Up in the mountains of Kalinga, right in the town named Tinglayan, sits the small village of Buscalan strategically situated in one of the peaks and surrounded by luscious green rolling mountains and rice terraces. I was picturing the old village to be like a typical Igorot tribe wearing tribal costumes but the village of Buscalan is adapting the new era. Some families live in stilted houses and some are in simple concrete houses or combination. Though the villagers enjoy the comfort of electricity, the people still live in simple pleasures.
When we immersed in the culture of our ancestors, we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and succumb to the kindness and richness of traditions, people and culture. And little by little we grow inch by inch to fill the missing volume of the stories that are getting thin and slowly dying by the promise of a new era and the changing world. It is, however, an honor to witness the tradition that is connecting the present and how life before us has enjoyed the fruits of land, empowerment, tribal wars, defeat and terror.
Not so long ago I have wanted to reach this corner of the country and meet the famous Last Mambabatok. I remember seeing myself tattooed by Fang-od, braving each tiks and toks by the thorn while pretending its music to be a melody I once knew. I remember the kids following us just before we sat our bums from the long ride from Manila to ask some candy, the coffee we shared by the local men trying to impress us girls with their steady and persistent presence that seems to be everywhere and the domestic local pigs that is running around the village like pets.
Cultural immersion. Tribal wars. Traditional Tattoo. Nostalgia of my recent trip keeps popping out in the open with only handful of happy-faced photographs and tattoo in my nape as proofs. I still can’t believe I had finally visited the famous Fang-od, the Last Mambabatok in Buscalan. After the news of the tragic accident of Florida Bus involving the Famous comedian and activist, Tado, the eerie feeling of going through the same scenario we have experienced after reading/hearing the story in and out of the news made it more perplexed. Life indeed is a bittersweet gift. Regardless of who we are, what we do and how we live our life, we are bound to make ourselves happy and fulfilling until our very last breathe.
For the past years of traveling, I was never this eager to visit a place. Maybe, I keep telling that to myself every time Im eyeing for a new destination. But maybe it’s the people, the trek or the gruelling trip and the cold climate. Or maybe, it’s because of the mountains and terraces and sky-meets-mountain scenes. But I’m pretty sure the tattoo plays the important part but whatever it is, I made the trip happen with a laid out plan and the 6 List of things to remember before the trip.
Tribal costumes. Typical native houses. Non Tagalog speaking community. I was actually expecting more of these but instead I was greeted with native Pigs feasting the bucketful of food prepared by Fang-od herself, the helping hands carrying All kinds of goods by kinds to adult from the road to the village, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee which the natives prepare themselves, and the sneaky, wondering and cheerful eyes of local men, women and kids.
I had a whirlwind romance with Buscalan. The short stay made me fall in love and fell harder for what I saw and felt. It was not just the tattoo, the mountain, or the freezing water. It is the story which lies beneath the ground for centuries. The intricate and complexity of the traditional tattoo worn by the Elders like a cloak. And the very reason that want me to come back again and explore beyond the rice fields, rivers and other villages.