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THE COPPER TOWN OF THE PHILIPPINES                                


In the olden days, Mankayan was a thickly forested area wherein hunters from neighboring places frequented in search for wild animals. 

According to stories of the old folks passed from generation to generation, there were hunters from “Awa”, Buguias who pursued and harassed a deer in the thick forest of Nangkayang. The deer fell into a deep ravine where the hunters found it. They spent the night roasting and feasting on the deer meat leaving their fire burning through the night. The following morning, the hunters were surprised to find out that the rocks they used to elevate their fire were malleable. They brought home samples of these rocks and fashioned tools and artifacts out of it and bartered them with commodities coming from the lowlands. 

Rich Spanish businessmen from the lowlands took notice of these products and asked the native traders where they got their copper. The native traders simply replied “Nangkayang” which means way up to the eastern mountains. “Nankayang” eventually became “Mankayan”.


The origin of Mankayan shows a close link to the development of mines in the area. Resident natives referred to the area as “Magambang” which means the area is rich of “Gambang”, the local term for copper. 

Mankayan was then a barrio (Rancheria) of the Province of Lepanto, with Cervantes as the provincial capital. A.J. Cleveland’s translation of the Spanish records revealed the names of the governadorcillos of the different Rancherias in the area. Some of them were Tibaldo of Mankayan, Mendoza of Tubo, Lancungan of Balili, Bauaqui of Data, Tambana of Bulalacao, Paduan of Tabbac and Bagnagan of Patpat (Eveland 1905). 

During the early years of the American regime, Mankayan became part of Lepanto-Bontoc Province in 1903. 

In 1913, Mankayan was established as a municipal district in the sub-province of Benguet and as such came the official recognition of its first local government executives. 

On June 16, 1950, pursuant to Republic Act 1302, Mankayan District was converted into a regular municipality. At present, it is among the 13 municipalities of the Province of Benguet when the old Mountain Province was sub-divided into four provinces on June 18, 1966 through Republic Act No. 4695.


The history of Mankayan was greatly associated and influenced by several factors such as the discovery of copper and gold, immigration due to epidemic, trade, and inter-tribal conflicts.

Mankayan was first reached by the Spaniards in 1668 when a group led by Admiral Pedro Duran de Montforte, composed of 100 Spaniards, 2,000 Indios and 3 Agustinian friars ventured to discover the mines.

Sometime in 1833, Galvey was able to pinpoint the Igorot Mines in Gambang, Suyoc and Mankayan. He sent samples to the Spanish authorities in Spain prompting the Spanish Queen to issue a Royal Decree creating a commission led by Sainz de Baranda to undertake the exploration of the mines.

On February 3, 1850, Engineer Don Antonio Hernandez made    an  investigation on  the ore deposits, mapped  out  the route  and  collected samples which  confirmed  the  existence   of copper in Mankayan.

On March 26, 1856, Senior Tomas Balbas y Castro applied for the demarcation of the properties and on July 1856 reached an agreement with the different Rancherias paying an amount of Five Hundred Pesos (P500) and guaranteed employment of natives in the mines at regular fixed rate. Such agreement, approved by the government, led to the creation of   a stock company “Sociedad Minero-Metalorgical Cantabro Filipina-de Mancayan” in 1862. Senior Balbas was appointed director-general of the company. (Eveland 1905:19).

Sometime in 1864, the Spanish   Government issued   a   mining regulation   to      govern the operation of the mines in the Philippines. Governadorcillos  Tibaldo  of  Rancheria Mankayan, Mendoza of Tubo, Lancungan  of Balili, Bayabau  of  Bato,  Tambana of Bulalacao, Padduan of Tabbac  and  Bagnaken  of Patpat became signatories to a mining agreement  with the Spaniards.

On January 1900, after the Spanish-American war, a group of Americans reached Mankayan and saw the rich mineral ore.  Among the group was Leonard Lehlbech who conducted examination of the area and its ores. This venture was later made successful by John Muller and Victor Lednickey.

In 1932, the Halsema Road was opened to vehicular traffic primarily to make the mines accessible.

The mining boom in Mankayan began in 1933. Marsman and Company formed the Suyoc Consolidated   Mining Company.  American Corporate led by    Victor Lednickey established the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company on September 26, 1936.

In 1942, when Japan invaded the Philippines, Japanese soldiers took immediate control of the mines in Mankayan due to the importance of copper needed to supply the armaments of the Japanese Imperial Army.    The Mitsui Mining Company of Japan opened the Suyoc and Lepanto   Mines and renamed it as the “Mitsui Mankayan Copper Mines”. They operated the mines until 1945.

After the war, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company assumed the mining operations and started rehabilitation works on the mines.

Since then the town of Mankayan grew and developed alongside the two companies. Projects by both the government and the private sectors were initiated. The area which was once a thickly forested sanctuary of wild animals has now become a complex community.