Because of the heavy traffic in Baguio, I got back to my hotel a little later than what I hoped for. I wanted to sleep early to get ready for my trip the next day to Kalinga but that didn’t happen.
Even after two bottles of beer and a glass of white wine that came free with the steak I ordered, I found it difficult to doze off. I was a little excited and a little nervous, okay, maybe really excited and really nervous, for my anticipated trip. After tossing and turning in my bed for a couple of hours, I finally got to sleep around 11:45pm, then woke up at 2:45am.
I read from multiple blogs that the first bus from Baguio to Bontoc was at 5am but I wanted to be sure to catch the earliest trip, if there was something earlier than 5am, so I got to the bus terminal at 3:30am. True enough, the first bus was leaving at 5am and it left right on time.
I rode the D’ Rising Sun bus which was stationed at the bus terminal near the Slaughterhouse. Make sure to be alert while waiting for the bus. It really didn’t go inside the terminal. Instead, it parked along the road. The bus gets full fast. They have hourly trips but I wasn’t able to ask until what time. From what I saw on the highway, GL Trans might also be plying this same Baguio-Bontoc route.
The fare was P176, not bad for a 5+-hour trip. There were a couple of stopovers, the first one was at Atok, Benguet – the coldest place I’ve ever been to. I went down the bus to have a smoke but boy was that a mistake. It was already about 7am in the morning but the buses were blocking the sun so I couldn’t get enough heat. Even after I got some sun, I was still shivering. I was still shaking for an hour after we left Atok.
We arrived in Bontoc around 10:30am. I got out of the bus at the D’ Rising Sun terminal thinking it was the last stop. Don’t do this. The bus actually goes all the way to the street where the jeepney going to Tinglayan is stationed. Rookie mistake!
I was too early for the next jeepney. It wasn’t leaving until 2pm as per the driver and the conductor (it actually left at 1:30pm). I had plenty of time to walk around or eat, but I just didn’t know what to do, so I did walk around…. Around the jeepney…. For almost 3 hours, I just stayed near.
Around 12pm, I got up the jeepney to get ready for the topload experience. I found a nice spot, but lo and behold, dozens of sacks of animal feeds were still about to be loaded so I was asked to move my butt. Those sacks were actually a blessing in disguise. I realized later that if not for them, I would have sat on steel bars on a bumpy road for two hours. That would have been a real pain the ass! Pardon my French.
While waiting for the jeepney to depart, I noticed that many men were spitting a lot of red stuff. I have deduced that this was what they were calling “momma.” A lot of “No Spitting of Momma” warnings were posted along the road but the men just kept spitting (I never saw a woman spitting). It was a little too much spitting but then you realize it’s their way of life. It was making their teeth orange if they still had some left, but I heard it was creating heat in their mouth so I guess it’s comparable to smoking.
At 1:30pm, the jeepney left Bontoc for Tinglayan. After more than a dozen other men and a couple of women went on topload, I was left with a little room near the back. Yet, there were two children sitting at the rear end of the topload. I realized that I had an unstable position when the jeepney started so my right hand held tight to my backpack while my left hand held on to the steel bar (I wish I was an artist so I could draw what my position was, not that anyone really cares). I learned after a few minutes that the secret was finding the right foothold.
I went on topload, not only because all men were there, but because I wanted to have a good view of the mountains. Sure enough, I saw the mountains but on the wrong side. All I could see were the rocks on the side of the road, while the people on the other side could see the terraces and the river. I would see these later though.
The fare, by the way, from Bontoc to Tinglayan was P100. This went up to P120 two days later when I was going back from Luplupa in Tinglayan to Bontoc, so just make sure to allocate a little extra for the fare.
A few minutes after 3pm, I arrived at Luplupa. I immediately proceeded to the Luplupa Riverside Inn. The inn offered good rooms at P250 per night per person. There was only a common bathroom. Sir Johnny and his wife, Nanay Belen, would cook for us at P70 per meal. According to one of the guests who had been to another inn in Tinglayan, Luplupa Riverside Inn was the better and more affordable of the two. I was able to book a room here by contacting Sir Johnny (I assume) at 09152837885. Network signal in Tinglayan was very weak so you might want to wait a little bit for a response.
The locals were helpful enough to point me to the right direction. You would have to cross a foot bridge to get there. It was a little wobbly, thus scary, but I got used to it after a few crossings.
On the way to the Riverside Inn, I had to stop by the house of the manager, Sir Johnny. He is the brother-in-law of the German owner of the inn (his wife is the sister of the owner’s wife). We then proceeded to the inn which was a few meters from their house.
They had a very nice and helpful map of Tinglayan in the lounge area and Sir Johnny pointed to me the two nearest villages from Luplupa (Old Tinglayan and Ambato Legleg) and he suggested that I visit those villages if I still didn’t want to rest. I took up his suggestion.
To get to Old Tinglayan, I walked for several minutes passing by rice fields and terraces. I passed by a few huts that they use to store the rice they just sowed.
The view of the mountains were exceptional.
After a few wrong turns along the rice paddies and slipping on my butt, I reached Old Tinglayan looking like the Mud Man (whoever he is). Most people there were very nice. They’d offer me to eat inside their home but I had to decline. It seemed to me they didn’t understand Tagalog but they could speak in English. They must have seen more foreigners than local travelers.
I forgot the full name of Ambato Legleg (the name in my mind was Ampet Legleg) but some recognized that I was on my way there. They called it Legleg. I got lost a few times along the pathways in Old Tinglayan but some people were very helpful. I finally got out of Old Tinglayan en route to Legleg but realized along the way that it was getting dark and Legleg seemed nowhere near, so I went back and had to endure the embarrassment of getting lost again in Old Tinglayan. Dang, my sense of direction was killing me!
Since I had to pass through streams which were the source of irrigation of the rice fields, my shoes got all soaked up. I was hoping this wouldn’t happen. I knew how my shoes would smell if they get wet. Thankfully, everyone else’s shoes at the inn were all wet and dirty too so we canceled each other’s smells.
I then had another minor fall on the stairs on the way back to Luplupa. Good thing I landed on my butt. I had to go to Sir Johnny’s house because I left my keys. Even in the pathways of Luplupa, I still got lost so I had to ask for help.
I met other guests that night – P.A., a Filipina, Mario, an Italian, and a Dutch couple. P.A. was there for her thesis about the counseling methods of different Filipino groups. Mario was there because he is a prolific antique collector. And the Dutch people were there to spend the holidays.
The Italian Mario was sad that Kalinga was starting to get commercialized. He explained how a “tourist” – someone who just wants to see a place – is different from a “traveler” – someone who wants to experience and immerse himself into the community. He went to Kalinga to look more deeply into the culture and of course the antiques – real hard-to-find antiques. I felt a little uncomfortable while he was sharing his stories because my main goal in Kalinga was just to get tattooed.
After finishing my usual bottle of beer, we resigned for the night.