Whang-Od: The Last Mambabatok of Buscalan, Kalinga.

Buscalan is a remote village in Kalinga in the northern part of the Philippines. It is home to the Butbut tribe,  one of the many ethnic groups in the country, known for their headhunting traditions in the past. It is also where Apo Whang-od, the last mambabatok (traditional tattoo artist) of the Philippines lives.

Getting There:

  • via Tabuk 
    • take the Victory liner bus from Kamias to Tabuk. From Tabuk, ride a van to Tinglayan.   From Tinglayan, you can ride a Jeepney that goes through the turning point or you can   rent a habal-habal (motorcycle). From the turning point, it’s about 15-30 minutes trek to Buscalan village. Our group had a very accommodating guide who already arranged   a van for us from Tabuk to the turning point. Our guide – Kuya Amboy 0927 556 9119.
  • via Baguio-Bontoc 
    • take a bus (Victory, Dagupan, etc) to Baguio. From Baguio ride a van that will take you to Bontoc. From Bontoc, ride a jeep to Tinglayan that will pass through Buscalan turning point.
  • via Banaue-Bontoc
    • take a bus (Florida or Ohayami Trans) to Banaue. From Banaue ride a van to Bontoc then from Bontoc ride a jeep that’ll pass through Buscalan turning point. 

buscalan.jpg

Where to Stay:
Typically, the locals are willing to accommodate guests. They will feed you too with what food they can offer. This also includes unlimited local coffee. I would suggest to bring food or canned goods to share with the family who’ll take you in. The normal rate per night is Php 250 (of course extra is always welcome).

The Tattoo:
Be sure to wake up early the next morning because there is a queue for people who want to get a tattoo. I have non-traditional tattoos as well and I can say that batok process is more painful. On the plus side, it’s less meticulous so it’ll take a shorter time to finish. There are a couple of books where you can choose traditional designs from. Whag-od will still decide if the design chosen is appropriate.Depending on the size and detail, a tattoo would typically cost PhP 300-1500.

 

Tips:

  • Bring food to share.
  • Bring candies/chocolates to give to the children.
  • Enjoy the unlimited native coffee. You can also buy coffee for local consumption or pasalubong.
  • Bring extra cash.
  • Take your trash with you.