I woke up early to prepare for my hike up Buscalan to see the famous Apo Fang-Od (unlike other Filipino languages, the Kalinga language has a pronounced F sound). It was very cold and the Luplupa Riverside Inn did not have hot shower so I did not shower. By 6:30am, I headed to the house of Sir Johnny to have breakfast prepared by his wife, Nanay Belen.
After breakfast, Sir Johnny introduced me to my guide for the day, Kuya Randy. He instructed him that I would hike to Buscalan, then to Loccong, then to Butbut Proper, then to Ngibat and back to Luplupa. I was thinking that I might not be able to follow this itinerary within a day because I was determined to get a tattoo in Buscalan and I was told that a lot of people had already gone up there.
I was going to Buscalan at the same time with Mario, the Italian guest. He had the idea of just sharing one guide, but Sir Johnny suggested that we have separate guides because he might just slow me down (he’s 50) and we didn’t have the same plans for the day. So he was assigned to Mang Victor Basculi, one of the most popular guides in Tinglayan, while I was assigned to Kuya Randy, Mang Victor’s son-in-law.
At 7am, we went out to the highway to take the jeepney to the jump-off point to Buscalan. I actually had no idea that we were waiting for the jeepney until it came a few minutes after 8am. I thought we were just waiting for somebody else to start the hike from Luplupa to Buscalan.
I went topload again even if there were not a lot of passengers inside the jeepney. I was just getting used to it.
I paid a total of P40 for my and Kuya Randy’s fare from Luplupa to the jump-off point to Buscalan.
I found out that some people would just go down at this jump-off and did not go to Luplupa or the Poblacion. Some have contacted the other famous guide in Tinglayan, Mang Francis, but I don’t know how the others got their guides.
The hike going up to Buscalan and the other villages offered a great view of the mountains of Cordillera. Kuya Randy said that there was a spot on the trail where we can have a good view of the Sleeping Beauty mountain. It was unfortunate that day that we didn’t get to see it at all because of the thick clouds surrounding it.
On my way, I met a group of travelers who wished me luck so I assumed the trail was difficult. Except for some narrow pathways on the cliff, the trail wasn’t really hard. The sun was just really shining down though so it caused a little fatigue.
I guess their huge backpacks made their hike a little more challenging for them. But there was a zipline (or a skyline, I’m not sure what it was called) that can be used to transport your things straight to the other side of the trail. I guess it goes directly somewhere near Buscalan. For some reason, I had an urge to ride it myself but I was too shy to ask or just even joke about it.
After two hours, we finally reached Buscalan. We were offered coffee (coffee in Kalinga was delicious) and went to see Apo Fang-Od. True enough, there were people queuing to be tattooed by her. There was a fee of P50 when you enter Buscalan. The clerk said this is good for a lifetime so I wonder if they would ask me for P50 again when I come back.
Kuya Randy informed the clerk that our itinerary for the day involved going around the three other villages, so I was first told they would put me ahead in the line. Although it was fine for me, it would be embarrassing to the other visitors. Then they started persuading me to just have Grace, Fang-Od’s grandniece, to tattoo me. They explained that unlike Fang-Od, Grace has more control, and thus her way is less painful.
So after Fang-Od and, presumably, Grace had lunch, Grace started tattooing me. I chose the “day and night” design. The woman sitting beside me had the same tattoo so they showed me what it would look like.
Right beside me, a French guy was also being tattooed by Fang-Od on his wrist, and it looked like he was really in pain and was just trying to tough it out. It took a shorter time to get his tattoo done than mine though. I paid P700 for my tattoo which was a good deal.
Before I forget, be sure to be ready with candies and matches when you go to Buscalan. The kids would ask for the candies and the old people would ask for the matches. I bought a lot of them but I had lot left after my trek. I didn’t see any other tattooed old people in Buscalan except for Fang-Od so I didn’t get to give out the matches. We would encounter only one later on our way down from Ngibat.