“…..and then I was really star-struck! OMG! Is it really Apo Whang-Od? The last tattoo artist in Kalinga is in front of me in that very moment! I just said “Hello Po” and did a Mano as a sign of respect. I was speechless and mesmerized as to how will I approach her.”
A month before our trip to this majestic place I’m still not decided whether to have my skin get inked or not. Yeah, I’m old enough for this once in lifetime chance but still few things need to be considered and questions that are yet to be answered when we get there. First, how painful it is? What symbol will I have? Will my parent get mad at me if I have one? Can I still donate blood even If had it?
We left Manila by bus around 7PM at Victory Liner Sampaloc with Tabuk signage. Never heard of this place and just reading it is already enticing (parang pagkain lang, haha). Apart from the entire place I’m more thrilled about the culture. It has been a 14-hour gracious travel time; and for a person like me who has a lower back pain issue? It’s already an adventure! Eh ginusto ko to eh! Hehe. It’s almost 11am the next day as we get off at Bulanao,Tabuk; thank God we found that “white carabao” land mark instructed by our dear tour guide/contact person Manong Amboy via SMS. A “white carabao” is quite interesting and I’m thinking of it as a live white one but when we saw it, it’s actually a sculpture of a carabao colored in white! Toinks! I can’t recall though if there’s statue of a farmer beside it and too bad we didn’t have a photo of it. Jeepney in the provinces has schedule time to and from; unfortunately, we missed the time due to some traffic so we waited for a van instead along highway near to the jeepney terminal.
Not feeling well
While waiting, a blue green van is approaching and parked near to our place. My dear Loves Manong Unyol is running after it to see if we can still ride. We just let him run alone, the weather is too hot and I’m a bit tired already but he is really waving his hand asking me to go to him. He’s directing his hand inside the van, so when I look inside from the window… I was really star-struck! OMG! Is it really Apo Whang-Od (Fang-Od)? The last tattoo artist in Kalinga is in front of me in that very moment! I just said “Hello Po” and did a Mano as a sign of respect. I was speechless and mesmerized as to how will I approach her. This woman is really famous in her traditional tattoo making that was about thousands of years old already. Her tattoo pattern is not your ordinary kind of art; each pattern inked into the skin has significance to the different culture and tribe of Kalinga. This practice has been transmitted generations to generations. Incredible! According to the guy who accompanied Apo, they went to the hospital for a checkup just to make sure that everything’s fine with Apo’s health. Unfortunately, the van is already jam-packed so we can’t ride and go with them. Nevertheless, thank God for this amazing welcome!
Another van just arrived; luckily there was enough space for us. Yey! The view along the way is more interesting and it’s almost lunch time when we reach Tinglayan from Bulanao. We decided to have our lunch in an eatery and for the second time, I saw that very popular face of an old woman, its Apo Whang-Od again! As a sign of respect, we did a hand bless. This legendary woman is just sitting simply outside the eatery… she looks a bit tired maybe because of the long and bumpy travel.
Most adventurous Habal habal ride
Done with our lunch, we had to ride in a habal-habal from Tinglayan to reach our next destination-Palan-Ah Falls. Riding in this single motorbike is really nerve-wracking! That moment when you feel like you’ll fall anytime because of “steep-y” road yet the amazing scenery lessens our fear.
Thank God our dear driver has PHD degree on how to maneuver a single motorbike major in roller coaster rides. Whew!
It was one hell of a ride, but when we reach Tulgao Village… its heaven! The majestic view of rice terraces is just one proof that Kalinga is one of the hidden gems of Cordillera. Wild boars everywhere, seeing peoples’ warmest smile and living a simple life is one of the best.
Be refreshed by nature
We’ve been fascinated with the entire place and later realized that we’re almost near to our second to the last stop for Day 1, the Palan-Ah Falls.
Tulgao Rice Terraces
Crossing a hanging bridge
It took us 30 minutes of trekking from the rice paddies. The green field around us and mountains as its background plus the cool gust of air from the waterfalls is a stress reliever for me. Of course this venture would be incomplete without letting our dead tired body deep into the water. I want to stay longer as much as I can but we had very limited time. But wait, there’s more…
Just 10 minutes away from the waterfalls is a hot spring. This time we never tried dipping into it but not until I saw the technique from the little women who came just after us. I was the toughest one. Haha, I just hope each tribe would maintain this God’s gift for the next generation. We had to leave and be at Butbut Village before dusk which means it’s another humpy-bumpy ride. I knew it!
Who would have thought that we’ll be staying in a traditional house with a fire place inside? Yes! Indescribable!
Good morning Kalinga... native pig roaming around at Butbut Village
Our first day was overwhelming! And more came to our way when we started our day of course with a cup of coffee still inside the traditional house and seeing the panoramic scenery of Kalinga at Butbut Village. This is the life! After our breakfast, we packed our stuff to arrive early in Buscalan Village since we expected a crowd of tourists visiting Apo Whang-Od. It was almost 2 hours hike from Butbut to Buscalan Village.
We passed Loccong Village before we reach the Buscalan Village
Buscalan Village view
I was excited to see her for the third time in just 2 consecutive days. I’m already decided to have my skin get inked the first time I saw her at the terminal, not until we reached to her village.
Hiking at the rice paddies going to Buscalan Village
Whoa! We never anticipated that big crowd. Each one is waiting for their turn to get inked by this legendary woman and last Mambabatok tattoo artist in Kalinga. If you ask me if I still want to have one? No.
I just want a short conversation with her really. If only I sit beside her yesterday and started a short talk and perhaps had a picture too. She looks a bit exhausted now but had no choice and just had to continue her duty to all who wished to have her art be with them forever. Her genuine smile gave me a lot of realizations. We just watched how she do her world renowned art and asked for a group picture with her instead then leave after an hour of stay.
Going to National Road
From Buscalan Village, it took us 1 hour walk to main highway and another 1 hour to Bontoc. Then from Bontoc to Baguio City as our exit point took us 6 hours. Yeah! It’s tiring trip yet it was fun. Somehow, I have an unfinished business with Apo Whang-Od and seeing her in person is once in a lifetime opportunity that I will be forever thankful for. Thank God for this amazing trip.
Guest writer: MaryangLaagan <3