views updated


LOCATION: Philippines (northern Luzon)
POPULATION: 112,000 (2000)
RELIGION: Native spirit beliefs
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 3: Filipinos; Ifugao; Vol. 4: Manuvu'


Although at present speaking mutually intelligible dialects and possessing a strong sense of ethnic identity nurtured by a peace-pact system, the Kalinga display much cultural diversity among themselves. This is because of their division into small endogamous territories (boboloy) and perhaps also to their disparate origins as relatively recent refugees from the lower Abra valley to the west and the Cagayan valley to the east. The name Kalinga itself is a negative marker. It comes from the word for "enemy" in Ibanag, the language of Christianized Cagayan lowlanders. Major differences exist between the Kalinga north and south of the Pacil River; the southerners grow wet-rice on terraces and share many cultural elements with the Bontok and Ifugao, who depend on the same type of agriculture.

Substantial external influence commenced only in the 19th century with the opening of a Spanish trail between Abra and Cagayan through Kalinga territory; this trail introduced Tinggianes (fellow highlanders) and lowland Ilocano traders. Replacing spears, machetes, and axes, guns obtained from these increased contacts made the endemic feuding infinitely more murderous and threatened to annihilate Kalinga society. This fear motivated the emergence of the peace-pact system that the American colonial regime, intent on abolishing headhunting, was to endorse.

The Americans introduced sanitation and schools, and educated Kalinga were soon able to fill the local administrative positions initially occupied by lowland Filipinos; the Kalinga passion for individual distinction predisposed them to enthusiastic participation in Filipino electoral politics. World War II flooded the highlands (as it did the Philippine countryside in general) with firearms, and since then "mutually assured destruction" has kept the peace between well-armed Kalinga groups. As a substitute for headhunting, private revenge continues to be part of everyday life. With some of their lands threatened by government dam projects, the Kalinga, along with the Bontok, have been among the most assertive of what are currently termed "cultural communities" (formerly "cultural minorities" or "non-Christian tribes").

See also the article entitled Ifugao.


The Kalinga occupy a northern section of northern Luzon's Cordillera Central, which is drained by the middle Chico River and its tributaries. The territory of the Isneg people of the Apayao basin intervenes between the Kalinga and the sea. Towards the southern edge of Kalinga territory, ridges rise to 1,830 m (6,000 ft), while the mountains are lower in the northern area. Pine trees crown the ridge tops, cogon grass blankets the steep slopes, and dense semitropical vegetation covers the valley bottoms where settlements are located (still 610 m or 2,000 ft above sea level).

In the 1970s, the Kalinga numbered 40,000, with the heaviest concentration in the south where wet-rice is grown. According to the 2000 census, the population of Kalinga province stood at 174,023, of which 64.4% (or nearly 112,000) identified themselves as Kalinga (24% identified themselves as Ilocanos, 2.5% as Kankanay). Estimates for various Kalinga dialect groups are as follows: Limos, 20,000 (1977); Mandukayang, 1,500 (1990); Butbut, 8,000 (1998); Lower Tanudan (1998); Upper Tanudan (1998); Lubuagan, 14,003 (2000); Southern Kalinga, 13,000 (2000).


The Kalinga speak mutually intelligible dialects of the same Austronesian language; Kalinga is more closely related to Tinggian, Isneg, Gaddang, Ibanag, and Ilocano than to Bontok, Kankanai, and Ifugao. The dialects may currently be converging under the influence of a phonetically simplified, heavily Ilocano-influenced form of Kalinga. In fact, Ilocano is so widely understood that it is used to record the terms of peace-pacts between Kalinga groups (instead of or along with English, a language in which a few people in the larger communities are literate).

Children are given the name of a dead or living grandparent, in order to receive qualities of that person.


Among supernaturals, Kalinga believe in the ngilin, a malevolent water spirit in the form of a human pigmy who prevents women from conceiving; it also victimizes newborns. Also feared are the alan or kotmo, giant ghouls who feed on corpses.


Anito are supernatural beings in general. The Kalinga recognize a creator god, Kaboniyan, but invoke him only in moments of extreme and sudden crisis, such as an accidental death or the destruction of the rice crop by a storm. They take for granted the good will of the mandodwa (benevolent spirits) and focus their prayers, chants, and sacrifices on appeasing malevolent spirits who, if neglected, bring illness and misfortune on humans by capturing their souls. Kalinga must also show respect to their village guardian spirit, sangasang, who resides in a podayan shelter housing sacred bayog stones. In addition, they make offerings to deceased ancestors at funeral ceremonies, which are more elaborate among the southerners who follow the Ifugao and Bontok in emphasizing the ancestral cult. While fear of witchcraft is weak, that of poisoning is widespread and often attributed as the work of old childless women, who are believed to be vindictive because of their misfortune.

Formerly, male priests officiated at headhunting rites, but now female mediums (mangalisig in southern Kalinga and mandadawak or manganito in northern Kalinga) are more prominent, leading rites for curing, community welfare, and the life-cycle. Before receiving instruction from a practicing medium, a future medium must be called first to her vocation (by disturbing dreams, trembling fits, or nausea after eating certain foods like eel or dog). A medium possesses spirit helpers (familiars), a repertoire of chants, and standard paraphernalia, which includes a bayobong turban, a Chinese plate and a bamboo stick to beat it with during rituals, and a basket to contain everything.

In the 1990s, Christian conversion (mostly to Catholicism) remained limited because of the daunting geographical barriers to missionary penetration. According to the 2000 census, 17.6% of the population of the Cordillera Administrative Region, of which Kalinga province is a part, was classified as "Other" in religious affiliation, meaning adherents of indigenous religion. The rest followed a form of Christianity: 65.8% of the region's population is Roman Catholic (much lower than the national percentage of 83%), 8.9% Evangelical, 2.9% Iglesiani Cristo, 1.6% Jehovah's Witness, 0.8% Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan).


See the article entitled Filipinos.


For a month after a birth, the family refrains from eating beef, cow's milk, eel, frogs, taro, and dog meat; the father may not leave the village; and no one who does not habitually sleep in the house may enter it. At the end of the month, a medium sweeps the house with an anaao (a palm-frond raincoat) and removes the four reeds that have been placed at the four corners of the house as a sign of the taboo period. Over the first year and a half of its life, six kontad ceremonies are held for the child, involving pig and chicken sacrifices, chanting, the taking of pig's liver omens, and the erecting of a spirit house or platform.

Now that free-choice matches are more prevalent, the traditional contract marriage proceeds in the following stages. In some regions soon after a boy's birth, his parents pick a suitable girl and commission go-betweens to take omens and present valuable beads to her family at a banat feast. The go-betweens return with gifts for the boy's parents and for themselves (henceforth, the two families invite each other to their respective feasts and give each other a share of the meat). At the age of 12, the boy may begin light bride-service for the girl's family. At the age of 17, the boy's uncles and aunts escort him to the girl's house because for the parents to do so would appear to be indifference toward the boy and would invite victimization by malevolent spirits, i.e., illness. The girl's side prepares a feast and gives the escorts meat to take back to the boy's kin. Two weeks later, after the boy's family gives the girl's family Chinese beads and plates, the couple begins to sleep together. The Kalinga apply less pressure on the couple to consummate the union than other highlanders, such as the Ibaloi go-betweens, who strip an unwilling pair, bind them together, and wrap them in a water buffalo hide. Five months later, a feast to which both kin groups are invited seals the marriage contract; this includes competitive gift-giving between the sides and the handing over of a portion of the inheritances coming to the newlyweds.

After death, the deceased is seated on a death chair for up to 10 days, with the surviving spouse guarding it and relatives preparing rice wine for the wake, which also requires the slaughter of pigs and water buffalo. While children are buried near the house or under the granary, adults are interred in graves faced with small stones smoothed over with lime plaster; big stone slabs are laid over the body, the slabs are then covered with dirt, and a thatch arbor is then erected on top of the dirt for offerings (rice bread hung for the dead, and betel, charcoal, and lemon leaves to repel malevolent spirits). Today, wealthy southerners raise concrete family mausoleums. Nine days later, in some areas, personal belongings are placed on the grave. A year of mourning follows an adult's death, during which relatives may neither sing nor dance, must wear a black or brown strip, and let their hair grow long and unoiled. A surviving spouse may not remarry during this period and may eat only fruits and greens and may neither gather food nor cook. A morning-to-morning kolias feast concludes the mourning; singing, dancing, and boasting keep the mood festive, for weeping would attract another death. If individuals cannot stop grieving, they restore themselves to normal life by exhuming the bones and reburying them or by taking a long journey that includes crossing a wide river.


Beyond the immediate kin, an individual traditionally identified only with the boboloy, the area inhabited by overlapping kin-groups, within which one generally married and outside of which no one could be trusted. In recent times, peace-pacts have weakened this localism to a considerable extent but have far from eliminated it. Northern boboloy consist of 10 to 12 hamlets (500–700 people), while southern ones encompass even larger numbers.

In former times, authority gravitated towards mangngol, renowned warrior-headhunters (also wealthy and well-spoken) who avenged wrongs done to their kinfolk [seeManuvu ]. Currently, regional power issues from the ability to arbitrate disputes (imposing fines that take into consideration public opinion and the kin-groups involved) and serve as a pactholder; individuals with the required wealth, wisdom, and charisma are called pangngat (lakay in the north). Despite distinguishing poor (kapos) from rich (baknang; in the south, also kadangyang), Kalinga culture stresses equal treatment for all individuals irrespective of status (e.g., servants are treated as well as adopted children and may even appeal to pangngat if mistreated by their masters). At the same time, Kalinga exhibit a strong drive towards personal distinction, as expressed in the boasting sessions that are integral to all gatherings (though rice-land and livestock wealth have replaced headhunting exploits as the source of pride).

Within the boboloy, pangngat arbitrate disputes. Between boboloy, however, conflicts generally escalated in the past to reciprocal headhunting raids (feuding for blood vengeance). Since the colonial abolition of headhunting, pitched battles (botad) now provide the outlet for revenge-taking; their firearmincreased murderousness has led to the peace-pact (bodong) system.

A bodong is contracted between two individuals (generally pangngat) but is binding on both boboloy. The first stage is a "tasting" (simsim or singlip) where the sides gather, review grievances, and settle disputes. After this, at a large gathering (lonok) the pagta or provisions of the bodong are written out, detailing how to punish crimes committed by a member of one boboloy against a member of the other, e.g., punishing killings or woundings by fines, counter-killing, or symbolic counterinjury. Also set down are rules of courting, the return of lost or stolen articles, and hospitality, including how to handle the death, accident, or illness within one's territory of a person from the other boboloy. Renewed at dolnat gatherings and transferable to new pact-holders, peace-pacts permit trade and even migration between boboloy territories.

The southern Kalinga follow the Bontok-Ifugao practice of having children from the age of six or seven sleep in a unisex dormitory (girls sleep in a widow's house and boys in a vacant house [obog]). Boys may visit the girls at night, but only engaged couples may have sex. The northern Kalinga, on the other hand, expect their adolescent children to stay in the home of a close relative; sexual contact must be kept secret from parents. A girl who has sex with a boy with whom she is not contracted to marry, or a man who is already married, will be whipped (the male, unless he raped the girl, is only fined).

Courting procedures leading to love-match unions have long coexisted with contract marriages. A boy may intercept a girl on her way to fetch water. As talking to each other would violate etiquette, they exchange signals, the girl expressing approval with a subtle wink, a raised eyebrow, or a sudden lowering of her eyes. Thus encouraged, the boy presents himself at her house in the evening, serenading her with courting songs or flute-playing in the presence of her parents. Afterwards, the girl arranges to meet the boy while parents are away.


Kalinga live in hamlets of 6–30 houses in the north and of over 200 in the south. The wood-plank or bamboo-plaiting houses are on piles, are entered by stairs or a ladder, and have thatched grass or reed roofs. The floor plan is rectangular or square in the north, and octagonal in the south, with a single room. In more traditional homes, floors consist of split-bamboo mats over a grating of slender beams; the mats are removed and washed in a stream every two or three days. A bit off-center in the single room is a fire pit enclosed in a 10–15-cm-high (4–6-in-high) wooden box full of sand and ash; above it hangs a rack for drying wood, food, and clothing. Today, each village has at least one or two houses of hewn-wood planks with galvanized iron roofs. These are more prestigious, but hotter than a thatched one. A traditional house may be kept alongside for use as a kitchen; this new house-type will eventually dominate.

Average family income in the Cordillera Administrative Region, of which Kalinga province is a part, amounted to 192,000 pesos (US$3,765) in 2006, among the highest in the country, cf. the national average of P173,000, the National Capital Region's P311,000, Southern Tagalog's P198,000, and those of the neighboring Cagayan Valley and Ilocos regions, P143,000 and P142,000 respectively. In 2000, 32% of households in Kalinga had access to a community faucet, 12% to a faucet of their own, and 21.6% to a shared deep well, while 11.7% obtained their water from springs, lakes, rivers, or rain. Almost half of households (48.6%) disposed of their garbage by burning it, 21.9% by burying it in a pit, and 11.7% by feeding it to their animals; only 6.3% had it picked up by a collection truck. 50% of houses were lit with kerosene lamps, 44.3% with electricity, and 3.5% with firewood. While 29% of households lacked basic appliances of any kind, 68.9% possessed a radio, 21.9% a television, 12.9% a refrigerator, 7% a VCR, 2% a telephone or cell phone, 6.6% a washing machine, and 8.2% a motorized vehicle.


Each individual recognizes his or her personal kindred as including the descendants of both paternal and maternal great-grandparents (i.e., counting second cousins) among the northern Kalinga. In the more densely populated south, kindred includes only grandparents and first cousins, although the wealthy there may recognize bilateral descent groups [seeIfugao ].

The nuclear family includes a married couple, their younger children, and occasionally grandparents and, among the wealthy, servants. Adolescents live together in same-sex dormitories. Two to four related nuclear families work together in agriculture and other economic activities; this extended household is actually emphasized more than its components. Face-to-face interaction among more distant kin is diminishing with the greater mobility of modern times. In the south where larger towns offer individuals greater economic independence from kin, people tend to address relatives with personal names rather than with kinship terms such as are still regularly used in the north.

Formerly, it was a strongly enforced rule for an individual to marry within his or her boboloy (barrio); third-cousin marriage was permitted, but second-cousin marriage met with disapproval. Marriage by contract between the parents while the children are still young was the norm but is now giving way to free-choice matches. The ideal, still followed in the south, is for a new couple to join the wife's parents' extended household. Wealthy men might take concubines (dagdagas), especially in order to seal peace-pacts with other localities. Half of the marriages in north Kalinga end in divorce. The primary reason for the divorce is childlessness (and occasionally the poor hospitality or laziness of the wife).

Relations between parents and children are markedly less prolonged and intense among the Kalinga than among other highland peoples, but grandparents and grandchildren are very close, often given to mildly teasing each other. The grandparents act as babysitters while the parents are working away from the house (a still strong grandfather will carry his grandchild in a sling to roam about watching the activities in village and field). Grandchildren also learn ritual procedures from grandparents and take care of them as well as their own parents in old age and, via offerings, in the afterlife. Parents regard safeguarding inheritance and making a good match for them as their main duties to their children. Children tend to be indulged; adults rarely resort to whipping and prefer to scare children into behaving with stories about "strangers" (indeed, inflicting corporal punishment on another's child would incur fines from the incensed relatives).


Northern Kalinga traditional male clothing is of brightly colored cotton and consists of a G-string with beads or buttons, a short jacket with beads and tassels, a tube sarong worn over one shoulder, a turban with blossoms and feathers stuck in it, earplugs, an agate-bead choker, and an ornamental betel-bag. Women's traditional clothing includes sarongs, shirts, agate-bead necklaces, and brass and mother-of-pearl earrings, and hair grown long (augmented with switches of hair from departed or living relatives).

Today, northern Kalinga men wear lowland-style trousers and cut-offs with or without an old shirt, and the women wear cotton dresses. Traditional clothing is still commonly worn in the south, where colors are more subdued and accessories are kept to a minimum [for southern women's attire, seeIfugao ].


The staple food is rice supplemented by vegetables and some meat.


In 2000, literacy stood at 90.5% for the Cordillera Administrative Region, of which Kalinga province is a part. In Kalinga province itself, of people five years or older 45.79% had attended elementary school, 23% high school, and 11.19% college; 4% held academic degrees. (see also the article entitled Filipinos in this volume).


See the article entitled Ifugao.


Although some Kalinga receive enough modern education to become schoolteachers (a most esteemed profession among them), municipal employees, or Baguio or Manila office workers, most Kalinga remain subsistence farmers. Only in the southern area adjacent to the Bontok has wet-rice cultivation on terraces been the dominant form (though now it is spreading in the north); Kalinga terraces slope gently at an angle and are not held back by stone walls as are those of the Bontok or Ifugao. The northern Kalinga grow dry-rice on swidden (shifting-cultivation) fields along with beans, sweet potatoes, maize, sugarcane, taro, betel, tobacco, and coffee.

Animal protein comes from a variety of sources: wild pig, deer, fowl, dogs, birds, fish, mussels, and eels. Livestock includes a few horses and cattle as well as pigs and chickens for sacrifice and meat distribution at ritual celebrations. Kept for slaughter, water buffalo are also important as a measure of wealth and the means to buy rice-land.

Guaranteed by highly formalized and ritualized pacts (abuyog) between potentially warring regions, traditional trade patterns resembled those of the Ifugao [seeIfugao ].


Children between the ages of 3 and 10 play at the riverside bathing place while their older female relatives wash and do other chores. A common game for single- or mixed-sex groups is hide-and-seek. Boys between 7 and 15 enjoy spinning tops.


Kalinga are fond of putting on plays or skits at public gatherings; the source material derives from school lessons, such as the life of Filipino national hero Jose Rizal. Parents teach their children to perform public recitations of pieces that they themselves learned in school.


See the article entitled Ifugao.


See the article entitled Filipinos.


Although Kalinga couples do not automatically prefer boys over girls, not to have any sons at all is regarded as a great misfortune, because men, through combat, can defend the family and win it prestige. From an early age, girls assume the heavier tasks, such as taking care of younger children, pounding and winnowing rice, scrubbing mats, toting water, and helping in the fields. By contrast, when boys are not fetching firewood from the potentially dangerous forest, they just sit around and gossip. A boy already promised in marriage, however, may also help around his in-laws' house. In the past, this was so that the young men could be ready to defend the community at any time, but in these relatively peaceful times, they have little to do and fall into insulting relatives, quarreling, vandalizing, and theft. As adults, women work year-round all day and into the night, whereas men work only in the daytime, clearing and plowing fields, and in the dry season, they travel to increase the family's wealth and prestige.

In 2000, the literacy level was slightly lower for women (90%) than for men (90.8%) in the Cordillera Administrative Region, of which Kalinga province is a part. Of those who had attended elementary school, 54.03% were males, slightly higher than their proportion of the population, 52.8%. Of those who had attended college and those who held post-baccalaureate degrees, the majority were women.


Dozier, Edward P. The Kalinga of Northern Luzon, Philippines. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

Gordon, Raymond G., ed. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2005. http://www.ethnologue.com (November 16, 2008)

LeBar, Frank M., ed. Ethnic Groups of Insular Southeast Asia. Vol 2, The Philippines and Formosa. New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1972.

National Statistics Office: republic of the Philippines. "Cordillera Administrative Region: The Least Populous Region of the Philippines." http://www.census.gov.ph/data/pressrelease/2002/pr0259tx.html (November 16, 2008).

——"Females Better Educated in Kalinga (Results from the 2000 Census of Population and Housing, NSO)." http://www.census.gov.ph/data/pressrelease/2002/pr0259tx.html (November 16, 2008).

—revise by A. Abalahin