The Ethnohistory of the Karao (I-karao) of the Southern Cordillera, Northern Luzon



Discussions on ethnolinguistic groups in Benguet province usually focus on the two major ones, the Ibaloy and the Kankanaey. This is true in the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, and history. There is scant attention given to the “other” minority groups asserting their own distinct cultural identity in Benguet. This essay explores the identity and history of one of these “other” groups, the Karao, using oral tradition, Spanish ecclesiastical and government reports, and contemporary ethnographic and linguistic research reports. The essay situates the Karao into the geographic, linguistic, and historical landscape of the southern Cordillera and pursues the reasons why Karao should not be subsumed under Ibaloy. The essay also narrates and explains their origin, edafoan na Ikarao. The essay further locates the names Panuypuy and Ipanuypuy (Puypuy), an extinct village and Karao’s claimed progenitor respectively, in historical documents of the 17th to 20th century. Finally, I argue that the ethnographic and linguistic works helped in the development of Karao as a distinct ethnolinguistic identity separate from the Ibaloy. The passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Right Acts of 1997 also gave more agency to the Karao people in protecting their ancestral rights and cultural traditions and promoting their contemporary identity.

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