LGU Balbalan in History

[Note: What follows is a final draft of my research on the history of LGU Balbalan in time for the municipality’s centennial. Corrections are welcome. – sms]

Balbalan is one of the eight municipalities of the Province of Kalinga. It is subdivided into 14 barangays, namely: Ababa-an, Balantoy, Balbalan Proper, Balbalasang, Buaya, Dao-angan, Gawa-an, Mabaca, Maling, Pantikian, Poblacion (Salegseg), Poswoy, Talalang, and Tawang. This municipal district draws its name from an ancient practice.

It is said that war parties coming from certain areas in northern Kalinga (probably, the ancient region of Banao) used to meet by a creek when mappnig out their plan of attack against or when regrouping after attacking a certain village. Since they would always wash (balbal, in the local language) their blood-stained bodies and weapons in the creek, the place and its adjacent areas came to be known as “Balbalan.” (DILG-CAR 1999, 307). That Balbalan has left its tribal war days is dramatized by the selection of one of its ethnic sub-groups, the Banao, as “the most peaceful tribe in Kalinga.” (Dannang 1994, 5).

Spanish Era: At the Edge of the World

The Spaniards made at least 10 incursions [1] into the land of the Kalingas from the early 1600s to the late 1800s, four of which were made from the west (Abra) primarily targetting the regions of Banao and Guinaang (Scott 1974, 2; Bacdayan 1967, 17; Lawless 1975, 43-45). Although they succeeded around the mid-1800s in establishing a telegraph station in Balbalasang (where, incidentally, they appointed the noted Banao leader Juan Puyao as a gobernadorcillo or councilor) and subsequently hacking out an Ilocos-Abra-Kalinga-Cagayan trail, they failed to establish a total politico-military foothold in Kalingaland (cf. Scott 1974, 249; Sugguiyao 1990, 15; Bacdayan, 17-18; Dozier 1966, 29-32).

It is safe to say, then, that prior to the establishment of American rule in Kalinga, the ethnic sub-groups covered by the present geopolitical configuration of Balbalan were, like other Kalinga communities at that time, organized according to an indigenous system or concept of local governance operating within a “bilateral kinship group” circumscribed by semi-permanent territorial boundary. [2] (Barton 1949, 32; cf. Dozier 1967, 12 f; Sugguiyao, 4 8)

This period saw the rise of several community leaders often mentioned in Balbalan orature: Sagaoc, Balutoc, Masadao, Gaddawan, Dawegoy, Lang-ayan, Bayudang, Gammong, et al.

American Era: Toward the Mainstream

When the Americans imposed their system of government over the archipelago, the land of the Kalingas became one of the highlights of their so-called “pacification campaign.” On 18 August 1907, Kalinga, then a sub-province of Lepanto-Bontoc, came under the control of Lt. Gov. Walter Franklin Hale who established his seat of government in Lubuagan where he organized the sub-province into four districts: Tinglayan-Tanudan; Balbalan-Pasil; Pinukpuk-Tobog (Tabuk), and Liwan (Rizal). (Sugguiyao, 16)

Exactly a year later, Act 1870 of the Philippine Commission carved the old Mountain Province out of noerthern Luzon with Kalinga as one of tis five sub-provinces. Kalinga was immediately reorganized into five municipal districts — Lubuagan (including Tanudan and Pasil), Balbalan (including Balinciagao), Tabuk (with Liwan or Rizal), Tinglayan, and Pinukpuk — each lead by presidents. Among these municipal chiefs was Puyao [3] who served in that capacity for close to 24 years under five subprovincial chief executives: Walter F. Hale (1907-1915), Alex F. Gilfilan (1915), Samuel E. Kane (1915-1919), Tomas Blanco (1918-1923), and Nicasio Balinag (1923-1936). Puyao did not run for office during the first local elections in the area in 1934, and was succeded by Awingan. Three years later, municipal chief executives became known as “Municipal District Mayors.” (De Los Reyes 1986, 28; Sugguiyao, 22; Jenista, 70,259)

Little is known of the political organization of the municipality during the Japanese interlude, except that ain 1942 a Japanese garrison was established in Balbalan, as well as in Lubuagan and in Tabuk.

Post-War Era: Charting a Course

The old Mountain Province was regularized as a “first class province” in 1959 and new local elections were subsequently held. In Balbalan, Pedro Sagalon was elected mayor (Sugguiyao, 23). From the birth of the new Mountain Province on 18 June 1966 to 1988, there is a dearth of records on the succession of leadership in Balbalan. From 1988 to the present, however, government records list the following as mayors: Leonardo Banganan (1988-1992), Edward Calumnag (1992-1995), Rosendo Dakiwag (1995-2001), and Allen J.C. Mangaoang (2001 to present).4

The present leadership of Balbalan has special significance to those who feared that the death of Juan Puyao in 1948 meant the end of his political bloodline. In the words of Kalinga historian Miguel Sugguiyao (1990, 39):

The late Juan Puyao was not only recognized as a prominent leader in his own Balbalan corner but also in the whole Kalinga as well as the whole undivided Mountain Province. Since his demise in 1948 to the presnt (1982) no one among the descendants of the late Ex-President Juan Puyao has gained the limelight in Kalinga leadership.

Today, the spotlight is once again trained on Puyao whose spirit lives on in one of his great grandsons who, it is hoped, will continue to build on the achievements of his illustrious ascendant as he leads the cahrting of a new course for Balbalan — and perhaps for Kalinga in the near future — in a new era of governance.



[1] In The Kalinga Hilltribe of the Philippines (1990, 13-15), Sugguiyao lists three, but a comparative study of available documents as cited reveals more than that number.

[2] Barton referred to these territories as “regions,” which is perhaps roughly equivalent to what the German traveler Alexander Schadenberg (1886) called “province,” as in “Banao province” (Scott 1975, 131). Note, however, that, according to Scott in another work (1974, 313), there was no such village as Banao, although “people from Inalangan down the Saltan River to Salegseg referred to themselvfes as Banao people.” Schadenberg also mentioned a “Chief Liagao” in the rancheria of Balbalasang (Scott 1975, 133).

[3] Along with Lubuagan Presidente Antonio Canao, Puyao’s peerless leadership and his contribution to the success of American rule in Kalinga prompted former congressman of the old Mountain Province Alfredo Lam-en to file a bill seeking to rename Balbalan and Lubuagan “Puyao” and “Canao,” respectively (Finin 2005, 194).

Works Cited:


Bacdayan, Albert. The Peace Pact System of the Kalingas in the Modern World. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, Inc., 1967.

Barton, Roy F. The Kalingas: Their Institutions and Custom Law. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1949.

De Los Reyes, Angelo J. & Aloma M. De Los Reyes, eds. Igorot: A People Who Daily Touch the Earth and Sky. Vol. II. Baguio City: Cordillera Schools Group, 1986.

DILG-CAR. Cordillera Almanac Vol. 1 : Local Government Units. Baguio City: DILG-CAR, 1999.

Dozier, Edward P. Mountain Arbiters: The Changing Life of a Philippine Hill People. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 1966.

________________. The Kalinga of Northern Luzon, Philippines. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

Finin Gerard A. The Making of the Igorot: Contours of Cordillera Consciousness. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2005.

Jenista, Frank Lawrence. The White Apos: American Governors on the Cordillera Central. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987.

Lawless, Robert. The Social Ecology of the Kalingas of Northern Luzon. Ann Arbor, MI: Xerox University Microfilms, 1975.

Scott, William Henry, ed. German Travelers on the Cordillera (1860-1890). Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild, 1975.

_________________. The Discovery of the Igorots: Contacts with the Pagans of Northern Luzon. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1974.

Sugguiyao, Miguel. The Kalinga Hilltribe of the Philippines. Manila: ONCC, 1990.


Dannang, Noe. “The Rotary Way of Curbing Vindictive Killings.” The Highland Leader. October 1994, 5.

Scott, William Henry. “Notes on the History of the Mountain Provinces – IV.” University of Baguio Journal, IX-1 (1974): 1-4.


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