Traditionally located at the junction of the Sierra Madre and the Caraballo mountains in the headwaters of the Cagayan, Tabayon, and Conwap rivers in Luzon are three groups of people: (1) Italon, found in the headwaters of the Cagayan River, (2) Engongot (Ipagi), found northwest of the coast of Baler, and (3) Abaka (Ibilao), living in southwestern Nueva Vizcaya. All three are known collectively as the Ilongot. The other names by which the decimated groups are known in literature are Ilonggot, Ibilao, Ibilaw, Ilungot, Ligones, Bugkalot, Quirungut, Iyonout, Egonut, Ipagi, Engongot, Italon, Abaka, and Ibilao. They are densest in the municipality of A. Castaneda (695) and Dupax Sur (685). In the whole of Nueva Vizcaya, they number some 2,085, and in Quirino some 2,173 (NSO 1980). There is a total national population of 50,017 (NSO 1990). The whole population is subdivided into some thirteen localized dialect groups: Abaka, Aymuyu, Belansi, Beqnad, Benabe, Dekran, Kebinanan, Payupay, Pugu, Rumyad, Sinebran, Taan, and Tamsi.
Of all the ethnic groups of the country, the Ilongot appears to have been the only one devastated by its own harsh culture dispersing the population from the traditional areas of habitation to other provinces: Bulacan (4,969), Cavite (4,781), Zamboanga del Sur (3,735), Palawan (2,745), and others where the Ilongot populations are larger than in the original homeland.
The people tend to live near tributaries and practice slash-and-burn cultivation. The pattern of housing is dispersed and fortified, for the Ilongot are externally aggressive, traditionally conservative, and resistant to external cultural pressures. Socially, the families in a locality are loosely grouped into bands called alipan. Like all other Philippine groups, kinship is bilateral and there are no descent groups.
Formerly, the group subsisted on slash-and-burn cultivation, even in the watersheds of the Pampanga river, but have been pushed slowly to the north and east. Planting is multicropped although there is now a trend towards rice as the dominant cultigen. Cultivation is based primarily on root crops, and subsistence is supplemented by hunting, fishing, and food gathering.
The society is traditionally egalitarian with no leadership structure. Leadership resides in sets of skilled male siblings with powers of persuasion, especially in the art of oratory or puron.
|Distribution of Ethnic Groups by Provinces
(Arrangement: Population count)
|Total National Population||50,017|
|Agusan del N.||391|
|Agusan del S.||174|
|Lanao del N.||11|
|Lanao del S.||48|
|Surigao del N.||360|
|Surigao del S.||476|