Benguet and Ibaloy Culture

Written by Gil Tiban Catimo on .

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9th Igorot Cordillera BIMAAK Consultation
Rome, Italy
 April 28 – May 1, 2017

Benguet and Ibaloy Culture

By Gil Tiban Catimo

The Benguet people-Ibaloys, Kankanaey, Kalanguya and Karaos- have similar beliefs, traditions and culture. They only vary in naming them in their dialect. The Benguet people believe in Kaboniyan (God), which the Ibaloys call Apo Shiyos and Goddesses egma on-an or kedaring called by Ibaloys. The Kankanaey call them adikaila, which the old folks believe can give sickness to anyone who disturbs them. These are considered the bad spirits while the good spirits are called kaapo-an, which are believed to be the spirits of beloved departed ones. From time to time, these kaapo-an are honored by butchering pigs or animals like cow or carabao. Their names are called or shouted while they are represented by a relative performing the tayaw and served a tapey (ricewine) on their name while being cheered by the crowd shouting the ooway adivay. 


It is believed that when someone is sick, He or She  offended a kedaring, the bad spirit. The local priest called mambunong, thru his prayer, asks the kedaring what is needed. Depending on the graveness of the offense, the kedaring thru the mambunong, may ask for a pig or smaller animal to be butchered. He may also ask for clothings, blanket, tobacco and money to be offered and placed in a winower or kiyag, biga-o.

Some Forms of Kanyaw   

1. Peshit

It is the highest form of kanyaw or kesheng (Ibaloy term for feast), a prestige feast performed by the wealthy, who owns many heads of animals and a vast rice plantation. Relatives or prominent people from other towns or communities are invited called Awit in Nabaloy dialect. It is believed that by sharing his blessings to the community, to Kaboniyan and kaapo-ans, he will be more blessed with riches and long life. The peshit has a various stages. One must start in butchering 3 keshel or big castrated hogs, then 6 pigs, 9 and 12 pigs. Then he has to start all over again from 3 pigs if he is still strong and rich. Big animals are also butchered like cow or carabao. The feast may last for a week. Many jars or salaw of tapey is consumed while tayaw dance and ba-diw is done day and night.

2. Batbat

It is a kanyaw to honor a kaapo-an and is usually done during death anniversary of a departed one. A minimum of 3 pigs is butchered and big animals like cow, carabao and horse maybe also butchered. Tayaw dance and ba-diw is performed with drinking of tapey. It lasts two days.

3. Debbon (lebon in Kankanaey dialect)

It is a kanyaw done to ask the blessings of kaapo-an “soul of departed one.” A pig is butchered and cooked together with other food cooked like taro, aba in Nabaloy dialect. Rice is offered to the kaapo-an spirits together with tapey. The mambunong assures the spirits that if the family is blessed with fortune and progress they can give more offering to the concerned spirits. There is no tayaw and ba-diw performed.

4. Kapi

It is a small kanyaw usually done a day after a wake, after a wedding or before going or arriving from a travel to far place. A pig is butchered and accompanied by a jar of rice wine. Ba-diw is performed but not the tayaw.

The Bendiyan dance

Bendiyan, the Benguet dance, is a ritual and ceremonial dance to celebrate victory and vengeance in the olden times. It originated in Kabayan, Benguet. At present, it is modified to honor Kaboniyan for a bountiful harvest since there is no longer tribal war. It is performed for the entertainment of local and foreign visitors.


Bendiyan is a mass dance. It is participated in by as many as there are present in the celebration. It is a fatigue dance and the word Bendiyan or Binendiyan means “let us see who gets tired.”


As the dancing starts, the lead man shouts at the top of his voice, Woo-oy!

  1. While executing the first dance position, Penesbekan, “attack and take over,” the other lead dancers follow with uniform movements as the long line of dancers go in two-line formation. Men, separated from women, join them and form a circle with the right hand extended down near the ground.
  1. The rest of the dance steps are Salawasaw announcing to the World “we are the bravest victorious warriors” both arms extended upward.
  1. Third, Kinitangan, a relax position both hands on hips.
  1. Fourth, Kinikiyan, a challenge to the enemy.
  1. Fifth, Inoshongan or protection “The warriors protect the community.”
  1. Sixth, Inodiyan “turn or reverse position to confuse the enemy.”
  1. Seventh, Pinadjosan “fortune” carrying the bountiful harvest.
  1. Eighth, Innabaya “put up your hands to receive the crops to be carried home.”

Tayaw Dance

In Ibaloy tradition Tayaw is an expression of feast, joy or celebration. It is never performed during wake period. A man and a woman dance a different parts to the rhythm of the gong. The man dances with blankets dropped over his shoulder. The woman dances the sarong wrapped with the blanket.


The movements of the arms while performing Tayaw for the Benguet people have meanings or interpretations.

A. Spreads arms like an eagle, means independence and freedom.

B. Hands palm upwards symbolizes praise to Kaboniyan.

C. Arms palm downwards, respect to the dead ancestors keep on the ground.

D. Fingers close together symbolizes unity and close relations.

E. During the tayaw the male portrays bravery and self- confidence, the female portrays meekness and submission.

F. During the tayaw from time to time the dancers looks up the sky and looks down the ground, its the supplication for fertility and bountiful harvest.

Ba-diw (Chant)

It is also referred as “Adivay” which signifies to gather or chat to exchange of stories. It is one of the most important part of Ibaloy culture in times of gatherings of feast or kanyaw, and during wake, a form of instant poetry to express one’s emotions, give advices on wedding celebration, express grief during wakes, or a prayer to Kaboniyan. Ba-diw is similar to the ogayam of the Mountain Province. The ba-diw is instantly composed depending on the appropriate occasion, wedding, festivities and waking period. Ba-diw text is picked up by a group of women including men repeats the words in a laryngeal, undulating tone called the Atob or Asbayat. Ba-diw chant consists of a chant in near monotone given by a leader who is usually male. A  female can also lead the Ba-diw. The language used in ba-diw are usually ancient Ibaloy words and ancient pronunciation related to Kalanguya dialect.

The Karaos  

The Karaos are people of Benguet occupying the areas of Karao and Ekip, two barangays of Bokod located at the northwest foot of Mount Pulag, bounded northeast by Tenek, Ifugao and the south about three kilómeters away to Bokod central.


The Karaos were able to retain some of their customs, belief, practices and posses a dialect different from its neighboring Ibaloys and Kalanguya.

Their difference to the rest of Bokod dialect according to oral stories handed thru generations is that their ancestors originated from what is Mountain Province of today, particularly in the municipality of Natonin in a village called Kalaw. Oral stories among the Karao elders related that their ancestors were forced to move from one place to another driven by epidemics and tribal war until they landed in Bokod. The Bokodian elders accepted them and placed them in what is now barangay Karao of today. But one of the conditions the Bokod elders asked them is to be vigilant to the busol enemy passing thru that area, which they Karaos agreed.

Proofs of their Mountain Provnce origin as of today are visible. The Karao have a public center where they perform their rituals called abonan, similar to the ato or dap-ay in Mountain Province. They have a dance called taychek similar to the pattong of Mountain Province.  

The Kalanguyas

The Kalanguya tribe in Benguet is found in the eastern part of Buguias, eastern part of Kabayan and southeast of Bokod in the barangay of Pito, at the boundary of Benguet and Nueva Vizcaya. They occupy the municipality of Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya adjacent to the said boundary.


The Kalanguyans originated from the mossy mountain range of Tinok, Ifugao. Another name attributed to them is Ikadasan in Ibaloy. Kadasan in Ibaloy is trees or thick mossy inner forest


It is believed that most of Ibaloys originated from the Kalanguya, wherein Ibaloys and Kalanguya have the same practices and tradition. They only differ in dialect.

Some other Ibaloy Aspects

Ibaloys are peace loving people. They usually solve community problems and conflict.

1. Tongtong

In this aspect, our respected elders facilitate the process of objectively talking about the issues and problems by the parties involved and coming up with the solutions that work for both sides, be it a problem between individuals, family or community members. The tongtong provides a safe environment where both party may express freely there ideas a feeling without being judges as bad or good. Whatever agreement made during the tongtong is bound sacred as it is prayed over by the elders and both sides are bound to honor it.

2. Kaising (Kaihing in Kalanguya)

It is usually done to solve community conflict. The family agrees to engage a pair of their child when the time comes.

3. Adoyan or Kamal  


The community unites to build the house or abong of a neighbor.

The community unites to construct a common irrigation for their own ricefield.

4. Awil  

A family visits a relative who lives quiet far.

The visiting child is usually gifted with a chicken, a dog or any animal easy to carry travelling home.

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