Sunday, April 26, 2015

Travel: Buscalan Village

Whang-Od the traditional tattoo
If you are looking for a butt-aching travel, this one is for (just kidding). Well literally my butt ache because of the time we spent going to Buscalan. This was the longest travel time I had. It's a whopping 20 hours travel! So you better get ready for that.
The main reason why we want to get to Buscalan Village was to meet Whang-Od (Fhang-Od to some), the oldest Mambabatok (a tattoo artist that uses traditional tools). Some say she is the last Mambabatok but I guess that is not the case. According to our guide Francis Pa-in, there are several Mambabatok in town as well as her granddaughter, Grace, is also a Mambabatok.
rough road to Buscalan
trek to Buscalan Village
We checked some sites on how to go to Buscalan. We did it the conventional way, by land travel. To go there you need to ride a bus to Tabuk. Victory Liner has a bus route to Tabuk but be sure to reserve you ticket 1 week before you go as there are just limited number of buses that go there. We experienced people sitting/sleeping in the aisle because there is not enough seats. Also be there 20 minutes before departure, They have a policy that is you are not there on that time they will give the seats to the chance passenger even if you have reserve tickets for your trip. Earliest trip is 7PM and it took us 12 hours to reach Tabuk. Drop off at Bulanao the first stop in Tabuk in front of Saint Williams Parish.Go straight and after you have passed by the Police station you will see a public terminal. Look for a jeep going to Tinglayan. Jeepneys going to Tinglayan is limited so be sure you are on time. Their first trip is I believe 7AM. We rode the jeep at around 8AM, It took us 2 and a half hours to reach Sleeping Beauty Inn at Tinglayan where we met Francis. From Tinglayan be rode a jeep to Buscalan Village, roughly more than an hour jeepney ride. Then you need to walk/trek to the Village itself. It took us an hour and a half to reach the village. As an alternate route, you may book a plane ticket to Tuguegarao and ride a van (1 hour travel) going to Tabuk. This will save you a lot of time.
Sleeping Beauty Inn
We met our guide, Francis, at Sleeping Beauty Inn where we had our lunch. He already arranged our lodging in Buscalan. We will have an overnight stay at Whang-Od's house (we believe that the house/room is Grace's room since she has a lot of stuff there). Upon arriving at the village we were welcomed by the locals and some kids asking for candies. Perhaps most of the people there have sweet tooth and I believe it is obligatory to bring a pack of candies with you.We stopped at small house where there are a lot of banners of Whang-Od, I think that is where the mother of Grace lives. They offered us the famous Kalinga coffee which I regret that I didn't buy one going home.
outside the house where we eat
Our homestay is at the place where Whang-Od and Grace does their tattoo work. When we got there, a lot of people were in line to get their tattoo. We did not get a chance to get ours at that time because of the long queue, we decided to get tattooed in the morning. Fancis told us that next time we want to go back, visit them during weekdays so that there are few tourists around. We just relaxed and watch others get their tattoos. The comfort room is located at the first house we visited and on that house also we had our dinner and breakfast. We had our dinner at around 7PM, we opted to buy canned goods so not to bother them cooking for us. They still offered us their meal, which is a combination of red beans and noodles and steamed rice.
Kubo where they do tattoo session
ash mixed with water for the ink

thorn from pomelo tree inserted in a small bamboo stick
Grace in action

Whang-Od in action
In the morning, after we ate our breakfast and drink our coffee, we proceeded to the tattoo workshop. Whang-Od is traditional, the tattoos she can do are those in there tribe (like snake, scorpion, crab, etc,) while Gace is a bit flexible, you may draw the tattoo you want and show it to her if she can do it or not. I chose a centipede tattoo because for them it symbolizes protection from travel. They harvest thorns from pomelo tree. They replace the thorns for each persons, though sometimes you have to remind them of replacing it. Frequently asked question was if it hurts, naturally it will hurt but is bearable. I think the technique is not to look at it while they are doing it, lol. After it is done, they will spread coconut oil on the tattoo. They prefer that instead of using some ointments. The tattoo price ranges from 100 pesos to thousands. Whang-Od is the one who gives the price value according to the size of the tattoo, mine was for one thousand pesos since it is a long one. After we had our tattoo, we packed our things and ready to go. Unfortunately, we were not able to explore the whole village because of limited time. I hope next time we visit we can roam around the village more.

Going home should be smooth sailing but it is not on our case. the Last jeep that will leave Buscalan is at 11AM and we finished our tattoo at around 2PM. Fortunately, there was a jeep but was not for hire so we rented the jeep going to Tabuk. We arrived at around 6PM at Tabuk and the last bus already left. The last bus from Tabuk going to Manila leaves at 5PM. We tried looking for alternative routes but there are no other buses in Tabuk, our option is to go to Roxas or Tuguegarao which is an hour drive from Tabuk. Upon contacting our friend from Tugue he said that it is dangerous to leave Tabuk after 6PM so he advised us to stay in tabuk and ride early to Tuguegarao and back to Manila. The owner of the food house where we ate offered their house for us to sleep because it will be a pricey if we will check in on a hotel. We grabbed the offer and stayed there. As early as 5AM we looked for a van going to Tugue and from Tugue we rode a bus to Manila.
Lesson of the story is if you will be going there be sure to leave early and have a back-up plan just in case.

What to bring:
-comfortable outfit
-water (for the trek)
-mosquito repellent
-wet wipes (for the tattoo)
-food (for your dinner and breakfast)
Additional for the locals:

-bus ticket Manila to Tabuk: Php700
-jeep to Tinglayan: Php100
-jeep to Buscalan: Php50
-guide fee: Php200 per person/per day
-barrangay fee: Php50
-lodging: Php250 per person
-jeepney rental Buscalan to Tabuk: Php4000
-van Tabuk to Tuguegarao: Php80 per person
-bus ticket Tuguegarao to Manila: Php860

Francis Pa-in contact Number: 09157690843


  1. ho ho ho, sayang khanto at spiderham d kau nakasama.

  2. Ano daw meaning ng ahas sa tat nila? Parang un ang gusto ko ^^

  3. iba iba ung meaning eh. they do not have a paper with the tats meaning, but according to the locals, yun daw ung meaning.