A Quick Guide to Whang-Od: What to Expect and How to Get There

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The quest for Whang-Od is easily one of the greatest adventures that I ever had. It was filled with unforeseen events, with unanticipated plot twists, that had tested my strength of character and ability to make do of scant resources. It had brought me in the company of a welcoming tribe, and a celebrity. It made me feel that I'm going to get what I want if I actually go out and do it.
Rhian Ramos in Buscalan
L-R: Lancer, the Legend, and Rhian
I want you to experience and feel the same way, or at least something relatively similar. I will try my best to give you the information that you'll need.

What To Expect and Some Friendly Tips
Journeys to Buscalan run on a very specific schedule. Once you leave Bontoc, public transportation is virtually nonexistent unless you know the schedule. Plan accordingly. And don't forget to ride the topload on the jeepney ride to Tinglayan.

From the foot of Buscalan, you will also have to hike. Vehicles can go as far as what is known as the "turning point". From here, the path is too narrow for any form of vehicle. You have to go on foot.
Extreme Selfie. One wrong move and you're dead.
The village is relatively modern. It has electricity and a stable supply of clean mountain water. There is also a decent rest room. And locals are willing to share you their home for a minimal fee. They will cook for you, but do not expect a grand meal. The meals are mostly vegetables and root crops. You may bring canned goods and instant noodles which you can cook in your host's kitchen.
Welcome to our temporary home in Buscalan!
Rhian Ramos in Buscalan
Chilling with fellow adventurers
The interior
Expect cold and drizzly weather. With being so up high, this naturally comes with the territory. Bring and wear appropriate clothing.

Locals will be welcoming, but don't indulge them too much. They will try to coax you into buying alcoholic beverages and having a pig butchered. Remember that you can say no. They will not hold it against you. Children will also ask you for candy. Refrain from obliging as they do not yet practice proper oral hygiene. Bring school supplies and medicines instead. Bring matches and candles too. The elders will thank you for them.
100 Years. Meet Bay-don - at 100 years, he's the oldest member of the Butbut tribe. He asked us for some lollipops when we visited him. :)
These Butbut kids were all ready to pose for photos
Talk to the locals. Immerse yourself in the culture and their way of life. Don't be shy. You may get intimidated by the language barrier, but trust me, you'll find ways to understand each other.
Bay-don rocking the pipe
An authentic nail-less Kalinga House
Whang-Od is as fabulous as you'd imagine. Maybe even more. Her smiles are so sincere and yet so rare that when you see one, you'll feel a warmth spreading inside you. She's a bittersweet vestige of a glorious past that is too far gone. It's very common to feel honored to be in her presence. To be wistful and yearning, not so - but not unheard of. Tattoos cost from Php400 to Php1500, depending on the design.
This guy's tattoo cost Php1500. Mine cost Php400.
How to Get There and Back
There are two ways to get to Buscalan. The one I took, and therefore, more familiar with is the one from Baguio. Once here, GL busline in Dangwa Station makes daily trips to Bontoc. Earliest trip is at 7AM, the last one leaves at 7PM. As of December 2014, fare costs Php212. The travel time is 5 to 6 hours. Once in Bontoc, there is a jeepney to Tinglayan. There are only two trips: 7AM and 1PM. It takes two hours to get to Tinglayan. The trip back to Bontoc is scheduled similarly. Fare is Php100. In Bontoc, the last trip to Baguio leaves at 4PM. Fare is Php212. From Baguio, you can ride a Victory Liner Bus to Cubao.

I believe there is also a direct trip from Manila to Bontoc.

You may coordinate with Kuya Francis: +63 915 769 0843. Tour guide fee starts at Php800/day.
Rhian Ramos in Buscalan Whang-Od
Kuya Francis is the one in a red plaid shirt
Cheers to the next adventure!

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