Philippine Cordillera: The Land and Location

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Physical Profile 

When one says “Cordillera” in the Philippines, one refers to the mountain range in northern Luzon, the Gran Cordillera Central. Described as the biggest and highest mountain range in the country, it covers an area of around 1,750,000 hectares. It begins at 1,000 meters above sea level at its northern tip overlooking Pasaleng Bay in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte and goes southward towards Pangasinan where it ends bordering the Caraballo mountain range in central Luzon.

The Cordillera consists of three mountain ranges: Malaya Range, Central Range and Polis Range.

Malaya Range

The Malaya range, which is also called the Ilocos range, is located on the north and runs along the west coast of northern Luzon. The elevation is above 1,500 meters. This range would cover the upper sections of Abra and Ilocos Sur.

The famous peak of the Malaya Range is Tirad Peak, which is around 1,388 meters and located in Gregorio Del Pilar (formerly Concepcion), a municipality of Ilocos Sur. It was in Tirad Pass where the youngest general of the Philippine Revolutionary Army, Gregorio del Pilar, was assigned to lead the fight against the Americans as President Emilio Aguinaldo was retreating to Palanan, Isabela. General del Pilar was killed during a battle with the American invaders on December 2, 1899. At age 24, the general is also called “Boy General” and later became known as the “Hero of Tirad Pass.”

In the book, “German Travelers on the Cordillera,” Hans Meyer describes his trip to the Cordillera interior and says:

“…I figured the distance from Angaki to Candon would be covered in a day without much trouble. But the passage across the Cordillera-del-Tila threw my estimate off. This cordillera towers behind Angaki to an altitude of more than 3,600 feet. The road leads through the pass* right under the Pico-del-Tila, the only direct route from Ilocos Sur to Lepanto.

At this elevation (1290 m.) there suddenly appeared before our astonished eyes as magnificent a panorama as I have seen but once before---in Tosari in Java. There the whole coastal town of Ilocos Sur was spread out below us. Beyond the nearest low mountain range, the green valley lay gleaming with the China Sea shimmering beyond it…To the north, the eye has an unobstructed view all the way to the province of Abra…” 

Central Range

Central Range is without peaks. Mount Data is located in this range. It shares borders with Benguet and is mainly found in Bauko, Mountain Province. With an elevation of 2,310 meters, it was made a National Park in 1935. Mount Data is also a watershed area and is the headwater of the rivers Agno and Chico. The Agno River provides water that turns the turbines of the hydroelectric dams of Ambuklao and Binga in Benguet, and San Roque in Pangasinan. The Chico River flows north to Bontoc and Sadanga, Mountain Province, and further to Kalinga and Apayao until it reaches the northeastern part of the China Sea.

Polis Range

The Polis range is characterized with peaks and is found in the Gran Cordillera’s eastern section. Within this range is Mount Pulag, which is located in Kabayan, Benguet. It has an elevation of 2,924 meters and is considered the second highest mountain in the Philippines.


The coordinates of the Gran Cordillera Central are 17°19'60" N and 120°57'0" E in DMS (Degrees Minutes Seconds); its latitude is 17.3333 and longitude 120.95 (in decimal degrees).YB

*This pass is Tirad Pass.



Cleto, Romeo, Christoph J. Dehn, Hilario J. Padilla. The Ilocos and Cordillera Provinces: A General Physical and Socio-Economic Profile.

Manila: KADUAMI and SIBAT, 1986.

“Cordillera Central (Central Cordillera),” Get a, accessed January 27, 2014,

 “Geographic Distribution of Lilium Philippinense Baker (Liliaceae) in the Cordillera Central Range, Luzon Island, Philippines,” Teodora D. Balangcod,  Virginia C. Cuevas, Inocencio E. Buot, and Ashlyn Kim D. Balangcod, accessed January 25, 2014,

Pinoy Mountaineer, Gideon Lasco, “Tirad Peak (1,388+) in Gregorio del Pilar, Ilocos Sur (blog),

“Ilocos Range,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, accessed January 25, 2014,

“Mount Data,” Wikipedia, last modified December 13, 2013,

Provincial Government of Mountain Province. The New Mountain Province. Manila: Zoom Printing Company, 2010.

Semper, Carl, Richard von Drasche, Hans Meyer, Alexander Schadenberg, Otto Scheerer. German Travelers on the Cordillera (1860-1890). Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1975.

Up North in Mt. Province. “Beautiful Mt Province,” Lang-ay Magazine, December 2005, 3-6. 


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