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ETHNONYMS: Calinga, Kalingga, Kinalinga


Identification. Largely celebrated in the popular literature for their invidious headhunting, the Kalingas are surrounded by other Philippine peoples who are equally famous for their headhunting, including the Apayaos to the north, the Bontoks to the south, and the Ifugaos farther to the southeast. In 1914 the Kalingas were described by Dean Worcester, the first American administrator in their mountainous area, as "a fine lot of headhunting savages, physically magnificently developed, mentally acute, but naturally very wild." Actually the Kalingas themselves did not traditionally use the term "Kalinga," which probably meant simply "enemy" in the language of neighboring lowland peoples and which was used by the early Spanish explorers to refer to everyone in the mountains of northern Luzon. Politicians, administrators, and anthropologists have nevertheless come to apply the word ethnolinguistically to a people fairly well distinguished from their neighbors by a network of mutually intelligible dialects and by similar customs, personal names, ballads, ceremonies, and epic poems.

Location. The Kalingas live in the North Luzon Highlands (sometimes referred to as the Cordillera Central), a rugged and sharply dissected block of mountains stretching north from approximately 16° N for about 320 kilometers and averaging about 65 kilometers wide, between 120° and 122° E. This massive mountainous area, the largest in the Philippine archipelago, boasts several peaks higher than 2,740 meters in its southern range. Located in the north-central section of these highlands, Kalinga territory extends perhaps 30 kilometers north to south and 80 kilometers east to west around 17° Nwhere the peaks reach about 2,470 metersand includes the middle drainage area of the northward-flowing Chico de Cagayan River and its tributaries, especially the larger eastward-flowing ones, such as the Mabaca, Saltan, Bananid, and Pasil Rivers, and the northward-flowing Tanudan River.

Demography. Demographic information is at once scarce and unreliable, but some regional studies have been made and there are informed estimates. The most recent figure approaching accuracy on the number of ethnic Kalingas dates to 1972, when the population was estimated at 72,500. Based on a 1.2 percent population-growth rate from a regional study in the mid-1970s, their 1990 population should have been around 92,000.

Linguistic Affiliation. Linguists supply several classifications of languages in the Philippines. Most agree that all these languages belong to the larger Austronesian Family, and most agree that the Kalinga language belongs to a northern Luzon grouping. The most recent classification follows a line from Austronesian (formerly Malayo-Polynesian) through (the new) Malayo-Polynesian (along with Atayalic, Tsouic, and Paiwanic) to Western Malayo-Polynesian to Northern Philippine, and Kalinga may belong to what is sometimes called the North Cordilleran Cluster.

History and Cultural Relations

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 Apayaosthe Kalingas' northern neighborsand 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.


Most of the villages, which range from five to fifty households, contain a crowded cluster of huts and are often located for defense on fairly inaccessible lower ridges and usually marked by groves of coconut trees. The larger villages typically contain a central plaza where public rituals of birth and death and other events are celebrated. All houses are raised above the ground on posts, with steps or a ladder leading up to a single entrance. The majority of the houses are square, single-room dwellings, though some of the older houses were octagonal. The walls are commonly made of split and plaited bamboo. Roofs are pitched, made of strong reeds, and thatched with thick grass. Split bamboo mats resting on a grating of small beams make up the floors. Each dwelling has a fire pit that consists of a square box about a meter wide and a couple of hands high filled with sand and accumulated ash and located toward the back of the room. This is the hearth around which all the activities of the household revolve, including the cooking of the daily meals. Above it is a rack for drying food, wood, and wearing apparel.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence is based on a rice staple raised both in permanent irrigated rice terraces and in swiddens. In addition to rice, a variety of tubers, legumes, and vegetables is grown in the swiddens. Maize, sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee are also raised. The meat of domesticated pigs and water buffalo supplies most of the animal protein, though in the heavily forested areas a variety of wildlife, such as deer, wild pigs, bats, lizards, and birds, is hunted.

Industrial Arts. Many people engage in craft work, particularly in the manufacture of wood utensils and tools. Ironworking, basketry, and pottery making are also widespread.

Trade. Traditionally trade was quite limited because of the fear of losing one's head, but the pacification activities of the American administration led to the opening of trade routes. Traditional trade was carried out under the aegis of the pacts that the nearly sovereign territorial units set up independently with each other, and was largely controlled by regional elites. Open-air markets such as exist in the lowlands are unknown, and trade is conducted between households.

Division of Labor. Although more egalitarian than most Southeast Asian groups and certainly more egalitarian than modern Western societies, the Kalingas are nevertheless patriarchal. In general, men do the strenuous, brief work, such as clearing the forest, building fences, and plowing, and women do the time-consuming, boring work, such as planting, weeding, and harvesting. Women do, however, inherit important political offices, such as interregional pact stewardships, and they are the shamans. In addition, women are responsible for the formation of the reciprocal work groups upon which the success of individual households depends.

Land Tenure. Along with family heirloomsgenerally ancient Chinese beads, jars, plates, and gongsirrigated rice terraces, house sites, and livestock are the most valued property. Landlessness was nonexistent in the past and is still very rare. Only user rights are recognized for swidden plots, and most regions still have communal land.


Kin Groups and Descent. The descent system is bilateral and characterized by merging of collateral with lineal kin, use of reciprocal terms, primary importance of the generation principle, and rarity of sex-differentiation in terms of reference. Kindred are of prime importance and consist of the eight pairs of great-great-grandparents, siblings, first cousins, second cousins, third cousins, and the ascendants and descendants of all these categories. There are no corporate descent groups, but in the major town, Lubuagan, the former capital of Kalinga Subprovince, there are wealthy families that seem to be showing the beginnings of patrilineal corporate descent groups; the fathers in these families are arranging marriages for their children with second- and third-degree cross cousins in other wealthy families.

Kinship Terminology. The terminological system generally fits the Eskimo type but emphasizes the kindred rather than the nuclear family.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriages follow rules of regional endogamy and result in the creation of demes. Within these demes marriage between relatives closer than third cousins is forbidden. The demes range from 60 to 1,000 households, and the whole of the Kalinga territory is composed of perhaps 70 to 80 of these demes. The postmarital residence rule is matrilocal. Polygyny is allowed but is practiced by only a few of the wealthy men.

Inheritance. When children marry, they all inherit nearly equal shares of the patrimony. In fact, land and other property are not actually "owned" but held in trust for one's children. In practice, the best land goes to the oldest son, and the house goes to the youngest daughter.

Socialization. Children generally live in a house with their parents, but they come into contact with a relatively large number of adults who are usually related to them in some way in the intermarried deme and who may discipline and train them. Socialization is generally by example and corporal punishment is rare.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Most sociopolitical decisions are made by elderly men who command respect through their prestigious deeds. In the past such prestige was gained in headhunting but today arises mainly from men's ability as public speakers. Kalingas act as autonomous individuals, and households exercise a great deal of autonomy. Even children enjoy much independence in their decision making, and it is rare that anyone directly orders anyone else to do anything.

Political Organization. Political structure is based on the residential settlement and the deme. These larger units are organized in the same way as among most other mountain groups in Southeast Asia, and the most common word used in the anthropological literature to described this type of organization is "loose." Whatever decisions need to be made on a village or regional basis are arrived at through discussion and consensus. Although each deme is a politically and socially sovereign entity and each can make treaties with others governing trade, conflicts, and territorial boundaries, the household and, indeed, individuals, are largely autonomous. Naturally, modern governmental units established in Manila have come to act as a template over the traditional processes, but recent experiences of the Kalingas with the Philippine government have not been happy ones and these "foreign" political mechanisms are not easily accepted.

Social Control. Disputes are usually resolved by discussion among kindreds. Severe infractions of customary law may resuit in a hearing at an informal gathering presided over by village or regional elders. In consultation with competing kindreds these elders may levy fines. In recent disputes some have tried to use the Philippine court system to gain legal title to land, but the public reaction against them has been strong.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. As a pragmatic, present-oriented people, Kalingas have a saying, "Nothing happens that does not start from the hearth"; in other words, the household is the center and the focal point of the world. Then comes the kindred, and then the deme. Also, in concert with the other peoples of the North Luzon Highlands, the Kalingas traditionally have had a concept that the universe consists of five areas: the Earth, the Skyworld, the Underworld, the Upstream Area, and the Downstream Area. The Skyworld is geomorphic and is occupied by the creator-god Kabunyan and some of the other high gods. Many of the great adventures of the gods take place in this distant cosmic land. The other areas of the cosmos have their own characteristics. The highest order of deities are Kabunyan and the other high gods, the pinain, and the alan. The second group is composed of the deities of dead ancestors and relatives. The third group consists of mythological creatures and culture heroes who were once humans but whose origins are too ancient to trace. The pinain inhabit the forests, river banks, brooks, swamps, pathways and large trees. The alan are generally malevolent. Christian missionaries have made some slight inroads into the belief system, but for the most part the people retain their traditional religion.

Religious Practitioners. This religion is clearly of the shamanic type, and the shaman is typically a woman. She receives a "call" and serves an apprenticeship. She has her own spirit helpers, paraphernalia, and chants, and most of her shamanic duties relate to the manipulation of spirits to cure illnesses. She sacrifices chickens and sometimes pigs. In community ritual she also serves as an entertainer, dancing and singing; she also admonishes people about proper behavior.

Ceremonies. While some of the ceremonies may take only a few minutes, most last four to six hours and some may go on for several days. They usually focus on the life cycle, agriculture, headhunting, and animal hunting. Most of the life-cycle ceremonies concentrate on the first few years of life. Various food taboos are observed, and their violation is thought to be the primary cause of illness, death, or other misfortunes.

Arts. Musical instruments include bamboo nose flutes and clappers, ancient bronze gongs traded from China, various stringed instruments that are strummed, and bamboo trumpets. The communitywide rituals include an enormous amount of dancing.

Medicine. Modern Western medical practitioners are rare, and the people rely mostly on traditional cures. The most common diseases are measles, bronchopneumonia, tuberculosis, goiter, and disorders of the skin, eyes, and intestines, especially diarrhea. Endemic goiter is related to iodine-deficient soils, which are common in mountainous areas. Cholera and malaria are now rare.

Death and Afterlife. Behavior on earth does not affect existence in the hereafter. A corpse is smoked, and a funeral may last for several days with the sacrifice of various livestock depending on the status and wealth of the household. The body has been buried in different ways, in a jar in the distant past, in a mausoleum in the recent past, and currently in the ground.

See also Bontok; Ifugao; Sagada Igorot


Bacdayan, Albert S. (1967). "The Peace Pact System of the Kalingas in the Modern World." Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University.

Barton, Roy F. (1949). The Kalingas: Their Institutions and Custom Law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Billiet, Francisco, and Francis Lambrecht (1970). The Kalinga Ullalim. Baguio City: Catholic School Press.

Deraedt, Jules (1970). "Myth and Ritual: A Relational Study of Buwaya Mythology, Ritual, and Cosmology." Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.

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

Lawless, Robert (1977). Societal Ecology in Northern Luzon: Kalinga Agriculture, Organization, Population, and Change. Papers in Anthropology 18 (1). Norman: University of Oklahoma, Department of Anthropology.

Lawless, Robert (1987). "The Kalingas: People of the North Luzon Highlands." World and I 2(4): 476-489.

Magannon, Esteban T. (1972). Religion in a Kalinga Village. Quezon City: Community Development Research Council, University of the Philippines.

Takaki, Michiko (1977). "Aspects of Exchange in a Kalinga Society, Northern Luzon." Ph.D. dissertation, Yale University.


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