Buscalan owes its popularity to Apo Whang-od, the last living practitioner of Kalinga tattoo tradition.
Buscalan, a quiet village in the hinterlands of Tinglayan in Kalinga Province, has been — literally and figuratively — brought to the mainstream consciousness by the tri-media. Home to a small community of about 200 Butbut households, Buscalan has opened its doors to “lowlanders” — tattoo enthusiasts, artists, weekend hikers, curious travelers, and adventure seekers — most, if not all, wanting to commune, and get inked, by its very famous resident, the centenarian Apo Whang-od or Fang-od, the last living practitioner of traditional Kalinga tattooing or batok.
(Updated: 08/22/2016) Guides ARE (now) required when going to Buscalan. A No-guide-No-entry policy (1 guide:5pax) is now being implemented by the LGU of Tinglayan. A PHP1000/day guide fee is collected from guests of up to 5 pax. In excess of 5 pax, you may need to get another guide. If you haven’t secured a guide in advance, you can get one when you arrive at the “turning point” (locals call the jump off point that).
Your guide will be the one to assist you in the queue during the tattoo sessions. They will also assist you in securing your lodging for the night (homestay rate is PHP350/pax).
[I will update this post with the list of “accredited” guides.]
Also, a community tax (CT) of PHP75 per person is being collected in Buscalan. The CT is a “one-time” payment and is only applicable to first-time visitors Returning visitors are exempted from the CT.
There are five (5) options in getting there. For Options 1-2-3, make sure that you reach your initial destination (Tabuk, Banaue or Baguio) at the earliest possible time, say around 5AM, as bus/jeep/van schedules from there are very erratic.
On the return trip, make sure you leave Buscalan as early as possible (around 10AM would be the latest) to catch the bus/jeep going to Bontoc (if you’re returning via Banaue or Baguio) or Tabuk.
1. Manila-Tabuk, Kalinga route
Apo Whang-od in action
Take the Victory Liner to Tabuk in Kalinga. From Tabuk, you can take a bus bound for Bontoc, then get off at Bugnay junction. For more convenience, you can ride the one with the “BUGNAY” signboard, which will take you directly to the “turning point”. From there, it’s an easy (or difficult, depending on your physical and psychological condition) trek to Buscalan Village.
2. Manila-Banaue, Ifugao route
Take the Ohayami bus to Banaue. From Banaue, you can take the jeeps (or vans) bound for Bontoc; and from Bontoc, you can take the jeep (or bus) going to Tabuk; get off at Bugnay junction. Similarly, you can tell the driver that you’re going to Buscalan, so that the driver can take you all the way to the “turning point”.
3. Manila-Baguio route
Ride a Manila-Baguio bus that will take you to the City of Pines before 5AM. From the terminal, take a taxi to G. Lizardo (GL) bus station and take the Bontoc-bound bus. From Bontoc, you can take the jeep going to Tabuk. Get off at Bugnay junction. Similarly, you can tell the driver that you’re going to Buscalan (see Option 2).
4. Manila-Bontoc route via CODA Lines
Take a CODA Lines bus bound for Sagada (8PM and 9PM trips), then get off at Bontoc Public Market (ETA is around 8AM, depending on traffic and road conditions). from Bontoc, you can take the jeep (or bus) going to Tabuk; get off at Bugnay junction. Similarly, you can tell the driver that you’re going to Buscalan, so that the driver can take you all the way to the “turning point”.
CODA Lines is located at E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City (in between St Luke’s Medical Center and Trinity College). One-way fare is around PHP600.
5. Join travel pools
If you’re not the outdoor-sy type or you just don’t like the hassles of chasing around commuter transport, this option is for you. You can check out some organizers and travel groups on Facebook (DIY Travelers, Tattooed by Apo Whang-od) offering group trips to Buscalan.
SOMETHING TO REMEMBER:
Please do bear in mind that to be tattooed by Apo Whang-od is a PRIVILEGE afforded us, and it is not a RIGHT we can demand of her. Just because we are paying for the tattoo means that we are ENTITLED to it outright. Remember that Apo Whang-od ALWAYS has the last say as to who gets a tattoo and who doesn’t.
To the tour organizers out there, make your participants aware of that fact. Take time to orient them what to expect. DO NOT promise them anything you cannot deliver.
A trip to Buscalan DOES NOT guarantee you’d get tattooed by the great Apo Whang-od.