I’ve been getting e-mails and PMs from readers and friends asking me all sorts of questions about our trip: how The Hubby and I got to Buscalan in Kalinga, where we stayed, how much we spent etcetera etcetera. So instead of answering the e-mails/PMs individually, I’m posting this Practical Guide on how to get to Buscalan. I hope this helps those who are planning to visit Whang Od soon. Don’t forget to tell us about your adventure, okay?
1. How did you get to Buscalan from Manila?
We went to Buscalan via Tabuk. Victory Liner buses ply the Manila-Tabuk route daily. We took the Manila-Tabuk bus which left the Kamias terminal at around 7:30PM and arrived in Tabuk at around 6AM the next day. We then took a jeep going to Tinglayan, then went down Barangay Bugnay which is the gateway to Buscalan. From there, we could have walked to Buscalan which was about 5 kilometers away. But since we were too tired, we decided to take a habal-habal (motorcycle) to Turning Point and from there, walked to Buscalan the rest of the way.
Manila to Tabuk – 675 pesos
Tabuk to Bugnay – 140 pesos (jeep)
Bugnay to Buscalan – 70 pesos for single passengers and 50 pesos for two
Going back, we decided to pass by Baguio before going back to Manila. We took a bus from Bugnay going to Bontoc. From Bontoc, we took another bus (GL?Lizardo) going to Baguio, and from Baguio, took the 7pm Genesis bus going to Manila.
Bugnay to Bontoc – 80 pesos (bus)
Bontoc to Baguio – 212 pesos (GL/Lizardo Trans. Corp.)
Baguio to Cubao – 445 pesos (Genesis)
2. Did you get a guide? How much is the rate for a guide?
Initially, we wanted a guide as it was our first time in Buscalan and we didn’t know anyone there. When we were researching the recommended guides, one name always came up: FRANCIS Pa-in. But when Hubby called him, it turned out he was already booked. Luckily, Hubby was able to get in touch with Prof. Vene Rallonza who frequents Buscalan and is quite well-known in the area. She called Francis for us and was able to convince him to accommodate us.
When we got to Tinglayan, though, he told us that he needed to meet 8 journalists (who, we later learned, were actually students). He told us to go straight to Bugnay and wait for him there. To make the long story short, instead of waiting for him, we just decided to go to Buscalan on our own as it was getting late. On hindsight, I think it was a stupid move especially since we weren’t familiar with the terrain.
As for the rate, Francis was charging us 1,000 pesos a day. Which is a bit steep, if you ask me. I’m guessing it’s because he speaks English well and is a bit of a celebrity having guided many foreign television crews in the past. But if you don’t need an English translator, we suggest that you hire someone from Buscalan. Maybe you can even negotiate the fee. We recommend, Whang Od’s grandson, John.
3. Where did you sleep? How much did you pay for accommodations?
If you plan to stay in Buscalan for more than a day, we suggest you stay with a family. Apo Whang Od offers the second floor of her house for homestay. We paid 150 pesos a day per person. There are other families willing to rent out rooms, too.
4. Where did you eat?
Your host family will provide food for you. But please, don’t expect much. Life in Buscalan is very simple and so are the meals. If you’re a bit picky, you can bring your own canned goods which you can ask your host to cook for you.
5. Is there electricity and cellphone signal there?
Yes, there is electricity but there is no phone signal.
6. Do you really have to bring candies and matches?
That’s entirely up to you. Before our trip, several people suggested that we bring candies for the children and matches for the families as pasalubong. But these are not necessary. Although they will definitely appreciate the gesture.
7. How much did your tattoos cost?
Traditional tattoos are prized artworks. In the past, when tattoed warriors still roamed Kalinga, a tattoo would cost anywhere between several pieces of heirloom beads to one huge pig. It all depended on the size and intricacy of the design. These days Apo Whang Od assesses her work after each session. A small tattoo, like mine, would cost between 200-400 pesos. An intricate bracelet, like Hubby’s, would cost between 2,000 to 3,000 pesos.
I hope this guide helps you in planning your trip. Happy travels!