I was up early because I don’t want to miss the bus again to Tinglayan, Kalinga. Northern Luzon is known for toploading. Toploading is when passengers seat on the bus/jeepney’s roof because the passenger seats are already full with either passengers or goods. I experienced it for the first time nine years ago when doing medical missions in Aguinaldo, Ifugao. When I boarded the minibus from Tabuk City to Tinglayan I went toploading again. It offered an unobstructed view of the virgin mountain landscpae of Kalinga province plus the crisp cold air kissing my face. Also gave me lots of opportunities to take videos of the road trip and just be awed at the towering trees and delicate architecture of the terraced mountains along the way. Since there is nothing to do on top of the bus, I decided to try their momma. Momma which is made from apog (limestone), tobacco and betel nut. Locals say its sweet but it was bitter when I tried it. I wasn’t able to chew it for a long time and found myself tippy afterwards that made me spit it. The adventures of trying something for the first time!!
A romance of palay terraced fields and hardwood forest in Kalinga
I read form one of the blogs about Kalinga that you have to bring matches to the tribes when visiting. It means a lot for them because they don’t have electricity up there and rely heavily on wood for cooking and heating the house. I bought a whole packet on a short stop-over before Pasil. Tinglayan is just 60 kilometers from the city but it took us two and a half hours because of the bad road condition. Roads in Kalinga were always the victim of landslides during typhoon season, making the area almost impossible to reach during the rainy seasons of June to November.
I didn’t know anyone in Tinglayan, I can easily take this off my itinerary since I was able to visit Kalinga last June during the Lakbay Norte 3 when we rafted the Whitewaters of Chico river. But I guess the universe wanted me to see Buscalan village as I was sitting beside JR while toploading the bus. Buscalan is a famous village because of the master tattoo artistor mambabatok Fang-od (others call her Whang-od). I wanted to see the last remaining tattooed tribes of Kalinga- the Butbuts.
I was surprised of Kalinga‘s unique culture of welcoming visitors. I learned that when you arrive in their house, you have to ask for a glass of water and drink all of it. It is your way of telling the host/house that you trust them that they won’t put any poison in the water. After that you are welcomed and treated as a valued guest.
After a lunch stop-over I asked JR if he can guide me to Buscalan as I wanted to meet Fang-od. He was thinking-twice if he would allow me to join him because he thought that I was military man spying on him. After much prodding he finally agreed but I have to buy two quatro cantos of gin so we have something to drink when we reached their barrio.
Buscalan, Tinglayan can be reached by trekking at least two hours of steep mountain. Add another hour if you are not the hiker type. It was tiring as we started walking 1:00pm add the heavy backpack I was carrying. It was a relief to see water sources along the way where I can refill my hydration bottle. The path became narrower as we got nearer to Buscalan. There was even a steep cliff where if you made a mistake and fall and die at the slights mistake made. Finally, we reached the barrio after the last 30-minute kiss-your-knees assault. The view from above is very rewarding I felt I conquered another mountain as I breath some fresh air and looked at the other ranges around.
First day of planting season when I arrived at Tinglayan Village, Buscalan, Kalinga
I was brought to Fang-od’s house and was offered stewed white beans, grilled pork adobo, noodles with corned beef and water. I sheepishly sampled each dish as I was still full from all the water I drank along the way. They welcomed me with some acoustic guitar music and local songs. Shots of gin were being passed around so I joined my new found friends even though the last time I drank their alcohol of choice was 13 years ago. Because of the cold weather, they drank big time in Buscalan and I was glad I wasn’t tipsy yet after we finished a bottle. They said we will drink again later in the evening. I roamed around and checked out their rice terraces. That day was the first day of planting season. I met some farmers and promised them that I will join the next day, they were excited to teach me how to plant mountain rice.
After touring the village, the men invited me to play basketball which I willingly accepted. I was the tallest in the court and was breathing heavily after three whole-court runs. Blame it on the high altitude! We won the game and my teammates were happy for that. The locals watching also thought that I’m a military man. Maybe because of my tall physique and shaved hair?
Rare photo of Fang-od feeding her pigs and chicken
I returned to Fang-od’s house and saw her feeding the free-range chicken and black pigs under her hut. The sky was darkening and it was time to prepare for dinner. Three more visitors came, they are staying at Fang-ods too. After the hearty vegetable dish and canned tuna dinner, they laid on their sleeping bags while I cocooned myself inside my hammock.
Route: Tabuk City- Tinglayan – Buscalan
Expenses for today: Php 610
120- tabuk to tinglayan by minibus 2.5hrs
160- 2 gin
150- homestay at Fang-od’s