I've been walking, hiking and at some point crawling for more than an hour now in this beautiful space where I can not even see any single individual to at least satisfy my instinct that I am going to the right direction, to a real village, and not to be lost to an unfamiliar place. The sun is still too hot, scorching and an expert strength-grabber. I can not see any individual to call for help in this crazy thing I am doing - solo hike to a mountaintop village which is my first time to visit.
Bugnay Rice Terraces and that Lucky Village in KalingaTEASER: "The Kalinga prima facie evidence in terms of beauty should not be a subject for debate because if I were to be the judge, the evidence is too strong to put the case to rest." if a solo hike to Buscalan is doable for my type: skinny, tall, no heart problem, determined with a well-fit jeans and no formal training in mountaineering.
More Rice Terraces
No regrets | If not for the beautiful view, I may have aborted the journey. I was thinking that there is still a reason to continue. If ever I am lost, at least I am experiencing an ancient cultural landscape, a gasp of fresh air and new beautiful memories that are testing my memory capacity.
No regrets, if ever I'm not seeing Fang-od, this memorable journey will stay forever in my heart. Seeing the beauty of KALINGA
KALINGAFAST FACTS: Kalinga is believed to be the home of the last headhunters of the Cordilleras.
Photo: Bugnay Village @ Tinglayan, Kalinga is a separate accomplishment for me. It would be enough. It would be just fine than to allow the vibration of disappointment to consume me with negative elements in the spiritual world.
Seeing a mountain road | More than an hour of hide and seek (me seeking a hidden village), I have finally landed to conclusion that a village exists out there; though this time I am not yet seeing any house, or a village. I am down to the final hike to this trail and after this will be more convenient. That's what I was thinking, but actually it was not. I 'll narrate later.
Yipeeee! There's a road finally! You know, a road means a lot for me because it means there's a community, there's a civilization and there are real human beings. My hope was resurrected. My doubts diminished. My determination was focused.
My first road encounter after the hike
I took that road. It was the only road I saw since the start of the hike. It's a big reward for an exhausted person like me getting thirsty and constantly thinking where can I buy a food and a sachet of coffee. I followed the road; I went westward.
I have chosen to go to the west because the road is going up which means it leads to a higher altitude, a theory I cling-ed onto that this road is leading me to that mountaintop village that constantly hides from my sight.
First human encounter| I continued to hike using this road, uh, it's more on walking, though the road is ascending. It still requires the hamstring strength you need in hiking. I savored the beautiful view and the fact that I survived the hike with no one to ask for direction boosted my confidence that I can finish this adventure of a lifetime.
A mountaintop rice field
Terraced rice field
As I walked up the road, I saw two backpackers walking against my direction. This must be exciting! They look like Caucasians. When I have been near them, I unleashed that dose of courage required to ask questions to strangers. I asked where did they come from? One told me they came from Buscalan.
Just before I have to follow-up my question, they have asked me a question, "Are you going to get a tattoo?" I said maybe. Then I learned that they are French backpackers. It made me realize that Fang-od is going global, an international tattoo artist to that effect.
Based on the statement of that French backpacker who sees me with a backpack, everyone who is walking on this road who doesn't resemble the common face of the locals will be treated as visitor who's going to see Fang-od. See? These Frenchmen knew I was going there just before I asked for directions and they confirmed I am going to the right direction; my instinct served me well.
I continued the hike and finally I have seen some houses, a school and a rest area. This time, I think I am safe as what my instinct has told me. I told you, my instinct is my guide.
Maybe a rest area for hikers
Southern Tinglayan National High School on an accessible location
Although the French backpackers have confirmed I am going to the right way, I still took this great opportunity to ask for the direction from the words of the locals themselves. As I continue to ascend, I saw this building from afar, but I still had no idea what this building is all about. When I came close, I read the signboard. It is a school.
I remember when I was at the other side of the cliff, I shouted to a person I saw located at the other side where the school is located. I was waving my hands asking if where is the way to Buscalan. I got dismayed, they didn't understand what I was talking about, maybe because they speak a different dialect.
I went close to this school and again shouted for help (in finding the direction). Someone came over. I later learned he is a teacher of the school. He smiled at me. I smiled back. I asked the direction. He answered without hesitation. He doesn't look paranoid. Maybe, he has seen many people like me who are lost for the direction. He might have been accustomed of seeing backpackers like me going to Buscalan asking for directions. I went through and I saw more locals with friendly smiles going down the road.
Long and winding road to the village
The dead end: motorbike vs. walking | It came late to my knowledge that I can actually ride on a motorbike up to the end of the road as what some locals have told me.
But I didn't know about it. There was a feeling of regret due to the fact that I nearly collapsed in thirst. And since my breakfast has been catabolized due to the difficult hike, I ate the bread that is supposed to be my gift to Fang-od.
Should I have ridden on a motorbike, I should have not been self-punished this way for being a stubborn child who tells a lie from my parents that I am going in this place.
These galvanized structures are where the motorbikes are kept
I reached the dead end of the road but the end of the road is a picture of more mountains: no village was seen, no other buildings. So is this the real deal? I hoped it's more convenient now but it was not. There is a single trail from the road. I believe this was the trail to Buscalan. Hey Buscalan! How could you be so far? How could you be so hidden? How I wish there could be flights to anywhere like landing to this village, but it is just impossible, even land vehicles can not enter. Everyone needs to hike and walk.
Seriously? Where is the end of the trail?
Everywhere is a trail. Where and when should this hiking end?
So I thought the hike is over, but as I took a turn on that road, I saw the other side of the mountain and it doesn't look like I am getting any closer. It goes farther, and farther... Well, it's still too far and I am not seeing any village again. The hike I experienced from the past 2 hours seemed like going to chase me once more - and I was right.
I have to hike for another hour again. It seemed so endless. I am now very far. All I need now is to see a person to comfort me.
This waterfalls is seen along the way to Buscalan
The waterfalls from afar. I trekked up close although I was tired.
Seeing the village | I am finally seeing a village. Is that Buscalan? I have to say now that the village I was seeing below was not the village where Fang-od is located. But I think it is still part of Buscalan
Looking back from where I've been. Can you notice the trail at the right?
When I was already at the other side of the mountain, I realized how far I have been. I have learned the reason why Buscalan was hidden - the village can not be seen there because it has been veiled by that mountain.
Finally, a village...
That time I saw this village was like winning in a lottery. I am now getting closer, and closer to my goals. It was a great thing I didn't turn back, or else, I won't see anything.
But this village is not yet the real Buscalan. The core of the village is located higher, and I still can't see from here. I need to hike up more.
I continued the hike. The air gets cooler. The fog starts to embrace me and I forgot it was a high noon. I climbed the concrete stairs. I think it was more than a thousand steps. That was a very long, long, stair that goes up and goes down. The hard part is the going up. I have to stop every now and then to rest. My energy is now really depleted.
I reached the real village. I saw dark piggies roaming around freely. I saw some children going down the concrete stairs and running. They are ace. They are not afraid to run even though the cliff is just right there. I took it slow. I didn't want to fall.
The Fang-od sign board
I asked the villagers where is Fang-od. There I saw her name posted on a wood with red characters saying: "Welcome: Fang-od Tatoo Artist. It was written in wrong spelling but who cares? I hiked for 3 hours to see a legend and not to see a sign board. I will be meeting the woman. When she met me, the first thing she gave to me as a visitor was...(?) /to be continued...