State of Cordillera

Cordillera Central, the Philippines' biggest mountain range
(photo from
Cordillera, a prospective, landlocked state found in the Cordillera Central, the largest mountain range in the Philippines.

History  The first Cordilleran province to take shape was Abra, then called El Abra de Vigan, "the Opening of Vigan," in respect to the valley that opens into the rich basin comprising most of the region. Since then, more provinces (commandancias, to be exact, military outposts which could later evolve into provinces) sprouted along the Cordillera; but as the Spaniards have not exactly succeeded in conquering the natives, these provinces were ill-organized, unsteady, and kept changing. Even so, by the time the Americans arrived, the provinces of Ifugao, Kalinga and Bontoc were already in existence. Not to be left out, of course, were the provinces of Lepanto and Amburayan, although no longer extant today.

Inadvertently or not, the Americans had gone nearest to creating a one Cordillera. In 1908, with the sole exception of Abra, which had been annexed to Ilocos Sur only to be re-separated around 10 years later, and the inclusion of Benguet and Apayao, which are both ethnically different, all the Cordillera provinces were amalgamated into one, the Mountain Province (English for Cordillera). Unfortunately, in 1920, on the sheer basis of economic considerations, the western borders of this single province were pushed eastward, causing the dissolution of Lepanto and Amburayan, ironically after a proposal to carve out the twin subprovinces as one province was seriously considered. Still, while they have been broken up among their neighbors — Ilocos Sur, La Union and Benguet — the people in this parts remain, until today, a distinct Cordilleran ethnic group, deprived of a province of their own.

The remaining subprovinces of the Mountain Province regained their provincial status 45 years after Philippine Independence, with Kalinga yet to split about 30 years later. Then Marcos rose to power and these provinces were cut between the Ilocos and the Cagayan Valley Regions. Pleas for unification were left unanswered until Cory, who regrouped the Cordillera provinces, this time including Abra but without Lepanto and Amburayan, as a single administrative region.

Thereafter, moves to convert what is left of Cordillera into an autonomous region were made in Congress, but were all rejected in plebiscites. Apparently, while they cry for a greater freedom to self-determination, the natives of the Mountains choose to remain part of the broader Filipino nation: something federalism answers.