The Kankanaey live in western Mountain Province, northern Benguet and southeastern Ilocos Sur. They speak Kankanaey and Ilocano. The Kankanaey of western Mountain Province from the municipalities of Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province identify themselves as part of a tribe called Applai or Aplai.
Recent DNA studies show that the Kankanaey along with the Atayal people of Taiwan, were most probably among the original ancestors of the Lapita people and modern Polynesians. They might even reflect a better genetic match to the original Austronesian mariners than the aboriginal Taiwanese, as the latter were influenced by more recent migrations to Taiwan, whereas the Kankanaey are thought to have remained an isolated relict population.
Like most Igorot ethnic groups, the Kankanaey built sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordillera Administrative Region Cordillera.
Two famous institutions of the Kankanaey of Mountain Province are the dap-ay, the men's dormitory and civic center, and the ebgan, the girls' dormitory where courtship between young men and women took place. The Bontoc Igorot in Sagada and some nearby pueblos, as Takong and Agawa, the o′-lâg is said to be called Ĭf-gan′.
The Kankanaey differ in the way they dress. The women soft-speaking Kankanaey's dress has a color combination of black, white and red. The design of the upper attire is a criss-crossed style of black, white and red colors. The skirt or tapis is a combination of stripes of black, white and red.
The women hard-speaking Kankanaey's dress is composed of mainly red and black with a little white styles, as for the skirt or tapis which is mostly called bakget and gateng. The men wore a g-string as it is called but it is mainly known as wanes for the Kanakaneys of Besao and Sagada. The design of the wanes may vary according to social status or municipality.
The Kankanaey's major dances include tayaw, pattong,as Igorot wedding dance, and balangbang. The tayaw is a community dance that is usually done in weddings; it may be also danced by the Ibaloi people but has a different style. Pattong is also a community dance from Mountain Province which every municipality has its own style. Balangbang is the modernized word for the word Pattong. There are also some other dances that the Kankanaeys dance, such as the sakkuting, pinanyuan (wedding dance) and bogi-bogi (courtship dance). Kankanaey houses are built like the other Igorot houses, which reflect their social status.
Main Kankanaey language
The name Kankanaey came from the language which they speak. The only difference among the Kankanaey are the way they speak like intonation and the usage of some words.
In intonation, there is a hard Kankanaey or Applai and soft Kankanaey. Speakers of hard Kankanaey are from Sagada, Besao and the surrounding parts or barrios of the said two municipalities. They speak Kankanaey hard in intonation where they differ in some words from the soft-speaking Kankanaey.
The soft speaking Kankanaey comes from Northern Benguet, some parts of Benguet, and from the municipalities of Sabangan, Tadian and Bauko from Mountain Province. In words, for example, an Applai might say otik or beteg (pig) and the soft-speaking Kankanaey may say busaang or beteg as well. The Kankanaey may also differ in some words like egay or aga, maid or maga. They also differ in their ways of life and sometimes in culture.
The Kankanaey are identified by the language they speak and the province form where they come. Kankanaey people from Mountain Province may call the Kankanaey from Benguet as Ibenget because they come from Benguet. Likewise, the Kankanaey of Benguet may call their fellow Kankanaey from Mountain Province Ibontok..
- Fry, Howard (2006). A History of the Mountain Province (Revised ed.). Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers. p. 22. ISBN 971-10-1161-1.
On the west side (of) the Bontok people . . . the Lepanto provincial area . . . (whose) population is somewhat mixed . . . but which I think is mainly Kankanai, who also people the northern part of Benguet . . . (and) the entire valley of the river Amburayan . . .