I couldn’t believe it. My parents actually allowed me to go to Kalinga with my friends the last minute!
One of my best friends, along with her thesis mate, had to go to Buscalan Village for school research. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity since Apo Whang Od is already a National Artist. We left Quezon City around 7pm via Victory Liner. After 12 hours, we finally arrived Tabuk, Kalinga!
It was still a long journey to reach Buscalan Village. From Tabuk, we had to ride a van going to Tinglayan since this was where we had to meet up with the guides. It took us another hour to reach Buscalan from Tinglayan. Our travels to both Buscalan and Tinglayan were via top-load. You should try it next time!
As we reached the turning point, there was still trekking done. The trail is actually easy but what made it difficult for me was that it was too steep and I tend to get tired easily. It has been a year since my last trek and my body is not used to it anymore. This just shows that I NEED to go back to the gym ASAP and trek more mountains. While trekking, there were a lot of times I wanted to back out. But, I told myself “Girl, sayang ang pagpunta mo dito if magback out ka. Kapit ka lang.” (Girl, it’s such a waste if you decide to back out. Just stay strong.) After an hour and a half, we reached the registration area to register first. Then, a little walk to reach Buscalan Village.
To experience their culture, we stayed in a homestay. It was actually fun to stay in a homestay because 1.) it’s cheap, 2.) you get a nice view of the mountains and rice fields, 3.) we get to interact with the locals, 4.) we get to meet different kinds of people with like minded spirits. Please take note that there are limited plugs available.
While talking to the locals, I found out that men still do not have tattoos. They need to earn it before being placed on their body. Locals also enjoy when tourists flock to their place. Because of this, the tourism industry in Buscalan Village is improving. But, they have to realize that they should not exceed taking advantage of the situation. They should also look for other ways to earn aside from focusing too much on Apo Whang Od.
Aside from talking to the locals, we were able to meet a fellow traveler! Her name is Jeng and what I love about her was that she did this trip via #solotravel. It’s been a dream of mine to do solo travel and I was so amazed with her. In fact, it was her first time to do solo travel! Soon though, I will be able to do it as well.
We then proceeded to Whang Od. As I saw her, we were starstruck. At the age of 99, she was still strong and was able to make intricate tattoo designs. I wanted one but my mother was against the idea of having a tattoo. We decided to let Whang Od draw instead. It was such a nice feeling that I was able to meet Whang Od.
All tourists should remember that she finishes her tattoo sessions by 5pm. Her rest day is every Sunday. As tourists, we have to respect her time. At her age, she needs all the rest she can get. If other tourists don’t even follow the rules, she can die of exhaustion. Also, when planning to have a tattoo, make sure to bring enough medications. My friend’s cousin got a fever on that day when Whang Od placed tattoo on him.
As I sat inside the bus to go back to Manila, I started to watch the videos and check the photos in this wonderful journey. Because of this experience, I learned to appreciate having no signal and just pure interaction with the people surrounding you. This gave me the chance to detach myself from using the internet and creating peace with one self. I got to experience how it feels like to live with the locals and to appreciate their culture. I was given the chance to meet the legendary Apo Whang Od and know her story. Aside from Whang Od, I was able to meet Grace as well (her granddaughter). There are a lot of things that I would love to share but it’s best that you experience it for yourself.