Area of Coverage


cordilleras map

Geographic Location
The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) is located in the mountain ranges of north central Luzon between the 16 45’ N latitude and the 121 40’ longitude. It is bounded on the North by Cagayan; on the East by Isabela and Nueva Viscaya; on the South by Pangasinan and on the West by La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

Terrain and Elevation
The region is predominantly characterized by steep, mountainous and high elevation terrain. It hosts over a hundred peaks, ten of which are among the highest in the country and four out of these ten peaks belong to the ten highest peaks in the Philippines. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR-CAR), about 33% of the region’s tableland lies 1,000 meters or more above sea level which is predominant in the provinces of Benguet and Mt. Province. It has 239 large and small mountains which include Mt. Pulag, the second highest in the country with an elevation of 2,922 meters above sea level. More than half of the region’s land area has an altitude between 500 to 2,000 meters above sea level.

Administrative Divisions and Demographic Profile
The region is politically subdivided into six (6) provinces composed of 75 municipalities, one chartered city, one component city, and is further segmented into 1,176 barangays. The six provinces of the region are Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mt. Province. Baguio City is the only chartered city in the region while Tabuk City in Kalinga is the region's only component city. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as of 2010 the Cordillera Administrative Region has a total population of 1,616,867. The PSA also found out that the Cordillera Administrative Region is the least populated region in the country and the least growing region in terms of population. The PSA recorded that the total population of the region in August 2000 is 1,365,412 and grew to 1,616,867 in May 2010 reflecting a growth rate of 1.73% from 1990 to 2010. Moreover the PSA also recorded in 2010 that there are 352,403 households in the region with an average household size of 4.6 which is also the average household size in the country during that period. The Cordillera Administrative Region has a total land area of 1,829,368 hectares which is about 6% of the total land area of the country. The province of Abra has the largest area at 397,555 hectares followed by Apayao with 392,790.00 hectares; Kalinga with 311,974.00 hectares; Benguet with 262,538.00 hectares; Ifugao with 251,778.00 hectares; and Mt. Province with 209,733 hectares. The provinces of Abra and Apayao comprise more than 43% of the region’s total land area while the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao and Kalinga make up another 45% and Mt. Province contributes the remaining balance of less than 12%. According to the DENR-CAR as of 2014, the region has 272,914.5981 hectares of Alienable and Disposable Land, 1,553,599 hectares of forest land and 170,016.2132 hectares of agricultural land.

History and Legal Basis

Pre-Colonial Times
Generally there are no written records of the history of the Cordillera Administrative Region before the arrival of the Spaniards except the few accounts from Chinese merchants who traded with the people of the Cordillera before the Spanish colonial era. Most anthropologists and historians believe that the people of the Cordilleras have been in the Cordillera Mountains with their own cultural laws and political divisions more than 3,000 years ago. However, written records came only in the late 16th century most of which were written by the Spaniards and are based on how the Spaniards perceived the people of the Cordillera during that time. Historical records show that even before the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, the people of Abra were already engaged in agriculture, production and trade. The presence of antique porcelain ware, jars and gongs indicate that the Abreños were once directly or indirectly engaged in trade with other oriental countries most presumably China. The Abra River was the primary means of transportation in and out of the province. It is through it that traders from Vigan and other provinces brought in their products for trade and commerce. The people of Apayao are called “Isnag”. Foreign anthropologists who have conducted extensive ethnographic studies on the early inhabitants of the area have various assumptions on the origin of the term “isnag”. Some say that the town of Pudtol used to be inhabited in colonial times by “people who speak the Isnag language and where classified as “Filipinos who have become to be called a cultural minority”. All other people living outside of the hinterlands who speak other vernaculars are “simply called Filipinos”.The apparent focus of early studies on ethnic cultures in the islands renewed the emphasis on classifying the inhabitants into minority and majority cultural groups. The purpose of this was administrative in nature. The Spanish and American regimes found that Filipinos along the coastal places and lowlands were easily brought into folds of the law under these respective times. Those living in the mountains and hills were rebellious and oppose to the presence of foreign invaders in their midst.

Spanish Colonial Times
The Spaniards were able to reach the Cordillera through the Ilocos region in the late 1500s. In 1572 the Spaniard, under the leadership of General Juan de Salcedo started exploring portions of the Cordillera Region in search for the fabled “gold of the Igorots.” The Spanish government first established the encomienda (district) of El Abra de Vigan (Opening of Vigan) under the comandancia politico-militar (province) of Ilocos. They were then able to establish missions in Bangued and started spreading Catholicism in the area. Meanwhile, the first reported Spanish expedition to Apayao was made in 1663. This was followed 122 years later in 1875 by the Spanish explorer Guillermo Galvez who was sent from Cagayan Valley to suppress a revolt. In 1620, drawn by the fabled gold of the Igorots, the Spaniards explored Benguet reaching as far as La Trinidad. In 1624 a Spanish explorer only known with the name Don Q.M. Quirante reached a place in the Cordillera region, which is at present the municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet, in search of gold. Don Q.M. Quirante failed in his quest to discover the source of the fabled Igorot gold due to the cunning deception of the natives. The accounts of his arrival, however, became one of the earliest agricultural records concerning the region. Don Q.M. Quirante described the food of the natives as consisting of cassava, sweet potato, gabi, beans, and tomatoes. Rice at that time was cultivated only for the production of rice wine used during rituals. According to Howard T. Fry, in his book The History of Mountain Province, Spanish records narrate a series of attempts to subjugate the people of the Cordillera as far as what is now the province of Mt. Province. In 1663, the Spaniards reached Kayan in Tadian, Mountain Province however, the colonizers were not able to stay long in the region because the Igorot tribes frequently attacked them. Another exploratory attempt was launched by the Spaniards in 1665 but again failed due to the resistance of the natives.

In the early 18th century, the old Ilocos Province was divided into two: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. Abra was then a part of Ilocos Sur until it was declared a politico-military province under a Spanish Military Governor, Captain Ramos Tajonero, in October 1846. The Spaniards' attempt to conquer the Igorots intensified again in the 19th century. This time they were able to establish the comandancia of Kiangan in Ifugao in 1841 and of Abra in 1846 separating it from Ilocos Sur. The districts of Amburayan (covering parts of Ilocos Sur and Apayao), Lepanto (encompassing parts of Mountain Province) and Benguet (which was placed under La Union comandancia and contains La Trinidad Valley and adjacent areas) were also created in 1846.

In 1847, the Tiagan comandancia was created which include the boundaries of present day Abra, Ilocos Sur, and Mountain Province. The district of Lepanto which covered the area from Mainit to Banaue became a province in 1852 while Benguet, which covered the areas from Buguias to Itogon, followed suit in 1854. In 1859, the comandancias of Magaogao in Kalinga and Bontoc in Mountain Province were created. It was also the same year when the Saltan commandancy, covering the areas from Pinukpuk to Tinglayan in Kalinga, was established.

In 1889, the Spaniards changed the name Saltan to Itawes comandancia and included Conner, Tabuk and Paracelis under its rule. They also re-established the comandancia of Kiangan which took Banaue from the Bontoc comandancia and covered the whole Ifugao area. Meanwhile, Lubuagan, Tanudan and Tinglayan became part of the Bontoc comandancia.

In 1891, the Spaniards created the province of Kayapa from the boundaries of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya by elevating Amburayan from being a district. The Spanish government though was able to enter some portions of the Cordillera Region, failed to totally subjugate the people of the Cordilleras within its 333 years of reign in the Philippines which ended in 1889.

American Colonial Era
The Americans officially arrived in the Cordillera in 1900 when two members of the Taft Commission and a party consisting of a meteorologist, two military doctors, an engineer railroad executive, and a military escort came to look at Baguio as a possible site of a summer capital and sanatorium for the emergent American Colonial rule in the Philippines. Worcester, a member of the Commission and the leader of the trip heard about Benguet and Baguio from a Spanish officer whom he met in Mindoro earlier during the waning days of the Spanish regime when Worcester came to the Philippines for zoological fieldwork. Worcester was then a young member of the zoology faculty at the University of Michigan. Impressed by Baguio’s temperate climate, location and beauty, he and Wright recommended its immediate development as a summer capital.

The Americans then proceeded to establish political re-organization in the region. On June 1901, they created the Amburayan Province which occupies vast part of what is now Mountain Province. On February 28, 1905 the Philippine Commission enacted Act 1306 annexing the province of Abra to Ilocos Sur to resolve financial and economic problems. Then in 1902, they established the Lepanto-Bontoc Province and in 1905, Abra was annexed to the bigger Ilocos Sur. On August 18, 1908, through Act No. 1876, the sub-province of Apayao (which was then part of Cagayan), and the provinces of Benguet, Amburayan, Lepanto-Bontoc, Kiangan (Ifugao) and Itawes (Kalinga) were solidified under the newly created province of Mountain Province. In September 1, 1909 Baguio City was declared as a chartered city paving the way to the realization of the American government’s vision to turn Baguio into health resort for the American soldiers and civilian employees and resting place from the sweltering heat of the lowland. The creation of good roads leading to the city also encouraged the establishment of mining firms in the region.

On March 1917, Act No. 2683 was promulgated re-creating the province of Abra and separating it from Ilocos Sur. The last re-organization conducted by the Americans took place in 1920 when the western border of Mountain Province was pushed eastward. In effect, the entire sub-provinces of Amburayan and Lepanto were dissolved. The Amburayan towns and villages were transferred to the provinces of Ilocos Sur and La Union while Lepanto areas were integrated to the sub-provinces of Benguet, Bontoc, and Ilocos Sur. The boundary also resulted to the transfer of some Benguet towns to the provinces of Ilocos Sur and La Union.

Philippine Independence up to Present
The political division in the Cordillera as left by the Americans in 1945 remained the same for 21 years. Change took place only when RA No. 4695 was passed on June 18, 1966 dividing the old Mountain Province into four provinces namely, Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, and Kalinga-Apayao.

In 1972, under President Marcos' Integrated Reorganization Plan, Kalinga-Apayao and Ifugao became part of the Cagayan Valley Region (Region 2) with Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Batanes while Mountain Province, Benguet and Abra were fused with Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan and La Union to form the Ilocos Region (Region 1).

The clamor to have a separate region for the Cordillera was granted when Pres. Corazon C. Aquino signed EO No. 220 on July 15, 1987. The order joined the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao, Mountain Province and the chartered city of Baguio into the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). EO No. 220 was supposed to facilitate the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordillera, however, subsequent bills passed by Philippine Congress were rejected in plebiscites. In effect, Cordillera remains an administrative region until the present. On February 14, 1995, through RA No. 7878, Apayao and Kalinga were made separate provinces increasing the number of CAR provinces to six.

Etymology of the Names of Provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region
The province of Abra was named after the Spanish word “Abrir”, which means “to open” since access to the province was only through a tunnel connecting it to the province of Ilocos Sur. The Province of Apayao, on the other hand, got its name from the warm water of the rivers that interweave in the region where most of the early inhabitants settled. The life of the early Iyapayaos has much to do with the rivers in fact the name Apayao is a hispanized version of the Isneg word “apayaw” meaning “negotiable river”. Moreover, many of their communities are named after the streams that are near to them. Though the early people of Apayao do not live on the river flats but on the mountain sides for safety, the rivers serve vital roles in their survival. It is their source of food and water and much of their transportation is on the streams and the men are expert boatmen and raftsmen.

Meanwhile, the province of Benguet got its name from what is now the municipality of La Trinidad. The present day capital town was then a thriving settlement at the crossroads to the lowland trading sites during the period of Spanish expeditions. According to Spanish accounts La Trinidad was then a settlement around a lake alive with wildlife, wallowing carabaos dotted with patches of taro, rice, gabi and camote. In one expedition, a curious Spanish conquistador who saw this settlement noted that the people wore cloth coverings wrapped around their head several times. When he inquired about it, the native explained that the heavy head covering which the people wore as protection from the searing cold and winds is termed “benget”. The Spanish, with his western accent, mispronounced “benget” as “benguet”. In time, it eventually became a general reference to the territories of the the Ibaloi, Kankanaey, Kalangoya, and other minor tribes.

The name Ifugao is derived from the word “ipugo” and is composed of the word “pugo” meaning “hill” and the prefix “i” meaning “from” which when literally translated is “a person from the hills.” The Spaniards changed Ipugo to Ifugaw, the Americans made the last change in the word to the current name Ifugao. The name “Kalinga”, on the other hand, is believed to be derived from the Ibanag and Gaddang languages where the word “kalinga” means enemy, fighter or headhunter. In the past when tribal wars and headhunting were prevalent, the areas of present day Cagayan and Isabela, where the Ibanags and Gadangs live, were headhunting grounds of the tribes from what is now the province of Kalinga. As a result the Ibanags and Gadangs labeled the headhunters as their enemies earning them the name “kalinga”. However anthropologists Billiet and Lambrecht (1970) believed that there is no geographic or ethnic basis to the ascription of the term “kalinga” to the people of what is now province of Kalinga yet the term has become the official ethnic name accepted even by the natives themselves.

Mountain Province, the only province in the Philippines named in English, retained the name of the province created under Act No. 1876 passed on August 18, 1908 by the Philippine Commission. Mountain Province back then covered what are now the provinces of Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mt. Province. The Americans used the term Mt. Province to refer to the large mountainous area in the northern Luzon highlands, majority of which comprise the Cordillera Administrative Region. On June 18, 1966 RA No. 4695 was passed dividing Mountain Province into four separate provinces, the sub-province of Bontoc, which was elevated as one of the four new provinces, retained the name "Mountain Province" and is being used up to the present.

The word “cordillera” is a Spanish word which means “mountain chain” and is derived from the Spanish word “cordilla” meaning “string" or "rope", first used in 1704 as a reference to the mountainous region. In the field of geology the term “cordillera” refers to a long and wide chain of mountains, especially the main mountain range of a large land mass. It can include the valleys, basins, rivers, lakes and plateaus between parallel chains of a single mountain system, or they can consist solely of a string of connected mountain peaks. The Spanish conquistadors who were sent for expeditions in the northern portions of the Philippines referred to the mountainous regions of northern Luzon as “cordillera.” The region officially got its name when the 1987 Philippine Constitution mentioned under Section 1, Article X, that “there shall be created an autonomous region in the Cordilleras.” The said provision of the Constitution was further actualized by Executive Order No. 220 of 1987 which created and named the region as Cordillera Administrative Region in July 15, 1987.