Must-Read What is the Meaning of the Term Igorot?

Igorot men from the Philippines dance in a semi-circle. The huts in the background are part of the Lousisiana Purchase esposition. 1904.
Igorot men from the Philippines dance in a semi-circle.

I am surprised that there are still people who are confused about the meaning of the term Igorot. Even some if not most Cordillerans are confused about the use of the term. On the one hand, others say Ifugao and Kalinga peoples are not part of the Igorot identity. On the other hand, others say (and I am of them) Ifugao and the Kalinga peoples are part of the Igorot identity. So which is which? To enlighten everyone I have researched and collated nine (9) definitions of the term Igorot from various authoritative sources on the internet and come up with a conclusion based on these definitions to justify the latter are part of the Igorot identity.

Definitions of the Term Igorot

Scholars have offered various explanations for the origin of the term ‘Igorot’, which is not part of any of the languages within the region. According to Filipino anthropologist June Prill-Brett, it may have been derived from the Ilocano word ‘gerret’, which means to cut off or slice, which can then be traced to the headhunting past of the Igorots. While it is a word that is foreign to indigenous groups, the word Igorot carries to this day a negative connotation. Thus, a few groups prefer to be identified by their specific ethnic groups, such as the Ifugaos and Kalingas, rather than the more inclusive, albeit problematic, name Igorots.
Resource: Longboan, L. C. (2009). Igorots in the Blogosphere: Claiming Spaces, Re-constructing Identities. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 2(1), 2. doi:10.31165/nk.2009.21.32.
Two broader groupings may be made of the Igorot as a whole: one, by far the larger, comprises the peoples of the higher country who cultivate wet rice, mostly in steplike terraces on the mountainsides; the other comprises peoples of the lower rainforest areas, who grow dry rice in seasonally shifting gardens. Within the first group the Nabaloi or Ibaloi, Kankanay (Kankanai), Lepanto or northern Kankanay, Bontoc (Bontok), southern Kalinga, and Tinggian nearly all live in populous villages, but one ethnic unit, the Ifugao, has small farmsteads of kinsmen dotted throughout the rice terraces. The second group—the Gaddang, northern Kalinga, and Isneg or Apayao—are sparsely settled in hamlets or farmsteads around which new gardens are cleared as the soil is worked out; some Gaddang live in tree houses.

Resource: The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019). Igorot. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

In the Spring of 1958. Representative Luis Hora of the District, Mountain Province, introduced into the lower house of the national legislature House Bill No. 1441 which sought to prohibit the use of the terms, Moro and Igorot, in laws, books and other printed matter and to substitute in their stead the terms, Muslim and Highlander. The Congres-man explained his move in a letter to the editor of a Baguio newspaper.

The misnomer, "Igorot" and "Moro", were inventions of ruthless Spaniards in against our tribes which they failed to subjugate or conquer in their unsatiable lust and greed for colonialism... The word, "Igorot", as coined and applied by the Spaniards means a "savage, headhunting and backward tribe" of Luzon.. , (These people) are further described as of probable Malayan-Negrito stock since they share with the Negritos such features as dark skins, flat noses, thick lips, etc., and such cultural traits as the use of the bow, a non-Malayan weapon. This description. which was invented purposely to degrade our people, has no connection With the ethnic classification of our tribes.

The same is true of our so-called Christian brothers in the lowlands— the Spaniards called them "Indios" as being possessed of a lower mentality and not fit for higher education. And to all these injustices heaped against our honor at a time when we were helpless and prostrate is certainly the duty of this generation.

The Hora Bill, subsequently defeated, and the torrent of editorials, articles, and letters to editors which appeared in the popular press both in Manila and in the Mountain Province.

Resource: Scott, W. (1962). The Word Igorot. Philippine Studies, 10(2), 234-248. Retrieved from

Igolot or Igorot (“people of the mountains”) is derived from a Northern Philippine cognate of the Tagalog golod (mountain ridge). Early Spanish records used ‘Ygolotes,’ ‘Ygorotes,’ and later ‘Igorrotes,’ which carried over into the American-period Igorrote. Historically, the Spanish colonialists who reached the Pangasinan lowlands and southern Ilocos coastal strip adopted the term to refer to the peoples living in the southern section of the Cordillera ranges – namely, what are now Benguet and western Mountain Province. The IP’s of these areas ultimately accepted the term to refer to themselves.

By tradition, IP’s in other parts of the Cordillera like the Tinguian, Kalinga and Ifugao did not usually call themselves by this same term. But in more recent times, there has been a trend of loose acceptance of the term Igorot to refer to all Cordillera peoples. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance has been a consistent popularizer of the term Kaigorotan (“the entire Igorot people”) as the equivalent of Cordillera peoples.

Resource: Verzola Jr., P. (2007, October 15). Mapping North Luzon’s indigenous peoples [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Igorot is the mainstream, collective name of several of the tribes in the Cordilleras (the political name of the area is the Cordilleras Administrative Region or CAR). The provinces that make up CAR are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, and Mountain Province. Baguio City is also included as part of CAR.
Resource: Clariza, E. (2013, May 13). Indigenous peoples of Luzon/the Cordilleras - Philippines - Research guides at University of Hawaii at Manoa. Retrieved from
In several languages of northern Luzon the word “Ĭg-o-rot′” means “mountain people.” Dr. Pardo de Tavera says the word “Igorrote” is composed of the root word “golot,” meaning, in Tagalog, “mountain chain,” and the prefix “i,” meaning “dweller in” or “people of.” Morga in 1609 used the word as “Igolot;” early Spaniards also used the word frequently as “Ygolotes”—and to-day some groups of the Igorot, as the Bontoc group, do not pronounce the “r” sound, which common usage now puts in the word. The Spaniards applied the term to the wild peoples of present Benguet and Lepanto Provinces, now a short-haired, peaceful people. In after years its common application spread eastward to the natives of the comandancia of Quiangan, in the present Province of Nueva Vizcaya, and northward to those of Bontoc.

The word “Ĭg-o-rot′” is now adopted tentatively as the name of the extensive primitive Malayan people of northern Luzon, because it is applied to a very large number of the mountain people by themselves and also has a recognized usage in ethnologic and other writings. Its form as “Ĭg-o-rot′” is adopted for both singular and plural, because it is both natural and phonetic, and, because, so far as it is possible to do so, it is thought wise to retain the simple native forms of such words as it seems necessary or best to incorporate in our language, especially in scientific language.
Resource: Jenks, A. E. (2019). The Igorot Culture Group. In The Bontoc Igorot (p. 28). Retrieved from
Igorot is a Tagalog word for "mountain people" and denotes the inhabitants of the mountains of central Luzon. Like the word Moro, Igorot had a derogatory connotation implying backwardness and cultural inferiority. And like the word Moro, it has become a source of pride to its members - designating an identity distinct from Filipino.
Resource: Fallon, J. E. (n.d.). Igorot and Moro National Reemergence: The Fabricated Philippine State [Bog post]. Retrieved from
The Igorots, also referred to as highlanders, denoting “people from the mountains”, is a term that collectively refers to the ethnolinguistic groups (tribes) of the mountainous Cordillera Region (CAR) located in the northern part of Luzon in the Philippines. This term has particularly been used by most local and international historians and researchers in their works. The Igorots are historically differentiated from the majority of Filipinos because of their strong and successful resistance to colonization. Their isolation and autonomy from centuries of Spanish colonial rule was a catalyst to sustain their indigenous customs, livelihoods, and access to communal lands throughout time. Thus, they become deeply rooted to their culture and they have extensively continued their practices regardless of the new influences of modern societies.

Resource: Botangen, K. A., Vodanovich, S., & Yu, J. (2017). Preservation of Indigenous Culture among Indigenous Migrants through Social Media: The Igorot Peoples. Proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (2017), 2304. doi:10.24251/hicss.2017.278.


The term Igorot or Ygolotes or Ygorotes or Igorrotes or Ĭg-o-rot means "people of the mountains" or "mountain people" or highlanders invented by the ruthless Spaniards who failed to subjugate or conquer the people of the Cordillera mountains. It is a collective name of several tribes in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is composed of six (6) provinces and one (1) city:

  1. Abra
  2. Benguet
  3. Apayao
  4. Kalinga
  5. Mountain Province
  6. Ifugao
  7. Baguio City

And there are ten (10) indigenous/ethnic groups spread out through the Cordillera:

Indigenous/Ethnic Groups Provincial Location
Ifugao/Ifugaw/Ipugao/Yfugao Ifugao Province
Kalanguya/Ikalahan Ifugao Province
Kalinga/Limos/Limos-Liwan Kalinga Kalinga Province
Kankanaey/Kankana-ey/Kankanai Mountain Province and Benguet Province
Iyaplay Mountain Province and Benguet Province
Bontoc Mountain Province and Benguet Province
Ibaloi/Ibaloy/Nabaloi Benguet Province
Karao/Karaw Benguet Province
Isneg/Isnag/Apayao Apayao Province and Kalinga Province
Tinggian/Itneg/Binongan Abra Province

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