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A map of where the Kankanaey language is spoken and where the Kankanaey people live.

The Kankanaey people are an Indigenous peoples of the Northern Philippines. They are part of the collective group of indigenous people known as the Igorot people.


The 2010 Philippines census counted 362,833 Kankanaey people.[1] The Kankanaey live in western Mountain Province, northern Benguet and southeastern Ilocos Sur.[2] They speak Kankanaey and Ilocano. The Kankanaey of western Mountain Province from the municipalities of Sagada and Besao, Mountain ProvinceTemplate:Sentence fragment.


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.[3][4][5] 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.[6]


Like most Igorot ethnic groups, the Kankanaey built sloping terraces to maximize farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

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.[7][8]

The Bontoc Igorot in Sagada and some nearby pueblos, as Takong and Agawa, the o′-lâg is said to be called Ĭf-gan′Template:Confusing-inline.

The Kankanaey differ in the way they dress. The soft-speaking Kankanaey women'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 hard-speaking Kankanaey women'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 gatengTemplate:Confusing-inline. The men wore a G-string as it is called but it is known as wanes to the Kankanaeys 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 and balangbang. The tayaw is a community dance that is usually performed at 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 modern word for 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.


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-(Applai) and soft- speaking Kankanaeys. Speakers of hard Kankanaey are from Sagada, Besao and the surrounding parts or barrios of the said municipalities. They speak Kankanaey with hard intonation and they differ in some words from the soft-speaking Kankanaey.

The soft-speaking Kankanaeys come from Northern and some parts of Benguet and from the municipalities of Sabangan, Tadian and Bauko in 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 Kankanaeys may also differ in some words like egay or aga, maid or maga. They also differ in their way of living.

The Kankanaey people are identified by the language they speak and the province where they come from. 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.

Indigenous Kankanaey religion


  • Lumawig: the supreme deity; creator of the universe and preserver of life[9]
  • Bugan: married to Lumawig[9]
  • Bangan: the goddess of romance; a daughter of Bugan and Lumawig[9]
  • Obban: the goddess of reproduction; a daughter of Bugan and Lumawig[9]
  • Kabigat: one of the deities who contact mankind through spirits called anito and their ancestral spirits[9]
  • Balitok: one of the deities who contact mankind through spirits called anito and their ancestral spirits[9]
  • Wigan: one of the deities who contact mankind through spirits called anito and their ancestral spirits[9]
  • Timugan: two brothers who took their sankah (handspades) and kayabang (baskets) and dug a hole into the lower world, Aduongan; interrupted by the deity Masaken; one of the two agreed to marry one of Masaken's daughters, but they both went back to earth when the found that the people of Aduongan were cannibals[10]
  • Masaken: ruler of the underworld who interrupted the Timugan brothers[10]

See also


  1. 2010 Census of Population and Housing, Report No. 2A: Demographic and Housing Characteristics (Non-Sample Variables) - Philippines. Philippine Statistics Authority.
  2. Fry, Howard (2006). A History of the Mountain Province, Revised, Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers. ISBN 978-971-10-1161-1. “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 . . .” 
  3. Gibbons, Ann (2016-10-03). 'Game-changing' study suggests first Polynesians voyaged all the way from East Asia.
  4. Weule, Genelle (2016-10-03). DNA reveals earliest Pacific Islander ancestors came from Asia.
  5. Skoglund, Pontus; Posth, Cosimo; Sirak, Kendra; et al. (2016). "Genomic insights into the peopling of the Southwest Pacific". Nature. 538 (7626): 510–513. Bibcode:2016Natur.538..510S. doi:10.1038/nature19844. ISSN 0028-0836. PMC 5515717. PMID 27698418.
  6. Mörseburg, Alexander; Pagani, Luca; Ricaut, Francois-Xavier; et al. (2016). "Multi-layered population structure in Island Southeast Asians". European Journal of Human Genetics. 24 (11): 1605–1611. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2016.60. PMC 5045871. PMID 27302840.
  7. (2005) "7 The Northern Kankana-eys", Ethnography of the Major Ethnolinguistic Groups in the Cordillera. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 143. ISBN 9789711011093. 
  8. (2005) "8 The Southern Kankana-eys", Ethnography of the Major Ethnolinguistic Groups in the Cordillera. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 161–162. ISBN 9789711011093. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Jocano, F. L. (1969). Philippine Mythology. Quezon City: Capitol Publishing House Inc.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Wilson, L. L. (1947). Apayao Life and Legends. Baugio City: Private.