushing using a large flat stone (gai-dan) and a small one (alidan). The gold in the resultant fine sand is then separated (sabak) in a water trough (dayasan). The gold is then melted into cakes.[1]

Older Ibaloy people may have tattooed arms as a sign of prestige.[1]

Indigenous Ibaloi religion[edit]

The Ibaloy believe in two kinds of spirits (anitos). The nature spirits are associated with calamities, while the ancestral ones (ka-apuan) make their presence known in dreams or by making a family member sick.[1]


  • Kabunian: the supreme deity and the origin of rice;[3] Kabunian is also the general term for deities[4]
  • Moon Deity: the deity who teased Kabunian for not yet having a spouse[3]
  • Child of Kabunian: the child of Kabunian with a mortal woman; split in half, where one part became lightning and the other became thunder[3]
  • Matono: a brave woman who adventured into the underworld and saw the causes of poor crops and earthquakes; she afterwards reported her studies to the people of the earth; during the kosdëy, the people pray to her to not permit the rice, camotes, and other things to grow down, but to cause them to grow up[3]
  • Kabigat (of where the water rises): journeyed into the underworld to retrieve trees which became the forests of the middle world[3]
  • Kabigat (of where the water empties): taught Kabigat (of where the water empties) how to safely get trees from the underworld[3]
  • Masekën: ruler of the underworld with green eyebrows, red eyes, and a tail[3]
  • Kabigat (of the east): a large man in the east who adopted Bangan[3]
  • Bangan: son of Otot and adopted by Kabigat; a kind young man who loved both his father and foster-father; shared gold to the world though Kabigat[3]
  • Otot: a large man in the west who perished due to an accident, while travelling with his son, Bangan; a tree of gold rose from his burial, where Kabunian fell the tree and all gold on earth scattered from it[3]
  • Sun God: the deity who pushed up the skyworld and pushed down the underworld, creating earth, after he was hit by a man's arrow during the war between the peoples of the skyworld and the underworld[3]


  • Labangan: a man who was got the first grain of rice used by mankind from Kabunian[3]
  • Wife of Kabunian: the spouse of Kabunian who bore their child, which was split into two and revived into lightning and thunder[3]
  • Two Blind Women: two kind blind beggars in hunger who were driven away by their neighbors; fed by a woman who came from a rock and an old woman; one was given a sack or rice, while the other was given a bottle of water; when they returned home, they decided to replant the rice and distribute it to the people, while the bottle of water gushed out streams which also aided mankind[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sumeg-ang, Arsenio (2005). "2 The Ibaloys". Ethnography of the Major Ethnolinguistic Groups in the Cordillera. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. pp. 28–51. ISBN 9789711011093.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-03-18. Retrieved 2018-03-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Moss, C. R. (1924). Nabaloi Tales. University of California Publications in American Archaeology, 227-353.
  4. ^ Peoples of the Philippines: Ibaloi. National Commission for Culture and the Arts.