My visit to Kalinga and finally meeting the legendary Apo Whang-Od

About 12 office mates and I planned about visiting Baguio but for some reason, they did not push through and that didn’t happen.  Probably because of the weather back then.  We already bought tickets and we figured we will just go there even if there’s just two of us left.  I just don’t want to waste my vacation leave being stuck at home.  So, we looked for a cab bound to Cubao going Baguio when we saw our office mates, I actually don’t know them personally but my colleague is friends with them.  They have this huge bag too.  I know they’re going somewhere far.  You know a fellow traveler when you see one. 😉 I asked where, they said “Kalinga, Apayao” and I was like, “that sounded exciting!”  They also said they’ll be getting a tattoo with the last “mangbabatok” Apo Whang-Od, the oldest traditional tattoo artist and that made me so eager to go so I asked, “can we come?”

It was 10 pm, so we rode a bus bound to Tuguegarao instead. It was very tiring and took about 12 hours. In the middle of the road, I still kept asking myself if I made the right decision. But I’ve been in Banaue, Mount Pulag to be exact and I miss the place. This kept me going. The thing is, this is my first time traveling without knowing anything about where I’m going. Being a frequent traveler, of course, you would always do your research. But I am pretty confident with whom I’m with and it still excites me. They seemed to know the place, though it’s also their first time going to Kalinga. Well, talking about being spontaneous and I love the thrill-feeling I’m in.

When we reached Tuguegarao, we headed to Tabuk that took 2 hours.  I’m so happy we get to ride top-load.  Oh, the beauty of Cordillera.  The moment I saw the scenery, I knew I made the right decision and this has been my most favorite travel of 2014 ever.

It drizzled so it’s really hard to climb Buscalan but we didn’t mind.  For us, it was a blessing.

It was tiring, without even proper shoes because who knows right? I thought I’ll be just in Baguio 😀 I bought that slippers right then and there.
My legs were trembling already for 2 hours of the trek without rest or there was but it was not enough.

And finally, we’re able to reach Buscalan.  I’m so happy.


Meeting Whang-Od was like meeting your loving grandmother you haven’t seen in years.  I was so starstruck but she’s no celebrity.  She’s very humble and very heartwarming.  The way she smiled just lighted the whole place.

Before the tattoo started (not for me I just watched) I sneezed and Whang-Od said to me “No!”
And they explained that when someone does sneeze, the tattoo will hurt really bad. 😀 Good thing I won’t be having a tattoo today. Haha! So, she started after around 20 minutes.

First, you have to choose a design available in her book which has a definition and meaning.  Pretty interesting while reading it.

She uses a stick to make sure the line is straight.

Ink made from soot

Watch Whang-Od in action.

ok! my turn. just kidding, mom! 😀

Hand-tapping Tattoo or Pagbabatok is really interesting to watch.  Even the sound of it is interesting.  I used to watch people getting inked using a machine and I’ve seen a lot of excruciating faces.  I imagine it was really painful with the Bamboo stick but with the girls, they didn’t seem to be tormented a bit.  Well, I guess it still depends on the body part you are getting the tattoo done.

Whang-Od’s portrait at her home.

My favorite part of the trip was having a strong delicious Kalinga Coffee.  That smell,  I can’t seem to get over.

I don’t have a tattoo and I didn’t really have plans of having one either. Not at the moment. For me, I went here to witness art being done by the last mambabatok, the true artist Apo Whang-Od. Having to witness this is an achievement.  But, who knows, someday maybe, when my mom won’t reprimand me. 😀 😀 😀


Additional Information if you wanted to try and visit Kalinga.
Please bring something for the kids too.  They’ll appreciate it.
Travel Dates: December 5 – 8, 2014

Manila – Tuguegarao: 647php (12 hours )
Tuguegarao – Tabuk: 80php ( 2 hours )

Top load fare from Tabuk to Tinglayan: 120php ( 3 hours )
Sleeping Beauty Inn: 900/5  (180php)
Tour Guide Kuya Francis – 300php
Tinglayan to Bontoc – 100php ( 2 hours )
Bontoc – Baguio – 176php ( 6 hours )
Baguio – Cubao – 450php ( 5 hours )
Plus additional for food which is really very inexpensive…

4 thoughts on “My visit to Kalinga and finally meeting the legendary Apo Whang-Od”

  1. anngeneral says:

    Tawang-tawa ko dun sa reply ni Mader! Buti di ka pumalag prend! Ahahaha

    Love this post!

    1. anjcolumna says:

      Walang palag friend eh. Haha baka patpatin din ako pag-uwi! Haha

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