“This story happened during the American invasion of the Philippine archipelago, when the American colonizers were finally able to explore the depths of the Cordilleras.

One day, when American soldiers were exploring the heart of the Cordilleran mountains, they came to a place where a civilization was already thriving. They were surprised with what they saw as they never expected that an organized society would exist in the dense hearts of the forest.

Just as surprised as the Americans were, the men of the tribe, in their traditional garb, gathered around the strangers who have trespassed on their domain. Trying to establish diplomacy, the soldiers tried to communicate with these primitive individuals but their efforts were for naught. The natives, on the other hand, keenly studied these tall and fair-skinned and seemingly amiable trespassers.

Undaunted, the trespassers tried asking what the name of this strange place is. But seeing that their questions are not getting through, they tried to settle themselves down on the shades of the trees bordering the place.

When they’ve finally settled themselves down, they noticed some human bones on the outlying areas. Out of sheer curiosity, they started striking these bones on each other. With each strike, a cacophony of sounds was produced. “Tok tok tok.” And with each strike of these bones, an idea struck the American soldiers.

Then they thought, why not call this place “Bone-Tok”. This is a portmanteau of the two of the most compelling things they’ve witnessed in the area. From then on, they started referring to this place “Bone-Tok”, which, with the passage of time, revolved into “Bontoc” which is how the place is currently called. The rest, they say, is history.”

The Bontoc Valley, composed of the four central barangays of Samoki, Bontoc Ili, Poblacion and Caluttit, as seen from the view deck on the way to Guina-ang and Mainit.

None of this of course is true. 🙂  This is purely a product of my mom’s creative mind in response to an assignment I had when I was in Grade Three. We were assigned to share a legend to our classmates. Innocent kid that I was, I asked my mom for any legend that she has heard of. I never honestly thought that she’d be able to come up with something like this though:)

I gamely conveyed this legend-cum-story to my classmates and got some encouraging nods from my homeroom teacher. Later on, I would realize that the “bones” my mom was referring to were actually found in the neighboring town of Sagada, and not in Bontoc.

(I eventually added my own touches to my mom’s spur-of-the-moment story to somehow add some credibility to it :)).

Update: February 2, 2019

But, wait a minute, where did Bontoc really derive its name?

According to a government research document, the word “Bontoc” is derived from the two morphemes “bun” (heap) and “tuk” (top), which, taken together, means “mountains.”1

There is another “vaguer” version of where Bontoc derived its name. It is said that it came from the English word “Boondocks” which refers to the countryside. Ironically, if one is to check the genealogy of the word, one would learn that “boondocks” originated from the Filipino term “bundok” which means mountains.

Whichever version is more correct, the connection between Bontoc and mountains is undeniable. Oh well, my beloved hometown is nestled in the Cordilleras after all.


  1. https://nlpdl.nlp.gov.ph:81/CC01/NLP00VM052mcd/v1/v10.pdf

Disclaimer. I wanted to cite the specific book from which the original information was derived from (if there was). Unfortunately, the citation of sources in the research did not specify where it was derived (or it could be that it was a paraphrasing.