Your Step-by-Step Guide to the Land of Fang Od

From getting a tattoo to watching the sunrise, Buscalan has so much to offer.

(SPOT.ph) Buscalan, one of the barangays in the municipality of Tinglayan in Kalinga, is popular among local and foreign travelers who want to get inked the traditional way from the tattoo master, Fang Od, or as she's more popularly known, Whang Od. Other than participating in this cultural tradition of the mambabatok, there’s not much to do in this unassuming village—if you don’t know where to look, at least. But if you’ve been thinking of taking to take a break from your usual routine in the city and go off the grid for a bit, then this remote town in the Cordilleras would be a good choice. Here’s a roundup of activities you can do while traversing up and down the village of Buscalan.

Make a stop-over at Bontoc and enjoy a quick stroll

PHOTO BY James Tana

Technically, Bontoc is part of Mountain Province but it’s a recommended stop-over on your way to Kalinga. The abundance of greenery, the cobblestone walls, and the cool weather can charm you to appreciate the surroundings. Take time to walk around and notice that, unlike the city, there are more trees than lamp posts with tangled overhead wires in the area, giving a view of the clear skies and the old houses built around the mountains. Keep yourself warm and while away the time as you wait for your ride with a cup of coffee at Bontoc’s public market.

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Marvel at Chico River and be in awe with its vastness

PHOTO BY James Tana

Chico River, the longest tributary of Cagayan River, cuts through Cagayan, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. It is known as the “river of life,” which irrigates tens of thousands of hectares of farmlands in the surrounding areas including the rice terraces in the mountains. Ever since, the river has blessed the locals with bountiful harvest, which is why they opposed the construction of hyrdroelectric dams in the 1970s and 1980s. The body of water has become a source of livelihood for others as some locals facilitate tours and whitewater rafting in its raging waters.

Enjoy the hike while taking in the amazing view

PHOTO BY James Tana
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The thrill of the adventure starts when you traverse the trail going up Buscalan. One has to hike for almost an hour, which can be challenging and fun at the same time for some non-hikers. The fresh air, the breathtaking view of the green surroundings, and the small talks with the group will definitely make the hike easier. It is advisable to start the ascent before dusk while pathways are still visible.

Take a refreshing dip at Tumaniw Falls

If you encounter a small waterfall along the way, it is an indication that you are halfway through the hike. Soak your tired feet in the cold water, and feel refreshed and energized before continuing with the ascent. Locals and children can be spotted swimming at Tumaniw Falls during the day. You are free to join the fun or just sit on a boulder of rock, enjoy the view, and forget about the arduous hike for the meantime.

Stay for a night with the locals and experience the simple life

PHOTO BY James Tana
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Before Fang Od became a tourism sensation in Buscalan, the main activity in the village was the homestay with locals. Staying with one of the families in the village is encouraged as it helps the community to have a sustainable livelihood. It's also a great opportunity for travelers to experience the simple life in the highlands. Pay only between P300 and P350 per night, which includes rice and coffee.

Wake up to a breathtaking view of Buscalan

PHOTO BY James Tana

Let the cool morning breeze wake you up to a beautiful view of sunrays revealing the green mountains and the sea of clouds. As cliché as it may sound, the trees, the village houses, and the calm environment make it a picture-perfect postcard that you would want to keep instead of sending to a dear friend.

Try Cordillera’s famous coffee

PHOTO BY Lee / FLICKR
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Greet the morning with a cup of locally produced coffee in hand. The aromatic coffee comes for free during your entire stay. If you can’t get enough of it, the villagers sell their coffee for only P100 per bag to bring home for yourself or as pasalubong. The tourists who have been to the village can attest to how Kalinga coffee has a very distinct sweet taste. Their local rice is also a must-try as it is one of the top produced crops of the Cordilleras.

Know the tradition of the hand-tapped tattooing

PHOTO BY Mawg64 / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The village has been on the radar of lowlanders and tourists who hopes to get a traditional tattoo from the much-celebrated mambabatok of the community, Fang Od. Before you decide to get a tattoo, it would not hurt if you try to learn more about the history of hand-tapped tattooing and the meaning of having that culturally significant tattoo on your body. Be sure that you are physically ready to endure the age-old tradition of getting inked that uses thorns of pomelo as needles.

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Reconnect with nature and appreciate nature’s beauty

PHOTO BY James Tana

With the absence of Internet connection in the place, it is best to reconnect with nature and appreciate the view of the mountains instead of buildings—basically the things you don’t get to see in the city. Get yourself a bottle of beer and find a spot where you can hang out with your friends. You can also spend the rest of the afternoon taking a nap on one of the hammocks.

Be adventurous and topload on your way down

PHOTO BY Lee / FLICKR
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The thrill does not end during your descent—aside from the fact that it will require another hike, get ready to “topload.” This just means riding on top of the jeepney while making your way down the highlands. The roads may be steep but you will be amazed by every calculated turn and stop that the driver makes. Enjoy the view for the very last time before you go back to the city.

How to get there: There are two different routes going to Buscalan. You can ride a bus from Manila to Tabuk, then ride the jeepney or tricycle to Buscalan. Alternatively, you can ride a bus from Manila to Bontoc.

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