The Cordillera

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There are many “Cordillera” in the world. To mention a few---Africa has its Lemombo Cordillera in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. Asia has its Annamese Cordillera in Laos and Cambodia; Central Cordillera in New Guinea; Gran Cordillera Central in Luzon and Southern Pacific Cordillera in Mindanao, Philippines. Australia has its East Australian Cordillera or Eastern Highlands. Europe has its Cordillera de Cantabria in Spain. North America has its Arctic Cordillera in Canada;North American Cordillera or Western Cordillera in the United States and Canada; and the Mexican Cordillera. South America has its Cordillera Occidental in Peru, Cordillera de la Costa in Chile, Cordillera de la Costa in Venezuela and Eastern Cordillera in Bolivia.

So, when Filipinos from the Cordillera go abroad and introduce themselves, it’s appropriate they specify that they come from the “Philippine Cordillera.”

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, cordillera is an old Spanish term, cordilla, “cord,” or “little rope” and refers to a system of mountain ranges that often consist of a number of more or less parallel chains.

When the Spaniards colonized the Philippines from 1521 until 1898, the authorities gave the name “Cordillera” to a mountain range they saw in northern Luzon in the 16th century. In the article, “The Ifugao: A Mountain People of the Philippines,” it describes the Cordillera as a  “jumbled mass of lofty peaks and plummeting ravines, of small fecund valleys cleaved by rainfed, boulder-strewn rivers, and of silent, mist-shrouded, moss-veiled forests wherein orchids in their deathlike beauty unfold like torpid butterflies.” Later, the mountain range was called Gran Cordillera Central.

To distinguish terms, Gran Cordillera Central is a geographical term while the Cordillera Administrative Region is a political entity. The latter covers the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and MountainProvince, and the chartered city, Baguio City.yb



“cordillera,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed January 25, 2014,

“Cordillera,” Wikipedia, last modified January 20, 2014,

“Cordillera Administrative Region,” Wikipedia, last modified July 8, 2013,

“Cordillera Central (Luzon),” Wikipedia, last modified June 27, 2013,

“Etnography: Ifugaos,” Teng-ab Retreat House, accessed January 25, 2014,

“History of the Philippines (1521–1898),” Wikipedia, last modified January 25, 2014,


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