Are the Kalinga and Tinggian Ethnically One?

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✍ Scott Mágkachi Sabóy

UPDATE AS OF 10 APRIL 2021: We have proposed to the Ethnologue editors some changes to the entry on Vanaw, to include (1) ‘Vanaw’ as the official name of the language with “Vyanaw” and “Banao” as alternative names, (2) the reclassification of Vanaw as a Kalinga language, and (3) the recognition of Vanaw-Jagyuman and Vanaw-Malibkung as dialectal variants of the language. Proposals (1) and (2) have been accepted by the editors and will be incorporated into the next issue of the Ethnologue. -SMS

A Pat Answer

The Kalinga and Tinguian/Itneg today will likely have a common answer to the question: No.

You will probably get the same answer from Google, telling you that these two ethnolinguistic groups are from two different provinces, Abra and Kalinga.

Indeed, the map of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) clearly delineates the political boundaries of the northern Philippine provinces of Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, and Benguet, as shown below.

The Ethnologue of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) also follows the same distinction in the case of Abra and Kalinga, designating different sets of languages for each group — seven Kalinga languages (Butbut, Limos, Lubuagan, Mabaka Valley, Majukayang, Southern Kalinga, and Tanudan), and six Itneg languages (Banao, Binongan, Inlaod, Maeng, Masadiit, and Moyadan).

Interestingly, this listing implies that the iVanaw of western Kalinga properly belong to the Itneg group. [N.B.: Dr. Lawrence A. Reid recently pointed out that while the Philippine list of languages has “Banao, Itneg,” the Austronesian list has “Banao Itneg” as one of the 8 Kalinga languages (see it here). He further said that in a forthcoming publication, he has included an updated language map of the Cordilleran languages with “Vanaw Kalinga” on it — email to the author on 15 July 2020).

A Reconsideration

Let us, however, ask two scholar-priests who devoted almost half a century of their lives studying Kalinga culture(s) and produced what still stands as the most comprehensive study on Kalinga oral tradition, The Kalinga Ullalim.

Writing in the mid-1970s, Fathers Francisco Billiet and Francis Lambrecht, CICM, have this to say about the question:

We can, therefore, like Fr. Jules Deraedt, affirm without hesitation that “one language group populates an area stretching over the entire width of Abra and the Kalinga territory of the Mountain Province,” and that, consequently, the Abra Tiñggian belong to the ethnic tribe Kalinga, or rather to the ethnic group to which the name Kalinga has been given. (Lambrecht & Billiet [1970] 2001, 32)

Correcting the assumption of Faye-Cooper Cole that the Kalinga were Tinggian who migrated eastwards (Cole [1922] 2004, 16-23), they also concluded that “On the basis of sustained tradition, the Tiñggian of Abra, i.e., the iDay-ás, as they were called by the Kalinga of the Western Cordillera zone, are emigrants from, not immigrants into Northwestern Kalinga” (Billiet & Lambrecht [1970] 2001, 36).

The extent of what Billiet and Lambrecht called “The Kalinga Habitat” is illustrated by the map below which shows, for instance, that cultural Kalinga extended to as far as Bucloc, Langiden and Tineg in the Province of Abra’s south, west and north, respectively.

Even today, Kalinga’s cultural boundaries do not actually hew to the clear-cut territorial delineations in Figure 1, for they actually extend a little to the south (Natonin, Mt. Province) and to the west (Daguioman and Malibcong, Abra) as shown in the maps below:

On this categorization of the “Kalinga Habitat,” I have earlier noted the following in a paper published in a (double blind) peer-reviewed journal:

Dozier (1966, 10-15) geographically categorized Kalinga into “Southern” (Lubuagan, Pasil, and Tinglayan), “Eastern” (Tanudan), and “Northern” (Balbalan, Pinukpuk, and Tabuk). I think this categorization and the supposed cultural features characterizing each region are outdated, given the changes in Kalinga across the years since Dozier made his study. It is also incomplete because it does not include the municipal territory of Rizal. At least two contemporary Kalinga scholars, Raymund Balbin and Maximo Garming (2003, 6-12; also Garming 2009, 9-11), still use the Dozier scheme, this time with a list of the 44 tribes assigned to each region. I also think that Billiet and Lambrecht’s division of the “Kalinga habitat” ([1970] 2001, 41-42) is more culturally accurate as it squares more with how Kalingas today divide themselves:

  • Western (Vanaw tribal territory in Balbalan to much of the eastern section of Abra; although the Banao are found in virtually all municipalities in Abra, the so-called “Mother Banao” in Kalinga officially recognizes Daguioman and Malibcong as part of its vugis or tribal territory).
  • Northern (the rest of Balbalan and Pinukpuk).
  • and Southern (Pasil, Lubuagan, Tinglayan and Tanudan—what may be called the “ullalim territories” or areas where the ullalim is chanted and where most of the toponyms in the Ullalim are located; this cultural territory extends to eastern Mountain Province where the Majukayong tribe is located). They, however, excluded “the eastern plains” (i.e., Tabuk and Rizal) because of the numerous presence of immigrants from Cagayan, Isabela and Mountain Province.
  • I still classify Tabuk and Rizal as “Eastern Kalinga” for while it is true that migrants are most populous in these two municipalities, large concentrations of Kalingas are also found here, and it was the territory of the Gamonang, Tobog and Kalakkad tribes. Following their own topographical reckoning of location, Kalingas have also divided themselves into “Upper” (Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Tanudan, and Tinglayan) and “Lower” (Pinukpuk, Rizal, and Tabuk — although some use the term “taga Upper” to refer specifically to the the Kawitan ‘rooster’ or the supposedly war-like groups. (Saboy 2012, 59-60)

Before we continue, let us first dispense with the matter of ethnic designations.


Ethnic designations are products of social classification (how outsiders call/see you) and group identification (how you call/see yourselves) (Karner 2007, 5). The terms Tinguian/Tingguian/Tinggian and Kalinga are exonyms, names outsiders tacked on these societies who eventually used the terms to refer to themselves.

Billiet and Lambrecht ([1970] 2001, 27) explain the origin of the term Tingguian thusly:

As early as the seventeenth century, the Spanish administration called all those who had settled in the hill country Tingguiánes (‘hill people’). The word Tinguiánes (Spanish spelling) is composed of tiñggi (tingui in Spanish spelling), an obsolete Tagalog word meaning ‘hill,’ and the Spanish ending anes. [N.B.: Scott (1974, 14) says it is “a Malay word for ‘high'”].

Just like the exonym Igorot, then, Tinggian was a classificatory term that simply meant “mountaineers” or “people from the mountains.” This was why at one time, the Ifugaos themselves were referred to as Tinguians by those in Nueva Vizcaya (Scott 1974, 172).

It was also used by the Spanish colonizers to distinguish this group from other mountaineers as evidenced by the 18th century report of a priest named Manuel Carrillo entitled, “A Brief Account of the Missions of the Four Tribes called Igorots, Tinguians, Apayaos and Adans” (Scott 1971, 28, emp. mine, SMS).

Of course, the Iberian invaders used the term for a more sinister purpose: to create prejudice against these so-called “pagans” or “savages.” Illustrative of this is another report from a Spanish priest in the early 17th century:

The second part of the History of Santo Domingo,13 page 39, says that when Father Baltasar Fort, Provincial, was making a visitation to Cagayan, he didn’t want to take the detachment of armed men that was customary crossing Ilocos. In a dangerous deserted place near Narvacan, he was attacked by the Tinguianes who live like beasts in the nearby mountains and regularly come down and infest the roads and cut off heads treacherously. The Filipinos who were carrying the goods, or luggage, heard their warcries and, dropping the cargo, ran off. The secretary accompanying the Provincial also fled, leaving him behind all alone. The pagans gave their first attention to the deserted baggage,and took their time going through it, and, finding among other objects of value a challice which the Bishop of Cagayan was sending to Spain, they divided and redivided everything that was gold among themselves. Meanwhile, the Provincial took advantage of the situation to save himself, as the rest of his companions had done, and reached Narvacan. (Scott 1971, 38; emphasis mine, SMS)

This reminds us of Scott’s observation on the “divide-and-conquer” strategy of the Spaniards:

…the grimmest result of the discovery of the Igorots was subtler, more tragic and longer lasting — the creation of a distinction between lowland and highland Filipinos which contrasted submission, conversion, and civilization on the one hand with independence, paganism, and savagery on the other. (Scott 1974, 7)

As to what the so-called Tingguians called themselves, Cole ([1922] 2004, 36-37) noted:

To these mountaineers was applied the name Tingguianes — a term at first used to designate the mountain dwellers throughout the Islands, but later usually restricted to this tribe. The Tinguian themselves do not use or know the appellation, but call themselves Itneg, a name which should be used for them but for the fact that they are already established in literature under the former term.

It appears from the statement above that Itneg — “from or the people of Tineg,” after either the Tineg River and/or a village called Tineg which is located at the source of the same river (Billiet & Lambrecht [1970] 2001, 26-27) — was an endonym, a claim which seems to be corroborated by Billiet and Lambrecht who wrote that the Itneg, trading for the first time with Ilokanos, would have likely introduced themselves by saying: Bulóymi’d Tinóg, iTnógkami “our houses are in Tinog, we are iTnog” ([1970] 2001, 28).

Kalinga (“enemy,” “fighter,” “headhunter”), on the other hand, is also an exonym which was

“a misnomer to the extreme, for it is devoid of any geographical, ethnic, and cosmic basis; it is merely a capitalized common noun which has become an official ethnic name and has gained recognition today among the natives themselves.” (Billiet & Lambrecht [1970] 2001, 26).

But eventually, terms evolve new meanings, especially for names imposed upon the natives, so that ethnic labels like Igorot, Ifugao, Tingguian, or Kalinga have, in some ways, now become badges of virtue: bravery, toughness, resilience, communitism, and spirituality.


Let us now go back to Billiet and Lambrecht’s contention that what are known as Itneg and Kalinga actually belong to one ethnic group.

One of the lines of evidence these scholars presented was migration:

Migration to the Day-as is to be expected, since the area’s prosperity is well-known. Indeed, when we showed the pictures of Cole’s The Tiñggian to the inhabitants of the upper Saltan River area, we heard the older people make comments like “This is my aunt,” “This is my cousin,” “This is our neighbor’s brother.” Even Fr. Alberto Duggom, who is now in his fifties, recognized his relatives who had gone as far as Anayan (north of Tineg village) and Langidan (west of Bangued).

Among the Vanaw today, such accounts are very familiar indeed, for many of their relatives are to be found in Itneg-speaking communities in Abra.

Two other lines of evidence they offered are language and customs (Billiet & Lambrecht [1970] 2001, 31-37). They provided examples of lexical items such as personal names (Dumagat, Malakay, etc.) and folkloric terms (dawak, alisig, etc.) which are commonly used by both groups, and point to similar traditions like clothing and bodily adornments.

This is, of course, not surprising, for the Cordilleran languages actually descended from one source. Dr. Reid, the revered expert on Austronesian languages, explains:

The Cordilleran languages constitute a distinct branch of the Extra-Formosan (also known as the Malayo-Polynesian) family of Austronesian languages, and that all currently spoken Philippine languages developed from an in-migration of people from what is now Taiwan, around 4500 years ago… Most people unfortunately still believe the pre-scientific myth that Philippine languages are somehow corrupted versions of Malay, as the result of multiple migrations from the south. Both archaeology and linguistics, the key disciplines for understanding prehistoric movements of man, provide irrefutable evidence for the origins of Philippine people. (Reid 2009, 10)

In a paper he read for The Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC (BAG) Distinguished Professorial Chair Lecture in 2017, Reid further explains,

…the linguistic evidence is that Proto-Austronesian was spoken in what is now called Taiwan, and that all the languages south of Taiwan proper belong to the Malayo-Polynesian group. The evidence for this is extensive, and consists of a wide range of exclusively shared innovations that characterize these languages. This implies that the Philippines was occupied first, agreeing with the archaeological evidence, and that areas to the south were settled later. This does not, of course, mean that there was no back-migration of people from the south into the Philippines. There is much evidence for this, including the spread of Islam and Indic writing systems from Indonesia into the southern Philippines, and north into Luzon. (Reid 2017; see also Reid 1974, 2019 for more details on the development of Cordilleran languages).

Naturally, the passage of time eventually spawned the cultural and linguistic diversities and distinctions among the Cordilleran “tribes” today, with some of them like the iVanaw of Western Kalinga and the Itneg of Abra retaining many common ethnic markers.


So how do we answer the question?

I suggest that we must first clarify what we mean by “one.” Do we mean that they are similar, or that they are the same? And by “ethnically,” do we refer to specific tangible and intangible aspects of culture or simply to an awareness of being part of a group?

Second, we must also think of our chronological reference — 150
years ago? 50 years ago? Today?

Third, we have to consider the political or personal angle of the question.
Why do we want to know if the Itneg and Kalinga are one? What notions are attached to being an Itneg/Itnog or a Kalinga? How do the various Itneg and Kalinga communities want to be identified? The iVanaw in Malibcong and Daguioman might have no problem regarding themselves as Kalinga, but what about those who identify themselves as Maeng or Masadiit — do or will they identify as Itneg or Kalinga, or both? Why does it matter whether we call ourselves Itneg or Kalinga?

When we shall have satisfied these questions, then perhaps we can have a definite answer to — or at least a proper framing for — the question, “Are the Kalinga and Itneg Ethnically one?” 

Whatever you make of this question, I think the most important takeaway from this whole mental exercise is this sense of history, this awareness of our roots. For as Reid puts it,

Our identity… is built not only on who and what we are in
fact, but on who we perceive ourselves to be, and also by the knowledge of who and what we were in the past. This means an appreciation of the prehistoric and historic conditions which have brought about the diversity of language and culture that we cherish.
(Reid 2009, 20-21)

Works Cited:

Antolin, Francisco & William Henry Scott. 1970. “Notices of the Pagan Igorots in 1789.” Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 29: 177-249. URL: PDF.

______________. 1971. “Notices of the Pagan Igorots in 1789.” Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2: 27-132. URL: PDF.

Balbin, Raymond, and Maximo Garming. 2003. Ethnography of the Kalinga. Quezon City: National Commission on Culture and the Arts.

Billiet, Francisco & Francis Lambrecht. (1970) 2001. The Kalinga Ullalim and Ifugao Orthography. Baguio City: Catholic Schools Press. Reprint, Baguio City: Immaculate Heart PrintHall.

Cole, Fay-Cooper. (1922) 2004. The Tinguian: Social, Religious, and Economic Life of a Philippine Tribe. Urbana, IL: Project Gutenberg. EPUB.

Dozier, Edward P. 1966. Mountain Arbiters: The Changing Life of a
Philippine Hill People
. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Garming, Maximo. 2009. Profiles of Philippine Cultural Communities:
Kalinga of Cordillera
. Manila: National Commission on Culture and the

Reid, Lawrence A. 2019. “Reassessing the Position of Isinay in the Central Cordilleran Language Family.” In The Archive Special Publication No.16, ed. by Aldrin Lee and Vincent C. R. Santiago, 1-32. Manila: University of the Philippines Diliman.

______________. 2017. “Revisiting the Position of Philippine Languages in the Austronesian Family.” The Br Andrew Gonzalez FSC (BAG) Distinguished Professorial Chair Lecture, De La Salle University,

______________.  2009. “Who Are the Indigenous? Origins and
Transformations.” The Cordillera Review, Vol. 1, No. 1: 3-25.

______________. 1974. “The Central Cordilleran Subgroup of Philippine Languages.” Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 13, No. 1/2: 511-560.

Saboy, Scott Magkachi. 2012. “Voicing Ethnicity: Traditional Referentiality, the Ullalim, and Kalinga Ethnopop.” The Cordillera Review, 4 (September), 2: 37-64.

Scott, William Henry. 1974. The Discovery of the Igorots: Spanish Contacts with the Pagans of Northern Luzon. Rev. Ed. Quezon City: New Day Publishers.

2 thoughts on “Are the Kalinga and Tinggian Ethnically One?

  1. Author’s gravatar

    Hello manong. Your questions point to the need for a complete mapping of the Kalinga languages. I suspect that there are more than 8 languages in Kalinga, because the level of intelligibility among what the SIL would call Kalinga dialects are low enough to merit some to be considered separate languages. Salegseg, for one, is unique among the languages of Balbalan and is one I am interested to work on after I finish my ongoing work on Vinanaw (Kalinga area). As for Jao-angan, I suppose it should be considered a dialectal variety of Vanaw? Of course, we need solid data on the ground to make a more informed classification on the matter. Guinina-ang (five varieties), Finaratok, Kinagaluan, Dinangtalan and others are grouped under “Pinasil.” If one were to conduct a study on levels of intelligibility among the Pinasil varieties, s/he might consider Kinagaluan and Guinina-ang as separate languages. Rich field of study! 🙂

    I must hasten to add, though, that language documentation in Kalinga is best done when researchers/documentors/linguists are driven by their passion for indigenous culture and not by their desire to evangelize or proselyte.

  2. Author’s gravatar

    I have a problem with these designations:

    > The Ethnologue of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) also follows the same distinction in the case of Abra and Kalinga, designating different sets of languages for each group — seven Kalinga languages (Butbut, Limos, Lubuagan, Mabaka Valley, Majukayang, Southern Kalinga, and Tanudan), and six Itneg languages (Banao, Binongan, Inlaod, Maeng, Masadiit, and Moyadan).

    Where do the Guina-angs and Balatocs belong? How about the Salegseg and Jao-angan?

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