With a total population of about 65,000 (NSO 1980) the Bontoc (Bontok, Bontoc Igorot, Igorot, Guianes) are found in the Mountain Province of the Cordillera mountain ranges in the upper Chico river region. The group is more densely located in the municipalities of Bontoc (18,080), Sadanga (7,245), and Barlig (5,640). Five subgroupings are usually recognized by social scientists: (1) Central, (2) Talubin, (3) Barlig, (4) Lias, and (5) Kadaklan, based on dialectal differences. The culture is distinguished by the stonewalled rice terracing technology with the use of organic fertilizers—unique among ethnic groups in the country. Fields are irrigated through intricate canals channeling mountain streams, or through the use of raised wooden troughs, or even moved by hand. Rice, the principal crop, is rotated with sweet potato, corn, millet, and beans. The material culture is a generalized Cordillera stream distinguished by the use of pocket hats among the males, and the preference for the ax instead of the bolo as tool. The communities are organized about the village ward—ato—small political units or male council houses/dormitory/gathering places. Boys, traditionally sleep in these houses as soon as they can. Here they are introduced to male adult roles in the community. There are girl dormitories (olag) too under the care of elder women. Houses are usually built on the ground with stone and boards, topped by a steep pyramidal roof. Stonewalled pig pens are common.
The political structure is usually headed by individuals of economic and leadership distinction, mengal, with a large kin following. The position is not inherited. The prestige validating feat, sayam, is also indulged in by highly placed males to celebrate propitious events. Ritual celebrations are attended to by female ritual specialists who are generally mediums. Ritual feasts are usually accompanied by “boasting” by mengals around a ritual stone.