According to the legend, Limahong and his band of pirates sought refuge in the Cordilleras and married the local women. This supposedly explains why a lot of Igorots have some East Asian features. See above photos for instance.
It would be cool to have a pirate for a forefather but the legend is, apparently, only a legend. From the writings of Francisco Antolin in 1789 (translated by William Henry Scott):
1574: At the end of this year the famous pirate Limahon came with many sampans and armed Chinese to take Manila which he was unable to do due to the resistance of the Spaniards. He had to retreat and seek refuge in Pangasinan, and they also drove him from there.
The histories of Father Colin, Father Gaspar, and the Franciscans, refer to this whole affair with considerable detail, and none of them says that any of these Chinese took refuge farther inland in the mountains of the Igorots, but rather that those who survived at liberty took to sea in their sampans, besides some 52 captives and prisoners in the fort in Pangasinan, who returned to China from Manila with the Chinese merchants.
An early account by Father Chirino printed in Rome in 1604 also recounts this event, and says that after the few Spaniards of Manila had vanquished the enemy Limahon, who had brought more than a thousand warriors with him, they made him retreat to Pangasinan, and even from there he was forced to flee from us with light boats which they carried to the sea on their shoulders, leaving the heavier ones in the river and some spoils in their forts and camps, which our forces took.
Thus there is no basis in the early histories for the idea that the Igorots are descended from these Chinese of the pirate Limahon.
So I guess that settles it. But, then again, one can argue that just because no Spanish writer “says that any of these Chinese took refuge farther inland in the mountains of the Igorots” does not mean that it didn’t happen. After all, school history books don’t mention that Gabriela Silang is part Tingguian but this doesn’t mean that she is not. And it’s not like a pirate running away from authorities would shout, “Hey, I’m going to hide in the Cordilleras.”
Anyways, what we find most interesting in Antolin’s writing is the fact that, apparently, questions regarding the Igorot-Chinese link is not a recent “modern day” issue (Read this blog for instance) but dates back to as early as the 1700s.