D-1Sep 22 2017
Last weekend, we traveled all the way up north to meet Apo Whang Od of the Butbut Tribe, the oldest mambabatok in the province of Buscalan, Kalinga.
DAY 1Sep 23 2017
It was an 11 to 12 hours drive to Buscalan with few stop overs along the way. We decided to eat breakfast at Banaue overlooking the Rice Terraces before we proceed.
After breakfast, we bought some food at Bontoc, then drove another hour to Buscalan. After meeting our guide, we started the 45 to 60 minutes trek going up the village. The sun was up but the air is cold which made the trek tolerable.
As soon as we arrive the village, we were informed that there was a wedding going on that's why they are preparing lots of food (lucky for us).
We went straight to the house where we will be staying and there they served us their unlimited brewed coffee while we rest and prep for lunch.
Since there is no signal at all, no internet, no tv, we decided to go around the village after freshening up.
We visited the kubo where Apo whang od and her grand daughters are doing their pambabatok -- the traditional tattooing.
The act of pambabatok was used to put tattoos on men who fought battles as sign of their courage and achievements. A status symbol during the old times.
Whang Od's been doing this some 80 plus years now and continued tattooing up to this date and chose few apprentices to continue the tradition.
Inspite of the many people watching and lining up to get a tattoo or picture from her, we managed to get a little time and I was able to get a selfie with her (im so kilig). We stayed some more to watch her and her grand daughter, Elyang, do some batek/batok.
We went back our home stay and lo and behold, lunch is served. 😁😁😁
After lunch we went back to Apo's kubo with the rest of the group. Some of us didn't stay long since our guide got us three of Apo's apprentices to do our tattoo so we went back home.
It is said that these apprentices were personally chosen by her as rightful to learn the art and that they cannot perform the pambabatok without her blessing and she only teaches those who are within her bloodline.
The ink is composed of charcoal and water and they use a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree.
I chose the standing eagle design because of what it symbolizes -- strength, freedom, and guidance -- the things/traits that i have, want to achieve, and needed. The session took 30 mins to finish. It was more painful than the normal tattoo and I can see the blood flowing out. Its not as perfect as the usual tattoo but then again this was manually done.
After the tattoo sesh, we had dinner and had a few drinks.
We went out again around 8pm to join the after wedding celebration. We were told that these celebrations only happen when there is a special occasion such as weddings and birthdays.
We were lucky enough to witness the eagle dance (turayan). This dance was performed to commemorate successful campaigns during their head hunting days. They move in a circular motion imitating the position and movement of the eagle’s wings as it scanned its hunting grounds far below. Then, the dancers suddenly swooped down towards the ground with arms outstretched like an eagle upon its prey; this movement symbolized that the warriors had come home victorious from their recent battle.
Today the eagle dance continues to be performed during important ceremonial occasions to the beats of the gangsa gong.
It was so nice seeing and experiencing such traditions.
After a few hours we went back to the house and drank some before calling it a night.
DAY 2Sep 24 2017
We woke up around 5am the next day, enjoyed the cold morning with a cup of brewed coffee and chilled for a while.
We went down after a few minutes to clean up and prep for breakfast.
Before breakfast we decided to go to the other side of the village. We did a good 30 minutes walk going up overlooking the village and took the chance to do some photo ops.
We went down after an hour or so and had breakfast, prepped our stuff, freshen up, and took a few shots around the house. 🏡📸
After numerous pictures we finally decided to go to Apo Whang Od for our photo op and get her signature tattoo.
It was 10am and line was already long just to get her signature tattoo -- the 3 dots. While waiting we are watching everyone else getting inked. Some were inside the kubo getting theirs done by Elyang and Grace. She is very serious while doing her work. She cracks a few jokes once in a while then gets back to tattooing. Physically i can see how old she is and yet she is still strong and agile.
By 12, she took a quick lunch and so did everyone else.
We had our lunch at the only restaurant (at least the only one i know) and it has the perfect view.
We immediately returned after eating just so we can secure the line. Few minutes more and Apo's back. It took us another 3 hours of waiting in line.
Six hours passed and it was finally our turn. I was so nervous and excited. Getting tattoed by THE Apo Whang Od using the traditional way is really something. It lasted for 3 minutes -- but it was one of the most painful 3 minutes of my life. The way the thorn pricked my skin is so different compared to her apprentices. It was literally breath taking. LOL. The totallity of this experience is a story worth telling.
After taking a few pictures with her, we started our trek down, by 5pm we left Buscalan to start our long travel home.
I can say that i want to go back not just to get another ink but because the place itself is perfect getaway from the busy life of Manila and of course i am hoping that Whang Od will still be there by then.
🤗 **special thanks to Indak Outdoors for making it possible to tick this off my bucket list. Till the next adventure!**
📸 **photo credits to my travel mates for some of the pictures used**