The indigenous body covering for the Ibaloi men was the kubal or bahag (G-String). The original kubal was called tinuto, after the name of a tree bark. It is of different types, depending on the social status of the wearer. The padasan is a black G-String used only by the rich. The kolibao has white and black colors in straight horizontal lines. The pinlak has plain white colors in straight horizontal lines. The sinalibubo has a combination of red, white and black thread linings. The younger people wore the lunas, a G-string of red or white color. Other than the wearing of a kubal, the Ibaloi men were naked.
The women are, as they were, better and more fully dressed. From the age of twelve years, the women wear a piece of cloth called libet or tapis and the kambal. The libet, which is literally full-waisted and long, is wrapped around the waist to serve as skirt. It is made of Ilocano, loom-woven material with colored stripes of red, green, black, yellow and white. The Ibaloi's favorite colors are green and yellow, and the rest are just are added. In most cases the colors run horizontally in parallel lines when the clothes are worn, producing a plaid effect that gives a pleasant impression of stability, solidity, and serenity. Sometimes the women wear the balkes, a kind of belt used to hold the libet in place.
For blouse or upper shirt, the women wear the kambal or sadey, or sadi. The sadi is a kind of jacket worn to complete the dress ensemble.
Sometimes the Ibalois wear a blanket flung over their shoulders like a shawl to keep themselves warm, especially during the cold season. These are called shindi or dil-li and tinwang for the common people. The rich ones wear what is called sinakwit and al-laddang.
For headwear the Ibaloi wears a turban-like piece. That of the men is called kundiman, while that of the women chengnget is of two varieties, the shinalibubo and the binayyek. These are pieces of bright-colored cloth, twisted and tied around the crown.
For body decoration, the women wear necklaces of beads and smaller ones around the head. They also wear gold earrings, armlets or bracelets, and leglets. To enhance their beauty, the women have their arms and legs tattoed. The tattoo on the bodes of the men are in effect records of their headhunting and battle exploits, which raise their prestige, especially among the women, and make them desirable and acceptable as husbands. The Ibaloi men used to carry spears, but these have been replaced generally by a long heavy bolo placed in a sheath carried by means of a belt.
Nabaloi is the word for the dialect of the Ibaloi. It is also called Inibaloy. Among the Ilocanos, the term means "language of strangers".
Otto Scheerer, a German scholar, has not found any evidence of Chinese influence as claimed in certain Spanish documents, but he did find in the Nabaloi some pure Japanese words, like karui (not heavy), takai (dear), and the name Sioco. He believes that the Nabaloi is composed of three elements -- Pangasinan, Ilocano, and the genuine Nabaloi. Pangasinan and Ilocano words that have infiltrated Nabaloi are, however, disfigured by the idiomatic pronuciation of the Ibaloi. Nabaloi is spoken only within the tribe. On official occasions and in conversation with outsiders, the Ibaloi uses Ilocano as medium of speech.
The Ibaloi does not pronounce the same word consistently. The word for "no" is sometimes heard as chi, nchi, or times aishi, but seldom the correct form anchi which is the andi in Pangasinan and hindi in Tagalog. Another difficulty encountered by students of the Ibaloi language is the fact that different valley communities do not employ the same term for one particular thing. This is noted by Scheerer even in the same rancheria or settlement.
The following observations are culled from the scholarly study of Sheerer. The letter b is pronounced as is. In some words, however, like budai (land, soil, country) and balei (house), the b is heard as f.
The letter d in the Ilocano words dalan (road), adalem (deep), dila (tongue), dua (two), and others is converted to ch; thus, chalan, achalem, chila, chua. Still there are many words that retain the sound of d. The Nabaloi d stands sometimes for 1 in other dialects. Mabadin (possible) is the Ilocano (mabalin). Idoko is Iloko, Manida is Manila. Chukudan (bedstead) is the Pangasinan dukulan. D is added before the sound of y, as adyab from the Iloko ayab (call), dyo from yo (your) in Iloko.
The letter e is pronounced open and broad, but it is usually rendered with the nasal sound of u, similar to oe. Thus, the name Benguet is pronounced by natives as Bengngoet; and the Iloko ules (blanket, shawl) is heard as uloes.
F is used indifferently as f or p. One may say apil or afil (different). Rice wine is heard as tapui or tafei. As in other Philippine dialects, g is always hard and ng is nasal. There is no aspirate h in Nabaloi. There are no J; Juan is pronouced as Kuan. The Nabaloi l is pronounced as in Spanish; chala (blood), chila (tongue).
There is no ll sound. The Ibaloi converts ll to ldy. The Spanish silla is heard as sildya. M and N are pronounced in the usual manner. The Spanish letter N (enye) is non-existent. O is heard sometimes as pure and at other times as u, as asu for aso (dog). P retains its pure sound in some words and passes into f in others. There is no Q in Nabaloi. R is pronounced softly. In borrowed words, the r becomes l; as chala from the Iloko dara. Not much difference is noted in the use of S, T, and U. X has the sound of CH; thus Ixamen (mat) is heard as Ichamen, puxau (hawk) as puchau.
Backward as the Ibalois were compared to their Christian brothers in the lowlands, they have developed an oral literature of their own. They have riddles for fun and fables for entertainment. They also have short stories and legends. The riddles and fables are not just problems and animal stories. They reflect the societal experience of the Ibalois. Many of their legends pertain to their mythical world and reflect the influence of their beliefs and practices. The origin of the world, the beginning of man and woman, the derivation of the names of municipalities, barrios, and other place names. as well as of plants and trees are the subjects of their legends.
The Ibaloi stories are short and simple, each with a clear plot. The Ibalois have not thought of classifying their narratives. However, stories handed down from generation to generation are called Ul-ulit. The term ul-ulit, which is also an Ilocano word, refers to things that are repeated time after time. As used by the Ibaloi, the word means "twice told tales retold manyfold".
Their poetry consists mostly of songs, ballads, elegies and prayers. They may be hunting songs, war songs, love songs, feast songs, dirges, lamentations for the dead. For epic, their Kabuniyan and Bindian rank with the Lam-ang of the Ilocanos, the Hudhud of the Ifugaos, and the Lumalindao of the Gaddangs.