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1000-Peso Challenge: Kalinga’s Mambabatok

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On the way to Kalinga!

*Pre-Challenge expenses (from Baguio City)*

Taxi Ride

House to Bus Terminal

(Slaughterhouse Compound)

PhP 70

(US$ 1.5)

Snacks

Bus Terminal

PhP 15

(< US$ 1)

Bus Ride

*0500 H first trip (ask trip intervals up to last trip)

*PhP 212 – regular trip

D’ Rising Sun –

Baguio-Bontoc

PhP 176

(US$ 4)

Snacks

Ricken Star Convenience Store

(Km 50, Sayangan, Atok, Benguet)

PhP 27

(< US$ 1)

Turista Boy Tip: When in a bus stopover, do things as prompt as you can. Bus stops usually last for 15-30 minutes. It all depends on when the driver and his conductor has freshened up. Especially when you are in a public transportation, other passengers have other agenda and they want to reach the destination in no time, not unlike travelers who travel at their own pace. So when you feel like the bus is ready to go, hop on! Be sensitive!

Staunton Road / Junction – separates the way to Sagada and Bontoc; Sagada is more or less 45 minutes – 1-hour jeepney ride from Bontoc.

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Kalinga: Home of Ancient Traditions

Kalinga Welcome Arch

Kalinga Welcome Arch (photo by www.ivoteph.com)

Kalinga, as one of the provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region, is a hidden gem that waits to be discovered by the modern-day traveler. Though it is quite challenging to reach the province, the travel time is very worth it. Your eyes will be elated to see rice terraces anywhere along the Halsema Highway. While on your way, too, you will get to pass by the highest point in the Philippine Highway System at 2,255 meters (7,400 feet) above sea level in Paoay, Atok, Benguet. Umali kayo!

Kalinga has many tourist spots that you cannot wait to see when you are there. Starting from Tabuk City, this 7-municipality-and-1-city province is now slowly becoming known as a tourist destination in the Cordilleras.

Apo Whang-Od, "Last Mambabatok" of Kalinga

Apo Whang-Od, Kalinga’s “Last Mambabatok” (photo by Michael Soriano)

The Hidden Gem of the Cordilleras

Undoubtedly, one of the attractions that you have to visit in Kalinga is found in Buscalan in the municipality of Tinglayan. 2 hours away from Bontoc (Mountain Province) and three hours away from Tabuk City, this is where you will find one of the living treasures of the province and of their village as well – Apo Whang-Od.

Recently gaining international recognition for her invaluable art and contribution to the ‘culture bank’ of the Philippines, Apo Whang-Od, locally known as ‘Fang-Od,’ is known widely as the “Last Mambabatok (Traditional Tattoo Artist) of Kalinga.” Although she now has her granddaughter-successors, she still practices the traditional way of putting tattoo onto one’s skin.

Having tattoos in the highlands is very symbolic. Be it a representation of one’s social status, wealth, or personal body ornament, tattoos are treated with respect and is sacred in the highland culture. So I did not waste any time on having one because I believe that her form of art will be immortalized in my memory and in my skin and that I will remember her whenever I share my stories with other people.

The 1000-Peso Challenge

As a highlight of the blog, I am traveling to key and select places in the Philippines where I feel like you can only spend PhP 1000 or below (talk about super budget travel) while maximizing my experience in that destination. Also detailed is my on-the-spot itinerary and expenses incurred during such trips.

This is my third 1000-peso challenge as to date. Kalinga then is an unexpected tourist destination thus making me wonder if my challenge would work in the quest of being inked by Apo Whang-Od (and by exploring the rest of the province soon!) This is it!

Day 1 (25 June 2016)

Lunch

Bontoc, Mountain Province (Pearl Café)

PhP 150

(US$ 3)

Upon arriving in the capital town of Bontoc, I never expected that the weather there would be warm. As described by the locals, the climate in Bontoc is generally warm throughout the year, as the town is surrounded by mountains. Also, their main modes of transportation are tricycles and jeepneys (but jeepneys are used for long trips outside Bontoc.)

Downtown Bontoc - bound for Kalinga

Downtown Bontoc

We then ate brunch in The Pearl Café in downtown Bontoc near the Government Center before departing for Buscalan. The café is only a few steps away from the jeepney terminal going to Buscalan.

The Pearl Cafe (Bontoc, Mountain Province) - bound for Kalinga

The Pearl Cafe (Bontoc, Mountain Province)

If going to Buscalan village, Tinglayan, there is only one (1) jeepney trip going there that leaves at either 1300 or 1400 H daily, so it is better if you arrive there an hour before because the jeepney will be filled with lots of supplies and things of locals and tourists. The terminal is located beside the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College. Ask the staff-on-duty at the Tourist Assistance Center in downtown Bontoc for directions and worry not because the terminal is just easy to find.

Topsy-turvy inside the jeep - bound for Kalinga

Topsy-turvy inside the jeep! (photo by Michael Soriano)

Snacks

(while waiting for the jeep to be filled up)

PhP 35

(< US$ 1)

Jeepney Ride

Bontoc – Tinglayan

(Buscalan Village)

PhP 100

(US$ 2)

Motorcycle Ride

*We paid for our guide’s motorcycle ride, too.*

Jeepney turning point – Buscalan drop-off point

PhP 150

(US$ 3)

Hike!

Motorcycle drop-off point to Buscalan Village

(45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on your pace)

The travel time from Bontoc to Tinglayan (Buscalan Village) is approximately 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours. Unfortunately, when we were on our way to Tinglayan, our jeepney had a flat tire (charging it to experience!) making our travel time around 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Our jeep had a flat tire during our trip to Buscalan, Kalinga

Our jeep had a flat tire during our trip to Buscalan, Kalinga

Upon arriving at the jeepney’s turning point, you either meet and talk to your guide about what is going to happen or you also have the option to either start your hike (for around an hour) or ride a motorcycle at PhP 50 each (US$ 1) with an approximate travel time of 10 minutes to reach the starting point of the hike going to the village. FYI, you also have to pay for your guide’s motorcycle ride.

Drop-off point going to Buscalan Village - Kalinga

Drop-off point going to Buscalan Village. (The hike begins!)

Who to contact

Turista Boy Tip: It is required that you have a contact person / guide before going to Barangay Buscalan for safety purposes because the way to the village is very steep and narrow, therefore it is quite dangerous especially during the rainy season. To have the best service for a guide, I recommend that you contact Sir Charlie (+63 998 188 8697) or Kuya Aldrin (+63 909 552 4248). They are very accommodating and hands-on in servicing our needs! It is also a plus if you can speak Kalinga or Ilocano as they can speak and understand both dialects. It is also good if you text them a week before your scheduled visit because cellphone signal in the area is very hard to find. Tell them that I referred them to you. They know me as “Chiki” from Baguio City.

With Sir Charlie - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga | Turista Boy

With Sir Charlie! 🙂

With Kuya Aldrin, our guide during our stay - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

With Kuya Aldrin – our guide during our stay! (Photo by Jennylyn Quinto)

Upon reaching the village, register your name/s at the very first souvenir shop for easy monitoring of guests entering the village. This is also where they will give you your batch or group number (to your guide) when planning to get a tattoo from Apo Whang-Od or her granddaughters. This is on a first-come-first-served basis.

Registering first in Tinglayan, Buscalan, Kalinga!

Registering first in Tinglayan, Buscalan, Kalinga!

Souvenirs

Buscalan Village

PhP 550

(US$ 11)

Sub-Total:

PhP 985

(US$ 20)

At the souvenir shop, they sell ground coffee for only PhP 100 (US$ 2) per plastic pack. Our guide said that they usually plant the robusta species of coffee. Other souvenirs that can be bought in the village are necklaces, bracelets, t-shirts, and traditional knives of different sizes among others.

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Day 2 (26 June 2016)

Board and Lodging

Buscalan Village

(c/o Sir Charlie and Kuya Aldrin)

PhP 250

(US$ 5)

Tour Guide Fee

For Kuya Aldrin

PhP 250

(US$ 5)

Tattoo Payment

Granddaughter’s tattoo

(Ate Emily)

PhP 1000

(US$ 20)

Tattoo Payment

Apo Whang-Od’s Signature

PhP 100

(US$ 2)

Board and Lodging depend on the price of your contact person but the price usually ranges only from PhP 250 – 350 (US$ 5-7) per person per night. There is also a tour guide fee of PhP 1000 (US$ 20) for a group of 5 and below.

View from our room in Tinglayan, Kalinga

View from our room! 🙂

Tattoo price depends on the size and design of your desired tattoo. There is a board where you can choose your tattoo design. The cheapest and smallest design ranges from PhP 300 – 400 (US$ 6-8) each and the biggest and most elaborate designs ranges from PhP 2000 – 3000 (US$ 40-60) each, especially when your tattoo requires shading, which is more difficult to make.

They use a liquefied form of charcoal for the tattoo’s ink and thorns from the pomelo tree as their ‘needle.’ After applying the tattoo, they put coconut oil on the wound to hasten the healing process.

Emily, one of Apo's granddaughters, patterning my tattoo - Kalinga

Emily, one of Apo’s granddaughters, patterning my tattoo.

Materials used: Pomelo thorns (as needle) and liquefied charcoal (as ink) - Kalinga

Materials used: Pomelo thorns (as needle) and liquefied charcoal (as ink)

They also have guidelines for the proper and safe tattoo aftercare:

Tattoo aftercare instructions - Kalinga (1)

Tattoo aftercare instructions - Kalinga (2)

The Mambabatok’s Successors

You can also get your tattoo at one of Apo’s granddaughters – ate Emily – when there are lots of clients lining up at Apo Whang-Od’s tattoo center. Especially on weekends, there are more or less approximately 20-30 clients lining up there, making Apo tired and moody. If she is moody, our guide said that she would hit the thorn real hard onto your skin and would not even talk or smile. So it is also better if you have a gift or present for her so she can be pleased (anything may do, as long as it is of value to her.) And at 99 years old, she is also considered as the oldest mambabatok (tattoo artist) of Kalinga practicing this rare form of art that is believed to be 1000 years old.

With Ate Emily - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

With Ate Emily, our tattoo artist

We also got the chance to see the oldest craftsman in Buscalan in the person of Apo Whaychon (“Baydon” in Ilocano) who makes crafts and weaved knife cases at 104 years old! He is also game to pose in front of our cameras when we pictured him while doing his work.

Apo Whaychon - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Apo Whaychon!

Hike!

Buscalan Village to Motorcycle drop-off point

(45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on your pace)

Motorcycle Ride

*We paid for our guide’s motorcycle ride, too.*

Buscalan drop-off point – Jeepney turning point

PhP 100

(US$ 2)

Upon leaving…

The first (and only) jeepney trip from Tinglayan, Kalinga to Bontoc, Mountain Province is scheduled at 0800 or 0830 H daily. But there is also a jeep coming from Tabuk City that usually comes at around 1200 H (but only by chance if you still have space.)

Turista Boy Tip: If you really want to maximize your time in the village, you can tell your guide that you can rent a van for only PhP 1500 (US$ 30), that shall depart at around 1400 H so you can catch the last bus trip to Baguio at 1600 H (D’ Rising Sun.) So you have to start going down the village at around 1230 or 1300 H. It is also good if you have other companions with you so you can divide the rental expenses among yourselves.

Van Ride

(PhP 1500 / 11 pax)

Tinglayan, Kalinga –

Bontoc, Mountain Province

PhP 140

(US$ 3)

Sub-Total:

PhP 1840

(US$ 37)

Grand Total:

PhP 2825

(US$ 57)

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*Post-Challenge expenses (from Bontoc)*

Bus Ride

*Last trip at 1600 H

Bontoc – Baguio City

(D’ Rising Sun)

PhP 176

(US$ 4)

Snacks

Sabangan, Mountain Province Bus Stopover

PhP 20

(< US$ 1)

Dinner

Ricken Star Convenience Store

(Km 50, Sayangan, Atok, Benguet)

PhP 95

(US$ 2)

Fares to and from Bontoc and Baguio are excluded. Only expenses to and from Buscalan Village in Tinglayan are included (as all my 1000-peso challenge would and should be.)

*All prices converted to US$ is rounded up to US$1 = PhP 50.*

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Verdict: 9 / 10

Apo Whang-Od of Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Buscalan Village in the municipality of Tinglayan is very lucky to be right in the middle of the advent of social media. And they are lucky, too, to have Apo Whang-Od that brought additional livelihood to their village (aside from farming) even if it is very far from any other place in the province. I was just honored and star stuck to see her when we had the rare chance of having a chat with her when we arrived at the village. It is also good that she can speak a little bit of Ilocano and her mother tongue, the Kalinga dialect.

What gave me a rating of just 9 out of 10 is that because of the distance of the village from the nearest one (it’s because it is situated on top of a mountain.) Also, we had no cellphone signal (for Globe subscribers) and hard-to-find signal for Smart subscribers. But it is also a good thing for me, too, personally because you get to enjoy the simple way of life – no cellphones or any other gadgets – just enjoying the beautiful view of the mountains and the company of the people around you.

I may not have succeeded in this challenge but this trip is now in my memory bank. Yes! It was all worth it! You should experience it as soon as possible, too!

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Other Pictures:

This is how pathways look going to Buscalan Village, Kalinga

This is how pathways look going to Buscalan Village.

Selfie with Apo Whang-Od - Kalinga | Turista Boy

Selfie with Apo Whang-Od! 🙂

With the gang - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

With the gang! 🙂

Our host preparing our lunch - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Our host preparing our lunch!

The board where you can choose your tattoo design - Kalinga

The board where you can choose your tattoo design.

Tattoo time - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Tattoo time!

Tattoo session with Apo Whang-Od - Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga

Tattoo session with Apo Whang-Od. 🙂

We're born to travel - Kalinga | Turista Boy

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Feel free to share this post, too! (Just put proper credits. Thanks bunch!)

We’re born to travel!

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47 thoughts on “1000-Peso Challenge: Kalinga’s Mambabatok

  1. Ivan Jose says:

    Extensive and very detailed! Kalinga, I think, is one if the less travelled, less popular destinations in the country but holds a lot of promise in terms of culture and heritage.

    1. Yup! It should does, kuya Ivan! I want to explore Kalinga more soon, too! Our guide told us that there are still a lot of undiscovered places in Kalinga ready to be seen! <3

  2. ROBERT LEE says:

    Ouch! Yeah, that has got to hurt, but to be tattooed by a legend and a celebrity (she is popular, isn’s she), that is what you do when you get there. I have read about her from other bloggers and for the price of 1000 pesos, way to go! See more of you on the 1000 pesos challenge series.

    1. Yup, sir Robert! That 12-hour journey from Baguio is really all worth it! When we had the rare chance of having a chat with her, I was just star struck because she was so down-to-earth! Thanks, sir! Would continue my 1000-peso challenge in the next months! 🙂

  3. Maria says:

    OMG!! Been wanting to go there and have a tattoo but I never knew how or how much would it cost. I heard that Whang Od’s relative is the resident tattoo artist in Pinto Art Museum. Nevertheless, the travel seems to be somewhat refreshing!! Thank you for sharing <3

    1. Wow! I am also planning to visit Pinto Art Museum! But yeah, it’s a bit costly having these tattoos but who cares? It’s an experience all on its own! It’s all worth it! <3

  4. Berlin says:

    I find Apo Whang-Od beautiful. She has her moods din pala. Ehehe. Would want to visit the place and see her in person but not get a tattoo.

    1. Yup! And she’s still single! Hahaha! Yep! The ride and the hike is all worth it when you get there. Hehehe 🙂

  5. Cykaniki says:

    Wow I admire you for sharing this tips, this is super helpful, what I love on traveling is to be with nature and seeing a lot of people’s smile. Great adventure of yours indeed

    1. Thanks, Cykaniki! Will do more of this in the future! 😀

  6. Charm Gamboa says:

    Is it painful for you? I read a post before that it’s super painful and will become red all over. Anyway, I’mtoo scared to try I’m just curious. And did you give here a gift? haha!

    1. Yup, ate Charm! It was a bit painful! Hehehe (first time!) Mine was sore for over a week and just applied petroleum jelly every day. I haven’t had a gift for her po e. That’s why I am planning to go back later this year to give her one. 🙂

  7. Hey, where’s the photo of your final tattoo? That’s what I was so curious to see hehe. What a great adventure! It’s so fortunate of you to have experienced being tattoed by the legendary Apo Whang-Od!

    1. Oh yes! I forgot to post my final tattoo! Hehehe, sige po, will edit my blog ASAP to post my final tattoo. Have you been tattooed by her as well? 🙂

  8. Tamshuk says:

    I have heard about this place and that lady who makes the tattoos. It is one of the places on my list when I visit Philippines

    1. Yup! It should be definitely be on your bucket list, Tamshuk! 🙂 See you real soon here in the Philippines! 🙂

  9. AMAZING! Very useful and fascinating! That 1000-Peso challenge is such a great idea. I loved the tattoo artist..I don’t have any tattoos but I would consider having one from such a well-known artist with and her glorious ancient tradition.

    1. Yes, Jane! You should! It’s an experience on its own! I was just star struck when I saw her! You should visit her soon, too! 🙂

  10. Marge Gavan says:

    There are a few things that they’ve changed I see. Before they don’t have that after tattoo care guide, now they do, which I think is really good. Going there is one of my most memorable trips, the people of Buscalan are nice and friendly. And of course getting the mark from the great Apo Whang-Od is an experience like no other. I want to come back just to explore more of Kalinga.

    1. Yes, ate Marge! Buscalan locals are very, very friendly! Super! I even get to text our tour guide up to now! I would really go back there soon to explore the rest of Kalinga, too! <3

  11. Rowena C says:

    I’ve always wanted to have a tattoo by Apo Whang-Od but kinda scared of it as well. How is your tattoo? Never thought that someone can go so far at PHP1,000 now a days! Nice challenge!

    1. Thanks, ate Rowena! My tattoo is fine now. Hihihi! Will be doing more of this challenge in the future! <3

  12. Sabine says:

    Wow to get a tattoo like this is so impressive. It’s so different than what I’m used to. I have two tattoos but they are put in the European way.

    1. Wow! Can I see yours, Sabine? 🙂 Yup, old-school tattooing at its finest! 😀

  13. Kat says:

    I love your P1000 peso challenge series! 🙂 But yeah, I don’t think it’s possible to have only 1k to Kalinga especially if you’re gonna have a tattoo. Still, kudos for the effort in budgeting and tediously listing your expenses.

    It’s the first time I’ve seen that board of tattoos. I know a lot of people are asking what other designs Apo Whang-od offers.

    1. Thank you po, ate Kat! Yup! I never expected that going there would cost me over PhP 1000. But at least the experience is worth it! <3

  14. Very detailed, clear and concise blog! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you, ate Jian! Hope to travel with you soon! 🙂

  15. I have never been to Kalinga but your post definitely helped push me on the GO direction! But wait, what? A liquefied charcoal and a Pomelo thorn for tattoo? I feel like we’re back to Lapu Lapu’s era. Awesome post! Thanks for the extensive guide.

    1. Thanks, kuya! Hope to travel with you soon, too! 🙂

  16. RC says:

    This post just gave me an idea. More than the 1000 peso challenge (which is amazing, btw), I’ve been putting off getting a tattoo for the longest time. Now it’s clear. If I’m going to have a tattoo, I want one made by any one of these amazing women. It would be better if I could have Apo Whang-Od do my tattoo.

    1. Hi, RC! Yup! You should get one now! 🙂 Hehehe, the experience is all worth it! Promise! <3

  17. How was the tattoo experience?

    One thing I like about your posts, is that you’re bringing me to the same place. You make it so real. Great!

    1. Hi, kuya Keevin! The tattoo experience hurts but it is very worth it! <3 Awww, thanks! 🙂 Hope to see you soon! 🙂

  18. VERONICA says:

    Pomelo thorns. Interesting! I’m sure it’s painful but worth it.So what tattoo did you get? Is it possible that you’ll show a tattoo that you like them to ink to you or are they strict with what they had in the pictures? This gave me an idea for my personal goal to have one this year.

    What gift do you think would Apo Whang-Od appreciate?

    1. Hi, ate Veronica! I got the tattoo that is for the traveler. 🙂 I also have it signed by Apo herself (and with one of her granddaughters). The thing is, I am not just sure if they can accept personal designs for tattoo. (Will go back there sometime this year to confirm that, promise!) Hmmm, I think a necklace or any bodily ornament will do. That, I think, would make her happy. 🙂

  19. Rachael says:

    Thank you for this informative post! Very helpful :)) Keep traveling! Oh, and congratulations on the new tattoo 😉

    1. Thanks, ate Rachael! Planning to have another one by the end of the year! 🙂

  20. erwin who says:

    I want to be tattooed by a legend too 😀 1000 pesos come to me and lets go to Kalinga

    1. Yup yup, kuya Erwin! You should visit her as soon as possible! 🙂

  21. erwin who says:

    question? Is it really that painful to get that kind of tattoo? I wanna be ready when the time comes 😀

    1. Yep, kuya! It’s quite painful (and itchy) especially on the first week. 🙂

  22. Waaw. I never dreamnt of having a tattoo but if it’s from someone like Apo Whang-Od I might want to have one.

    1. Yes, kuya! You should! I was just awestruck when she was affixing her “signature” on my shoulder. The experience was just surreal! 🙂

  23. Ferna says:

    right timing for me as I will be going to visit Kalinga end of November. Truly amazing that I got more information regarding the place especially this 1k challenge. why not

    1. Thanks, ate Ferna! Hope to travel with you soon! 🙂

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