Asia | Destinations | Food, Entertainment and Culture | Philippines

The Long Walk to Buscalan

May 16, 2013

 

My husband and I are in the middle of a long trek going up to the remote village of Buscalan in Kalinga, Philippines. We are on our way to see the famous tattoo artist Whang Od, said to be the last Kalinga tattoo artist of her generation.


 

 

My heart is pounding. And no matter how hard I inhale, I can’t seem to fill my lungs with air. I want to give up and just lie down on the slippery ground. I am such a weakling. A couple of local boys happily skipping down the steep mountainside with impressive agility only added insult to my injured self-esteem.

My husband and I are in the middle of a long trek going up to the remote village of Buscalan in Kalinga, Philippines. We are on our way to see the famous tattoo artist Whang Od, said to be the last Kalinga tattoo artist of her generation.

But before we can actually see her, we have to go through several obstacles first, namely: an 11-hour bus ride from Manila to Tabuk, the capital of Kalinga; a 3 1/2-hour jeepney ride from Tabuk to Bugnay; and now this, a 2-hour hike from Bugnay to Buscalan.

In the interest of truthfulness, I will admit that we cheated a little. We cut short the 2-hour hike by riding a motorcycle from Bugnay to “Turning Point”, aptly named because it’s the last point where vehicles can drop off passengers going to Buscalan. From there, the road tapers down into narrow footpaths that slither up and down the mountainsides.

 

Buscalan 12sm

 

 

 


From there, the road tapers down into narrow footpaths that slither up and down the mountainsides.


 

 

Buscalan 14sm
A tiny bridge wtih no rails to hold on to! It’s just a 2-foot wide strip of cement and nothing else. If you lose your balance, you will end up 10 feet below.

 

But the ride only cut about 2 or 3 kilometers off our hike. So we still have to trek about 2-3 kilometers more. With no training or even exercise prior to the trip, it is proving to be a grueling task. Our lack of planning also didn’t prepare us for this:

 

Buscalan 13sm
What you don’t see here is the sharp drop on the right. If you lose your footing, you’ll end up 50 feet below.

Buscalan 15sm

Buscalan 16sm
See the tiny white specks up on the mountain? That’s where we’re going.

 

We are now on the final stretch of our trek. A man we met along the way said the village is just a few feet away. For a moment, I contemplate on asking my husband to carry me the rest of the way.

Gaano kalayo pa po? (How much further is it?)”

Malapit na. ‘Pag may nakita kayong tent sa taas, iyon na. (It’s very near. If you see a tent, that’s it.)”

” Tent?”

Oo. May kasal kasi! (Yes.  There’s a wedding!)” He smiled, flashing his betel nut-stained teeth.

A wedding?  In the mountains?  This I got to see!  I muster the last of my remaining strength and put one foot infront of the other.  Then, just ahead I hear my husband shout: “Yun na! (There!)”


And there it is… in the middle of nowhere, a technicolored tent! From where I stand, it looks like the top of a carousel.


 

 

tent

 

And there it is… in the middle of nowhere, a technicolored tent! From where I stand, it looks like the top of a carousel.  Underneath that tent lies the village of Buscalan where I will finally meet the last living tattoo artist of the Botbot tribe. I almost weep with happiness.

 

Next:  A Warm Welcome

Previously:  Off to See Whang Od

 

  1. Hi Ms. Pauline meron po ba kayong mairreto na tourgide going to Apo Wang Od? Pls. help Me.
    Gusto namin pumunta ng friend ko to tinglayan para magpa-ink kay Apo. Thank you 🙂

  2. Hi, can you tell me what time of year it was when you went. I really want to do this but am scared of heights, however if the 50ft drop is hidden by overgrown plants like in your pictures, I would be fine! I have seen other pictures where the drop is visible and very scary.

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