Although available evidence indicates that at least one major migration route for most peoples of the North Luzon Highlands was from South China through Taiwan and into northern Luzon by way of the Cagayan River Valley, any Statements on prehistory must be understood as speculation. Accuracy begins only with the Spanish contacts. Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines for Spain in 1521, and the first Spanish contact with Northern Luzon was in 1572 when Juan de Salcedo, the grandson of Miguel de Legazpi (who occupied the Manila area in 1565) explored the llocos coast. He learned about the gold mines in the North Luzon Highlands, which initiated the Spanish interest in the southern areas of the mountains. These areas are, however, quite far from Kalinga territory. Their experience with the Spaniards came from the Spanish posts first established in 1598 in the province of Abra to the west of Kalinga territory. In 1614 the first missionary, Fr. Juan de Pareja, went into Western Kalinga (Tinggian) territory, but not much missionary work was done until the 1800s when the Augustinian Order established missions among the Apayaos—the Kalingas' northern neighbors—and the Western Kalingas. The primary interest of the Spaniards, however, centered on the gold and copper mines in the southern North Luzon Highlands, though in 1668 they finally gave up the notion of direct occupation. Thereafter, one of the main reasons for Spanish interest in the North Luzon Highlands was control of highlander trade with the lowlanders to protect the Spanish tobacco monopoly. The Spaniards were not very successful in this endeavor either. After the tobacco monopoly was abolished in 1882 the Spaniards paid little attention to the highlands. Soon the Americans took over as colonial masters of the Philippines and set up their civil government in 1902. The bulk of the North Luzon Highlands fell administratively into a division known as Mountain Province. Within this province Kalinga Subprovince was created in 1908 by an act of the Philippine Commission, as a part of an overall reorganization of the North Luzon Highlands. In 1967 the Philippine government created four new provinces out of the old Mountain Province, one of which was Kalinga-Apayao. Beginning in the mid1970s the Kalingas were brought into sudden, direct, and brutal contact with the Philippine nation-state as a result of government attempts to build four major dams on the Chico River, two of them in Kalinga territory. In April 1980 a squad of Philippine army soldiers gunned down Macli-ing Dulag, an outspoken Kalinga opponent of the dams. In June 1984 more than 3,000 government troops launched a major military assault on the Kalingas, including indiscriminate bombing and strafing of villages. People were raped and tortured. The World Bank dissociated itself from the projects, and the government of President Corazon Aquino, which was installed in February 1986, has "permanently postponed" work on the dams.
Trade is carried on between Kalinga groups and with cultural groups outside Kalinga territory. Kalingas also trade with lowlanders, especially through the lowland provincial market in Tabuk. Although interethnic marriage is rare, some Kalinga men have married Bontok women, who have a reputation as hard workers.