So you’re planning to visit Fang-od – the last Mambabatok? Here are the things you need to know before heading to Kalinga Province.
Option 1. Via Tabuk
– Victory Liner offers direct bus route from Manila to Tabuk 10 hrs for P675. VL have terminals at Pasay, Cubao and Manila
– Hop on a jeepney from Bulanao, Tabuk to Tinglayan 2-3 hrs for P120
– Tour guides usually fetch their guests either from Tinglayan or Bontoc
Option 2. Via Bontoc/Banaue
There are two bus companies serving direct route to Bontoc and Banaue from Manila: Ohayami Bus P450 for 8-9 hrs and Florida Bus formerly Cable Bus Tours. Both Ohayami and Florida Bus run nightly trips which leaves around 7 PM. Florida Bus offers 1 scheduled trip each to Bontoc (leaves around 8:30 PM and Banaue (leaves around 10:00 PM). From Banaue, hop on a jeepney bound to Bontoc P100. Ohayami Bus terminal is located at Lacson Ave. Cor. Fajardo St. Sampaloc Manila. While Florida Bus Terminal is located at Kamia, QC.
Our guide fetch us in Bontoc and we hop on a Jeepney bound to Tinglayan 2-3 hrs for P110. There are 2 daily trips bound to Tinglayan. One early morning and after lunch.
Option 3. Via Baguio
– There are several bus companies serving Manila to Baguio. I suggest taking Victory Liner
– From Baguio, D’ Rising Sun and GL Lizardo serves regular trips to Bontoc for Php 220.
– Then hop on a jeepney from Bontoc to Tinglayan.
***Due to the recent incident of Florida Bus Company, better to inquire from its terminal if there are ongoing trips to the said routes.
2. Tour Guide
Unless you already have visited the village of Buscalan, I would suggest you should get a tour as people from Buscalan don’t speak Tagalog/Filipino well. There are two tour guides available in Buscalan. The famous Francis Pa-in and Kuya Charlie Pan-oy. We chose the latter.
Kuya Charlie is a local of Buscalan, neighbour of Fang-od. We stayed at a separate house meant for his visitors. For only 2 days and 1 night, the three of us were only charged for Php 1000 including the room we have stayed, dinner on Day 1 and breakfast on Day 2. On top of it, we added a small amount as a token of appreciation.
Contact Numbers of Kuya Charlie: 09981888697 and 09166050430
3. The tribe
I have heard that the people of Kalinga are fierce and have strong personality. During our roadtrip of Northern Luzon last 2012, I wasn’t aware that we have passed through this side of mountain via Tabuk and when I have shared it to a friend, he said, “Pag masagasaan mo ang isang manok, pababayaran nila ang manok, ang magiging anak ng manok at magiging anak ng mga anak ng manok” so I was startled of the scenario we might be facing. During the Museum visit in Bontoc, photographs from the past tribal activities are displayed – headhunting, ceremonies, tribal costumes, architecture, men and women and even the man in the form of letchon minus the head and apple.
Stories of tribal wars are creepy and fascinating at the same time. For example, if the two tribes are in war, they will gather their allies and fought with them side by side. If there’s a war going on, common territories are in red zone. To avoid contact, no one from both sides are allowed to enter that territory, may it be rice paddies, water source, pathway and so on. So imagine, if the tribal war has been running for several months, planting of rice will be suspended. But to end the dispute, they also have their own ambassadors to take care of this matter.
Since the arrival of Religion in Mountain Province, the people became aware of how important life is, Karma, and maybe life after death played an important role.
4. People and Tattoo (batok)
The old folks of the tribes in Mountain Province, Kalinga, Apayao and Benguet are cloaked with series of Tattoo in all parts of the body. Each tattoo (batok) has its relevance and purpose of the wearer. However, getting a tattoo is not easy. For men, it is a sign of social status and it signifies as a warrior. A token for beheading the enemy. For women, it is said to be an ornament. It is a sign of beauty and elegance which denotes of todays, jewelleries and bling bling. And women can have it as young as early adolescent.
Fang-od and women her age are covered with tattoos. But their children and the next generations no longer practiced this kind of craftsmanship. Hence, they are the last of their kind and the last of the title “The Mambabatok”. Though Fang-od is eagerly teaching her granddaughter to practice the art of tattooing, the original purpose of the artistry is no longer served but with this, the art they solely have will be passed on to the next generations.
If today’s tattoo are crafted and inked according to the wearer’s gusto, the traditional tattoo (batok) is based on different patterns and figures. For example, I chose this pattern not only because of its cute and girly design and putting it in the nape which is one of the spots I would want to place my tattoo but also because it signifies as a “Traveller” the figure referred to a crab though the reason why the crab is titled as the traveller is still a big question. I have like 5 choices but because I have a low pain tolerance so I narrowed it to 1 – achieving the smallest design I could come up.
If you haven’t had a design in mind, Fang-od has 3 books focusing on the tribe, The Mambabatok and traditional tattoo. It shows
Batok (Tattoo) is traditionally practiced by Igorot, Bontoks, Butbut and other tribes in Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet and Mountain Province with their own means of tattooing and designs. Its fascinating that the tattoo has been practiced for the past centuries by our ancestors whom the Spaniards named as “La Isla De Los Pintados”. The book of Fang-od share a great stories about the history, culture and traditional tattoo.
6. Things to Bring
We brought small presents for Fang-od, her granddaughter and Kuya Charlie. These little gestures may not be necessary but are truly appreciated. I loved gifts ya know?
The climate up there is cold since it is located in the Mountains. It is colder than the climate of Bontoc but not as cold as that of Baguio. So bring something to keep you warm. The water is freezing like those water from the fridge. Imagine a cold coke with lotsa ice on a hot summer day. Urgh! Don’t worry, Kuya Charlie provide you with a heater in case you want to take a bath.
You may want to bring some foods if you wanted to prepare your own meals. Kuya Charlie prepared everything for us. He got his own menu. Adobo for dinner and tortang Talong for breakfast. And oh! They will give you unlimited supply of freshly brewed coffee which they plant, harvest, and prepared themselves. Totally better that those instants we have at home. You may also want to buy some coffee on your way back home.
Sources: Thanks Kuya Ferdz of Ironwulf.net for a very helpful tips.