Trekking to Remote Buscalan

In March of 2018 I made the trek out to the remote mountain village of Buscalan in the Kalinga province in the Cordeillero region in northern Luzon, Philippines. We came to try and get tattoos from Apo Whang Od, oldest living Kalinga Tattoo Artist (or “mambabatok”). We weren’t able to get ink from Apo Whang but did get tattooed in the traditional fashion (pomelo thorn, bamboo and charcoal ink).


The trip alone was long, arduous and at times somewhat precarious. After hours spent on an overnight bus ride, we made it to Bontoc, as far as the bus line ran towards our destination. From Bontoc we took a jeepney ride up the Halsema highway, one of the most dangerous highways in all of Asia. I remember wondering why there were so many large stones and boulders in the road… that’s when I noticed that it was because they were regularly just rolling off the side of the mountain.

Holding on to the rails of the top of the jeepney for dear life we rode up the highway up until the point that nothing with wheels could pass. From here we found a guide who accompanied us as we made the steep hike up the narrow path. At one point I ended up losing a sandal which got sucked down into a rice paddy, never to be seen again! Ah, but it was worth it for the once in a lifetime experience we gained.

In this video I go into a little bit of detail about some of the history behind the Kalinga and their tattoo tradition. Thanks to the Goldwater staff, especially my Goldwater co-host Diana Printz who was responsible for video-recording and editing the audio and video together and K2, our a/v guy who mixed the audio of my recording and of course Diana, Maria and Tita Fely for accompanying me on the adventure.


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