- Page 1 – Morning in Tabuk City
- Page 2 – Top Loading Kalinga Style
- Page 3 – The Hike to Buscalan Village and its Utter Danger
- Page 4 – The Butbut Tribe and the last Mambabatok of Kalinga
- 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 Oliver. Like 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 with Kim.
Around 2000H, my eyelids started to become heavy. I lied on my tummy, shrouded myself with thin blanket, and savored the coolness of the night. In a few 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 was 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.
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 was short, it felt like we stayed here for days.
From their huts, we started our hike back to the turning point. From the turning point, there was a minibus waiting for our departure to Bontoc, Mountain Province. The ride was for two hours, and the road was also 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. Kilian saw us climbing the steel ladder of the minibus. I told him that we’re going to ride on top load 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.
Randy, Kim, Kilian and I shared stories while riding the minibus on top load. While viewing the endless mountain range, and 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.
Not minding the perilous and tortuous road going to Bontoc, we just enjoyed the amazing scenery of Cordillera.
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 was simply amazing
We arrived in Bontoc, Mountain Province around 1100H. From here, 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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