ETHNONYMS: Bontoc, Bontoc Igorot, Guianes, Igorot

The Bontok are located in the steep gorge country of the upper Chico River system in Central Mountain Province of northern Luzon, the Philippines. The 1960 census listed the Bontok population at 78,000. The number of western and eastern Bontok speakers was estimated at 30,000 and 6,000 respectively in the mid-1980s. The Eastern and Western Bontok languages are closely related to Kankanai (Lepanto), a part of a subgroup within the northern Luzon Group of Philippine languages.

The Bontok economy involves agriculture, hunting, fishing, the domestication of animals, industrial arts, and trade. Fields are irrigated by carrying water in pots, diverting streams, or by constructing dams and wooden troughs. All people involved in the use of the water participate in the construction of the irrigation systems. Dogs are used to hunt the wild buffalo that are important for marriage feasts. Pigs are trapped in pits. Pig raising is also an important part of the culture. Cocks, cats, and birds are snared. Fishing is done by diverting streams and driving the fish into nets or traps. The Bontok have domesticated water buffalo, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. The Bontok are also familiar with metal working; they use double-piston bellows and charcoal to forge spear blades. Each village specializes in a particular craft, and there is thus trade between the villages for spear blades, pipes, baskets, hats, beeswax, pottery, salt, fermented sugarcane juice, and breech cloths. Handfuls of rice are used to pay for imported cotton cloth, brass wire, clothing, blankets, and axes.

The Bontok culture is noted for village wards ( ato ). Each village has between six and eighteen ato, each of which contains between fourteen and fifty houses. The ritual center of the ato consists of a stone platform that was the original site of headhunting ceremonies, an unmarried girls' dormitory, and an unmarried men's dormitory that also serves as a club house and council house. Each ato is governed by a council of elders.

In the traditional religion, which remains strong, spirits of the dead are of extreme importance. The anito inhabit a spirit world located in the mountains and it is just like the world in which the Bontok live. Spirits are consulted on all important matters, and answers are given through bird calls. Lumawig is the supreme being, the creator, the personification of all forces of nature. The patay are hereditary clans of priests who conduct ceremonies to honor Lumawig. Healing ceremonies can be performed by the patay or by old people. The healing ceremonies do not include singing or dancing, and the priests do not enter a trance. Minor rituals may be performed by the head of the household.

See also Sagada Igorot


Birket-Smith, Kaj (1952). "The Rice Cultivation and Rice Harvest Feast of the Bontoc Igorot." Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Salskab, Historisk-filologiske Meddeleser 32:1-22.

Cawed-Oteyza, Carmencita (1965). "The Culture of the Bontoc Igorots." Unitas 38:317-377.

Himes, Ronald S. (1964). "The Bontok Kinship System." Philippine Sociological Review 12:159-172.

Reid, Lawrence (1961). "Ritual and Ceremony in Mountain Province." Philippine Sociological Review 9:1-82.


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Mar 30, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
let us do our best to preserve our cultures and traditions, Let us not wait for the time when our traditions are only remembered through videos and pictures.
Bill Hoffman
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Mar 17, 2012 @ 10:10 am
Is there a building called "Hoffman Hall"? Would have been built in the late 30's or early 40's. It was named after my father. Thanks for any information.

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