Travel Guide: Apo Whang Od - How To Get There

Travel Guide to Buscalan Village, Kalinga

APO WHANG - OD
Oldest Traditional Tattoo Artist

Apo Whang - Od up close and personal
Apo Whang - Od up close and personal

Buscalan Village is under the municipality of Tinglayan in the Province of Kalinga. It is an exclusive village and not passable with any kind of motor vehicles.

When I first saw a documentary about Apo Whang - Od, I said to myself that I will visit her and she will put my first tattoo on my skin. A lot of my friends have been inviting me to come with them but my schedule does not allow me. Good thing my 'manliligaw' suggested that we visit Apo Whang - Od on his birthday and I quickly said yes, thinking that it will be a great present for my birthday also.

Apo Whang - Od is the oldest traditional tattoo artist (mambabatok) up to this date and she is from the Bubut Tribe. One of the oldest tribes in Kalinga and they have their own dialect. Visiting her will require you a 16 - hour journey from Manila plus stamina to reach the village from the jump off point.

I am going to share with you guys our experience at Buscalan Village, on a backpacker's perception.

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are many ways to reach Buscalan Village you may choose via Tabuk, Banaue or Baguio.

1. via Tabuk

Victory Liner has a daily trip going to Tabuk. From Manila it will take you 12 hours to reach Tabuk. Then, ride a public jeepney going to Bontoc which is approximately 3 - 4 hours and drop off at Bugnay. From Bugnay, you may opt to walk your way up to the Bucsalan Village (5kilometers of rough road) or rent a habal - habal (200 Php) going to the jump - off point.

2. via Banaue (This was our route)

Ohayami and Florida (Dangwa) has a daily trip to Banaue, the latter costs 530 Php. From Manila it will take you 9 hours to reach Banaue. Then, ride a public jeep or van in the market which is bound for Bontoc which is approximately 2 hours (150 Php). From Bontoc, ride a public jeepney that will go straight to the jump off point in Buscalan (100 Php). The jeep leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon and the only jeep that goes straight to the jump off. The terminal is beside the Mt. Province State Polytechnic College.

3. via Baguio

Victory Liner has an hourly trip to Baguio City on a daily basis. From the terminal, go to the bus terminal of GL transport which is near the Baguio public market and then, ride a bus bound for Bontoc (usually this are non - aircon buses). From Bontoc, ride a public jeepney that will go straight to the jump off point in Buscalan (100 Php). The jeep leaves at 2:00 in the afternoon and the only jeep that goes straight to the jump off. The terminal is beside the Mt. Province State Polytechnic College.


From the jump - off point, prepare yourself for a lot of walking and climbing stairs just to reach the Buscalan Village Proper. It took me 30 minutes to reach their place. Haha.


WHERE TO STAY??

There are no hotels or resort in Buscalan Village but good thing there is Charlie. Charlie is our contact/guide in Buscalan, he owns a very basic house in Buscalan Village near the house of Apo Whang - Od and he turned it into a transient house. He is a very simple man and funny too! Most of all, he is very accommodating.
Since we met some friends on our way to Banaue, Anne and Matteo, we shared a house with them. I do not want to disclose how much Charlie gave us for an overnight stay but you may contact him for the price. Here is his number,  (0998) 1888-697.

Meet Charlie! Call him
Meet Charlie! Call him (0998) 1888-697

Home in Kalinga
This is our simple home for the night, cooking is free.

Veranda Kalinga
View from our veranda.

Charlie Guest House
This is the veranda of Charlie where guests do their socials


WHAT TO DO OR SEE??

1. Get a tattoo from Apo Whang - Od or Grace, her niece.

See the blood? eek!

The artist doing best on her craft.


2. Sip a hot organic Buscalan Coffee while chatting with your friend or new found friends.

3. Roam around the village and explore the other side of Buscalan Village, they have their own rice terraces and a waterfalls.


4. Play with kids and bring some candies for them, they will be asking it from you.


5. Experience riding in the TOP LOAD on your way to Buscalan!


TRAVEL TIPS:

1. Bring your own food and water. Cooking is free, if you are going to stay with Charlie. Also, his niece will help you in preparing and they will be the one to do the dishes. There are no convenient stores nearby and the market is in Bugnay or Bontoc.

2. Bring extra cash, there are no ATM or Banks in the area.

3. Be cautious of the time, the public jeep bound for Bontoc leaves at 8 in the morning! In our case, we missed it and have to walk 5 kilometers of rough road under the scorching sun! Gaaaaahhh!

4. Prepare 300 - 1000 Php if you are getting a tattoo. There are no fix rates, it will all depend on Apo Whang - Od.

5. Apo Whang - Od is very popular, expect a lot of tourists are visiting her. Be prepared to be in line just to get a tattoo and also prepare yourself that there is a chance that you will not get a tattoo. Anyway, they say Grace's work is better than Apo.

6. Bring your jackets it really gets cold at night or even bring extra blanket or malong.

7. Interact with locals! Greet them whenever you see them, it's a way of showing respect. Participate in their local celebrations and explore their culture, respect it.

8. There is a curfew and lights are usually turned off at 10pm. Also, be mindful of Charlie's house rules like no footwear inside the house and bathroom.

9. If you are commuting your way to Buscalan, be sure to have an agreement with the jeepney driver on the time of their trip going back to Bontoc the next day. There are no cellular signal in the area for smartphones.


ITINERARY FOR AN OVERNIGHT STAY IN BUSCALAN:

This is my giveaway to you guys! This was our itinerary coming from Banaue. (You may check my Travel Guide to Batad, Banaue, Ifugao)

Day 1
10:00 am ETD for Bontoc via Van
12:00 nn ETA Bontoc | Lunch and buy stuff
3:00 pm ETD for Buscalan
4:00 pm ETA jump - off of Buscalan | Start Trek
4:30 pm ETA Buscalan Village | Unlimited Coffee
5:00 pm Prepare dinner or join an activity in the village

Day 2
5:00 am Wake up! Start your day early, Apo Whang - Od is ready! Get your tattoo!
8:30 am Start trek going back to the jump - off (Since we missed the jeep, we walked more than an hour to reach Bugnay! That is 5 kilometers of rough road!
10:00 am Breakfast at a small store in Bugnay while waiting for a jeep that is bound for Bontoc
11:00 am Ride a jeep going to Bontoc
12:00 nn ETA Bontoc | Lunch

You may opt to do a sidetrip to Sagada OR  you may go straight to Baguio or Banaue and catch a bus back to Manila.

Total breakdown of budget for this trip (excluding stay with Charlie + Fare from Manila)
Van Banaue to Bontoc - 150
Lunch at Bontoc - 75
Groceries for food in Buscalan - 125
Jeep Bontoc to Buscalan - 100
Village Fee - 50f
Tip for porters - 70
Jeep Bugnay to Bontoc - 80
Lunch at Bontoc - 75

TOTAL COST: 725 Php

Verdict of Tara Gumala:
Buscalan has many things to offer besides its famous Apo Whang - Od. I will definitely go back to this cultural place with my friends and have my tattoo! This should be one of your destinations when you do a Cordillera trip. Everything is cheap here and some are free!

This is a perfect weekend getaway with your friends, reconnect with your culture and cultivate it. Have your tattoos done and be proud of your ethnic race! We all share the same blood. :)

Ano, TARA GUMALA?

CIAO.
--
GABRIELA

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