Regardless of the various theories as to the migratory origin of the different tribes living on the Cordillera, Ibaloi tradition pinpoints Kabayan as the ancestral home of the Ibalois. There in Kabayan they were created by their God Kabunian, and from there they spread out to Bokod, Trinidad, Tublay, and part of Kapangan and Atok to inherit the earth.
In their mountain abode they lived as free men spared from the blood and thunder, the sound and fury of the historic epic unfolding in the lowlands exposed as these were to ever-increasing contacts with the external world of the Chinese, Malays, Indonesians, Japanese, Hindus, Arabs, Spaniards and other peoples.
In the relative isolation of their ethinic bailiwick, the Ibalois like other mountain tribes, developed a dual ethos -- a morality for "insiders" and another for "outsiders". The insiders formed a human society that was held together by a feeling of oneness, of belongingness, of mutual help and protection for group survival. Any outsider, on the other hand, was a busul, meaning an enemy. Any one who did not belong to the group was always held suspect. Thus the Apayaos were feuding with the Kalingas, the Kalingas with the Ifugaos, the Ifugaos with the Bontocs, and the Bontocs with the Ibalois. The least warlike of all the tribes, the most peaceful and docile among them were the Ibalois.
A typical house of the poorest Ibaloi class is built squat on the ground. It is made of a low-hanging heavy thatch of cogon grass. The door is a small round opening, so small that one has literally to crawl to get in or out. The low roof and small opening serve to keep the house warm and comfortable. Such a structure is a practical necessity in a cold region that lies on the path of typhoons and rains.
Some bigger houses are provided with a wooden platform about two feet high outside the house but close to the wall. Members of the family and neigbors sit on the platform with raised folded legs, their buttocks restin on the platform and their backs leaning against the wall of the house.
Ibalois with exposure to the way of life of the lowlanders have adopted a modified house design. The house is generally raised on the ground on four, six or more posts depending on the size of the house. The structure is made of pine wood laboriously split and cleaned of its trunk. These processed woods are called sinapsapan and the process of building the house is called pinadek (nailed with woods and every part of it filtered to each other). The completed house is called dema. A dema usually has two doors and a windiw and it is a multipurpose structure. It seves as a storage for valuables, a kitchen, a dining room, a bedroom, or a discussion room. As one ascends the teytey (staircase) and enters a house, he will find the weapons in one corner, the dresses and blankets in another corner, the working materials in another and so forth.
The larger houses are for the affluent. They are wider at the ceiling than at the floor area. They look like the houses of the other mountain ethnic groups, but the Ibaloi house has a longer ridge pole to support the four-sided roof. The houses are usually clustered on mountain ridfes or knolls commanding the approaches.
However, the skilled workers of the sinapsapan and the pinadek are disappearing, driven to oblivion by the intrusion of new technology from the lowlands. The thatched roof and walls have, in several instances, been replaced by corrugated galvanized iron, which is preferred because of its durability and strength to withstand the onslaught of typhoons.
The typical Ibaloi house is almost bare. There are no ornaments inside. The furniture is simple and few. THe usual pieces are the bakong, or clothes container, and the saraw, a kind of expensive jar. There are no chairs or tables, except in the houses of the rich families. Even with the rich, the use of furniture and ornaments, especially before the advent of American rule over the Islands, was very sparing.
The Ibaloi has a frugal meal, but such simplicity does not in any way prevent him from enjoying what to him is a delicacy, a product of his culinary art. His favorite dish is called baksay. This is gabi leaves rolled up and boiled without salt or oil. It is eaten with strong sili, the small hot-red variety of chili. The dukto, or camote, is also prepared boiled. The Ibalois have a kind of camote wine called sabeng, which is not intended to be drunk but to be used as vinegar. The sabeng is used in cooking dyodyo (mudfish) or the paident and bunog (tadpole taken from the river)
Because they have no knowledge of frying or other cooking techniques, the Ibalois of old just boil the materials for their viand, be they cabbage, pechay, or camote leaves which they call unsek. In some cases, they would also mix in fresh meat to add aroma to the food or add dried meat, kiniosing, which has been smoked for several days.
Their main food is camote. Few Ibalois cultivated rice farms probably due to the rocky character of their mountain environment. But the more important reason is that since time immemorial the Ibalois would just barter their gold for their needs. Whenever necessity arose or when supply was exhausted, all that the Ibaloi had to do was go to the mine area, get some gold nuggets, take them to the lowlands, and exchange them for rice, salt, pigs, cows and carabaos, as well as clothes. Because of the ease by which he could fill his needs in life, he felt no compulsion to work on a farm. Similarly, the Ibaloi woman did not find any need to weave cloths because she could have them at any time by bartering the gold nuggets from river beds.
Generally, the natives cook their food by linambung (boiling) or by kinadut (roasting). The pinikpikan is a special dish of chicken served with rice. Pikpik means "to give a series of light blows", and pinikpikan signifies "in the manner or process of pikpik".
Preparing a pinikpikan calls for some kind of ritual. The chicken is beaten lightly with a stick all over the body to swell the capillaries and allow the blood to clot inside. The beating continues until the chicken dies. This manner of preparing the chicken gives it a better flavor, a somewhat exotic taste that only the mountain people know how to obtain.
The dead chicken is placed over a fire or charcoal embers to burn the feathers. The process is done slowly scraping off the burned feather from time to time, until the chicken is done. It is then opened up to remove the entrails. Then it is sliced in small pieces and boiled with native condiments. The dish is served in a bowl from which the soup is sipped directly without the aid of any spoon.
The most popular of all preparations is the pulutang-aso. In the early days of Baguio, there was a thriving dog trade at the stone building in the marketplace. The Igorots are fond of eating dog meat, especially the black ones, because of a belief in their medicinal value. The meat is boiled to make it soft. Then it is sauteed. Native spices are added and the pulutang-aso is ready for serving. The best dog meat recipes, today according to gourmets, are served at a drinking pub near the provincial capitol of Benguet at La Trinidad, about five minutes ride from downtown Baguio.