Meeting Apo Whang Od and My First Kalinga Tattoo


  1. Page 1 – Morning in Tabuk City
  2. Page 2 – Top Loading Kalinga Style
  3. Page 3 – The Hike to Buscalan Village and its Utter Danger
  4. Page 4 – The Butbut Tribe and the last Mambabatok of Kalinga
  5. Page 5 – A New Morning, A New Life

The Painful Night

Our newly inked batok started to swell on the first night. The pain was even greater if the area was accidentally touched While having dinner in Bulut’s abode, I finally met OliverLike his cousin, Oliver has a sun-kissed skin and a calming face. I greeted and introduced him to Randy and told him that he was our contact for this spontaneous trip. We also have a Canadian traveler joining us for the night, her name is Kim. Kim learned from Oliver that we just had our batok and she took pictures of it. We spent the night sharing stories together with Bulut’s family and Kim.

Around 2000H, my eyelids started to become heavy. I lied in prone position, shrouded myself with thin blanket and savored the coolness of the night. In a matter of minutes, I am already walking in dreamland.

A Morning of Freedom

The next morning, the sun started to paint the mountainous village of Buscalan. Clucks and crows echoed the whole place and seeing the majestic rice terraces from the balcony is a great luxury we ever had. I felt like a new person with this new tattoo inked by the last mambabatok of Kalinga. I felt like I’m a free person and my mind was enveloped with calmness.

Quick breakfast in Vista Resthouse Buscalan Kalinga

After our quick breakfast, we started packing our things. As a form of gratitude, we donated our caps to Oliver and Bulut. I saw their faces shifted to amazement while receiving our simple gifts. Even though this trip is short, it felt like we spent our stay here for days.

Bulut and his family in Buscalan Village Kalinga
With Bulut and his relative Joyce.

Selfie with the locals of Buscalan Village Kalinga

Hike back to turning point in Buscalan Village, Kalinga
(From Left to Right: Oliver, Kim, Bulut and Randy) – Taking a rest while hiking back to turning point

Hike back to turning point in Buscalan Village, Kalinga

Hike back to turning point in Buscalan Village, Kalinga
The hike back to turning point is easier.

Hike back to turning point in Buscalan Village, Kalinga

Majestic rice terraces of Kalinga

Mini Bus going to Bontoc Mountain Province

From their huts, we started our hike back to the turning point. From the turning point, a minibus is waiting for our departure going to Bontoc, Mountain Province. The ride is around two hours and the road is slithering like a snake.

From the turning point we met Kilian, he’s the guy being tattooed by Grace I mentioned earlier. Kilian is a backpacker from Spain and he’s been traveling around Southeast Asia for months. He saw us, Randy and I, climbing the steel ladder of the minibus. I told him that we’re going to ride on topload all the way to Bontoc. Without any hesitation, Kilian joined us. Surprisingly, I saw Kim climbing the steel ladder too. From there, we bid our sweetest farewell to the people of Buscalan. See you again Buscalan!

Mini bus top load going to Bontoc

Randy, Kim, Kilian and I shared stories while riding the minibus on topload. While viewing the endless mountain range, green rice fields with cool wind rushing through our faces, Kilian told me that of all the places he visited in Asia, the Philippines is the most beautiful. Hearing those words gave happiness to my heart.

Cordillera Mountain Range going to Bontoc, Mountain Province

Cordillera Mountain Range going to Bontoc, Mountain Province

Dangerous cliff going to Bontoc
The scenery from Tinglayan to Bontoc is more beautiful than in Tabuk City to Tinglayan but this route is more perilous.

Not minding the perilous and tortuous road going to Bontoc, we just enjoyed the amazing scenery of Cordillera.

Top loading a minibus to Bontoc Mountain Province

Tinglayan Kalinga

Top loading a minibus going to Bontoc, Mountain Province

The ride from Tinglayan to Bontoc is the most beautiful route I’ve ever seen. The place is saturated with towering mountains, perilous cliffs, tall trees and the Chico river flowing in the deep canyon. I have no words to express for the beauty we had experience. It’s simply amazing

Travelers and Backpackers in Bontoc Mountain Province
Touch down Bontoc, Mountain Province!

We arrived in Bontoc, Mountain Province around 1100H, from there we expressed our gratitude and farewell to Kim and Kilian.

This trip is truly memorable for me. I will never forget the people of Buscalan. They are all accommodating and friendly. They welcomed us with a full heart and let us experienced their way of life even just for a day. It is my first time to ride on top load. With it, I was able to push my boundaries and felt both fear and amazement while viewing the majestic Cordillera mountain range. It is also my first time to have a tattoo and it is such a humbling experience to have Apo Whang Od inked my very first batok. Amazing, memorable, unforgettable, there are so many words to expressed for this one-of-a-kind trip. Surely, I will visit this place again soon.

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