Mountain Province

La Montañosa was the lyric Spanish reference to the Cordillera Highlands, a savagely beautiful land ruled by jagged pine-covered peaks. The Mountain Province is bounded on the north by Kalinga, on the south by Benguet and Ifugao, on the east by Isabela, on the soutthwest by Ilocos Sur and northwest Abra. The Mountain Province lies at the very heart of the Cordillera Range. There are no flatlands except small niches found along riverbanks. The mountains slope gradually to the east to merge with the plains of Cagayan Valley. The province experiences a dry season from November to April and a rainy season the rest of the year. The climate is temperate although frost occasionally occurs during the months of December and January.



The rugged mountains sheltered the peoples of the Mountain Province from colonization during most of the Spanish period. There were several attempts to subdue the people of the area. In 1663, an expedition was able to penetrate the mountains and occupy the town of Kayan. However, for the most part, the Spaniards were limited to occasional punitive forays into Igorot country.

It was not until the 19th century when the Spaniards established a permanent presence in the highlands. The military outposts or comandancias of Lepanto (1852) and Bontoc (1859) were established in what is presently the territory of the Mountain Province. During the Philippine Revolution, the area was an important route of retreat for the embattled forces of President Emilio Aguinaldo.

The Americans established Lepanto-Bontoc as a separate province in 1902. In 1908, the Mountain Province was created covering the present-day provinces of Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet. On June 18, 1966, the old Mountain Province was divided into four provinces by virtue of Republic Act 4695. The sub-province of Bontoc became the present-day Mountain Province.


People, Culture and the Arts

The Bontocs are the main ethnolinguistic group in the Mountain Province. The word Bontoc is derived from"bun" (heap) and "tuk" (top), which, taken together means "mountains". The term "Bontoc" is used to refer to the people of the Mountain Province, its capital, the people's culture, and their language.

The Bontocs are agriculturists with a strong stone terracing tradition. Bontoc communities are built around the "ato" or male councils. Bontocs are widely known for the institution of the "olag" or girls' dormitory. Unwedded marriageable girls stay at the olag supervised by older women.

The traditional belief system of the Bontocs is characterized by the belief in spirits that dwell in nature. They are, however, essentially monotheistic and believe in a paramount being called Lumawig or Kabunian. Religious practices, rituals, and cañaos attend their cycles of life, death, and agricultural activities. The chao-es is the feast for the manerwap, which is the ritual imploring Lumawig for rain. The fosog is a fertility rite.

On the occasion of feasts and festivities, the literature of the Bontocs is sung or recited. This consists of riddles, proverbs, aphorism, songs, tales, legends, and myths. This body of literature is significant because it expresses the Bontoc worldview and reflects their collective history. Festivities are also occasions to hear the distinctive Bontoc music. The Bontocs play music on gang-sa pattung, which consists of five or more flat gongs struck with padded sticks. Depending on the type of dance and the village where the performers come from, there are variations in the style of playing the flat gongs.

In the municipality of Sagada, ancient burial caves full of coffins piled one on top of the other are indications of the widespread practice during previous times. In the limestone cliffs of the town, the remains of very important persons are placed in coffins hung along the cliffside. The practice is still carried on today by non-Christian Igorots.


Trade and Investments

The Mountain Province is located at the heart of the Cordilleras making it an ideal trading center for the region. Farming is intensive in the available arable land and yields bountiful harvests rice, coffee, legumes, camote, cassava, peanuts, tomatoes, cabbage and potatoes. More than 75% of the province is classified as forests. These forests contain an abundance of pine, narra, tanguile, rattan, bamboo, vines and wild fruits and flowers. The mountains hold deposits of gold, copper, ores, gypsum, clay, sand and gravel. The Mountain Province has a highly literate and trainable workforce of 65,656 people.

Bontoc is linked with the city of Baguio via the Halsema Highway and with the Maharlika Highway via the Banawe Road. An 869-kilometre road network links the municipalities of the province with one another. Eight of the ten municipalities enjoy electric service and communal water systems and spring boxes provide most of the province's potable water. Twelve postal stations, 10 telegraph posts and 10 telecommunications establishment provide links with the outside world.

Agriculture is the main activity of the people of the Mountain Province and there are opportunities for investors wishing to put up value-adding agro-industries. The processing of fruit, honey, coffee and rootcrops can take advantage of the availability of high-quality and readily available raw materials. There are also investment prospects in developing the handicraft industry of the province. Building on the availability of raw materials and making use of the highly skilled Bontoc craftsmen, weaving, ceramic craft, basket and mat weaving promise to be profitable ventures. Bontoc's tourism industry can absorb more players in providing better accommodations, building restaurants and catering to the needs of tourists. The major tourist attractions in the province include Mount Data, the Sagada caves and hanging coffins, the Besao Stone Agricultural Calendars, and several waterfalls, hot springs, rice terraces, natural pools and traditional villages.



Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR)


Mountain Province


Sario M. Malinias



Income/Financial Resources (1999)

P158 M

Income classification (1996)


Expenditure (1998)

P130 M

Population (2000)


Labor Force (1998)


Land area (in hectares)


Major dialects/languages



No. of Barangays





(10) BONTOC, Barlig, Bauko, Besao, Natonin, Paracelis, Sabangan, Sadanga, Sagada, Tadian

Infrastructure facilities

Hospitals – 6, Bgy. Health stations – 78

Colleges/Univ. – 3




Major products

Palay, corn, banana, rootcrops, cabbage, coffee, coconut, fruits, vegetables, peanuts

Loom weaving, pottery, fruit preserving, rattan, bamboo-crafts

Natural resources

Forests, mineral deposits (gold, copper, gypsum), agricultural lands

Indigenous people

Bontok, Kankanaey


Development Initiative Highlights:

  • To further develop its agricultural potential by encouraging vegetable and fruit farming
  • To develop into a regional trading center
  • To encourage industries that use local resources and indigenous craft traditions
  • To promote regional solidarity, empowerment, enlightenment and progress