"I am soliloquizing under the scorching strike of the sun that is adding more agony to my weary self. I hope I am not yet lost. But if ever I'm lost, at least I'm lost in a paradise."
When I said hiking solo, I really mean it literally since some people say they hike solo but with a guide or a porter. My guide this time was my instinct and there's no need for a porter since I can do the job myself. Hush, hush... or else I will be talking to myself.
A basic need called rest
The idea of going straight to Buscalan without any contact or a guide is not a result of an emotional depression leading to suicide. This is not a suicide by the way. This is how I explore when I want to see, discover or learn something as driven by curiosity. I push beyond the limit and thanks to my friends and my parents for the warnings, though I am a stubborn son and a friend who doesn't consider friendly advice.
Looking for help and direction. It would be my first time to land to KALINGA this moment and I'm sure this won't be the last. On how I got here was the result of an interaction with a stranger in a computer shop in #BONTOC
#BONTOCFAST FACTS: The capital town of Mountain Province, #Bontoc hosts majestic ancestral rice terraces, a prehistoric village, burial caves and the melting pot of culture in the province. / Photo: Palali Rice Terraces @ Alab Oriente, Bontoc where I checked e-mails and social media updates through a rented computer. I heard a lady talking about #TINGLAYAN
#TINGLAYANFAST FACTS: This town located at the southern part of Kalinga province gained attention upon the rediscovery of the last authentic "mambabatok" (traditional tattoo artist) whose works are linked to headhunting and beauty based on the perspective of their culture.
Photo: Bugnay Village in Tinglayan in local dialect how I wish I was able to understand. But the fact that she was mentioning this place on which I have been dreaming to see because of its authentic culture (and if there will be a good view, that's a bonus), I left my seat from the computer shop and talked to her.
I asked her about the directions going to Tinglayan and she didn't fail me. This lady was an angel from up above. The next day, I went to the location mentioned by this lady that I surmise, in her early 40s. I rode into a bus and had a rough ride through the BONTOC-TABUK ROAD
[CORDILLERA] Bontoc-Tabuk Road: Mt. Province-Kalinga Border CrossingTEASER: "My blunt brain due to being deprived of sleep was instantly reset to sight-seeing mode after it hibernated for a while when I started seeing this wonderful view that temporarily locked my jaw.". I passed through the high town of #SADANGA
#SADANGAFAST FACTS: #Sadanga is located north of the capital town of #Bontoc and south of the Kalinga town of #Tinglayan. It is believed to be the town of the early elites of Mt. Province.
Photo: Bekigan Rice Terraces @ Sadanga, Mt. Province until I reached Bugnay, the first village in Kalinga Province from the south via the road I mentioned above..
A moment in Bugnay. From BUGNAY VILLAGE
[TINGLAYAN] 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.", I asked individuals how can I go to Buscalan. Someone told me I have to hike for two to three hours (may vary according to your pace). That's all they have to say. I asked if they know Fang-Od. One man told me he doesn't know her. Out of all the people who know her, I was destined to meet this man who has nothing to say at all. But I mentioned the tattoo artist (mambabatok) in Buscalan. Then he maybe recalled. He knows that woman, but not by her name.
Before I decided to hike, I spent a moment in a small settlement in Bugnay located along the road mingling with the locals and hunting for tattooed old Kalinga women. I found two. I took photos of them, they asked me for a fee. I gave them a tip as they requested.
An ancient start, an ancient stone. After gathering enough information from the locals, I started the hike. Someone pointed where should I start and that I should step to that stone. The local told me the stone I am going to step onto is the original stone used by the locals since time immemorial. It has been used by the tribesmen to hike up to Buscalan. I'm not really sure if this man was telling the truth. Remember, one of the villagers here doesn't even know who Fang-Od is.
Start of the solo hike, one of the stones is the official stepping stone
It's just an ordinary looking stone. However, the fact that this stone has been there since then and has served its purpose for all the people who are going to Buscalan, this stone is something to look after too. It's a small yet great piece of the culture, history and heritage of the people living here.
No guide. Very limited idea. Thanks to a bus driver, the one who took charge of our lives while taking the deadly road to Bugnay. Aside from his expertise in driving to a road like this, he has been of so much help on how I should go to Buscalan. He was the one who told me to drop off in Bugnay. I told him I have heard I should stay first in a village called Luplupa but he told me that's already far and I should start the hike in Bugnay.
Well after this helpful information, wherein I saved a penny of still going to Luplupa (where a guide is available) and stay there overnight then go back to Bugnay again, the problem now is who will be my guide and how will I reach that village? Here I am again, why I am punishing myself this way? Linger, I realized I have to do this. No turning back. I am now here.
A view of the rice terraces from a higher ground
I have heard that the tour guide whose name is Francis is from Luplupa. But since I didn't go to Luplupa and went straight to Buscalan, there is no other choice but to go alone, come what may.
Somehow I have this little fear about the possibility that headhunting exists here still. You know it's my first time and I am alone I told you. Although I have convinced myself that headhunting is long gone, my situation now pushes me to believe there are still remnants of this practice. But more than this, I have a fear of encountering insurgents for a first-timer like me who doesn't even know how to go to the place I am trying to visit.
Not enough breakfast. I remember the hotel staff in Bontoc where I stayed has to wake up early and cook for early bird's breakfast including me since I am leaving my hotel room at dawn. The chicken meal they have cooked was oh-so-good! During the hike, I started to believe that it was not a good breakfast to supply me an ample energy. If I should have known that the situation would be like this, I should have eaten more.
As I got hungry along the trail on which there's nowhere I can buy a food and I could just lost my consciousnesses anytime due to hypoglycemia, my body is demanding for a food, more carbohydrates would be better. But where should I get a food? Then I remembered something.
My gift for Fang-Od vs. my life. Before I went to Buscalan and meet Fang-Od, I bought packs of sugar and bread for her as a gift. But my body is longing for energy. The solo hike with no guide nor any idea at all on how to reach and how far the village is, was not an easy situation. Now I remember I have this food in my backpack.
So I have to open the packed breads and eat. That should be my gift to Fang-Od but I don't want to punish myself this way. To put the case to rest, I will eat. That was my first time mountainside solitary dining experience.
It's now nearly 30 minutes of hiking and I have been losing body fluids through sweat while replacing it by drinking the limited bottle of water I brought with me. Should I wanted to bring more water, it will be an additional burden for me since it makes my backpack heavier. Besides, my backpack has no more space for new items while hand-carrying a bottle of water for me is a major hassle.
Light breakfast on a mountainside
How far? How hard? I have been hiking for about an hour now and I still can't find people along the way aside from this two cows that blocked the narrow trail I am taking. I am not even sure this time if I am following the right path. I believe I'm halfway since it has been an hour (they say it is 2 hours) but still, I can not see any individual or a village from afar. Am I on the right track?
It's a long long hike. More mountains to hike.
I have been grasping for breathe. I am so tired. I am so thirsty. I am getting weak. Where have all the people and the villagers gone? Where am I now? What part of Kalinga is this? Am I still in Kalinga? I am soliloquizing under the the scorching strike of the sun that is adding more agony for my weary self. I hope I am not yet lost. But if ever I'm lost, at least I'm lost now in a paradise.
I looked to that distant mountain. I can see the trail. It's a long long hike ahead. My mind has to come to the point of weighing things and at some points of time, a confusion. The fact that I am not seeing any village where this path is leading is making me weak! Where is the village? Anybody here? And what the heck still am I doing in this empty, mysterious destination without a place to buy my favorite fruit shake and a sachet of a 3-in-1 coffee I drink at least 3X a day? However, it was my decision and if something happens to me, it's my fault, but with this situation, I need a wise decision if I should continue or not. I'm halfway (how I greatly wish I'm really halfway, and how would I know?), or this would mean halfway to risking my life? I think I'm crazy. If ever I should survive the solo expedition, this will be a memorable journey -- that's for sure! But if I won't be successful to accomplish it, still, it is memorable. /to be continued...
*BUSCALAN SOLO INVASION SUB-SERIES | 1 | 2
[TINGLAYAN] The Day I Hiked Solo to Buscalan, Kalinga - Part 2/2
TEASER: "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..." | 3
[TINGLAYAN] Fang-Od (Whang-Od): The Last Tribal Tattoo Artist of Kalinga
TEASER: "She is unwittingly ending a tradition she is not supposed to end. She's ending the tradition not by her choice but by the call of our ever changing society." | 4
[TINGLAYAN] 17 Great Memories + First Time Encounters in Buscalan, KalingaTEASER: "Buscalan rose to fame because of Fang-od. But Buscalan is more than Fang-od. It is more than the tribal tattoo." | 5
[TINGLAYAN] Chewed, Swallowed Frogs in Buscalan, KalingaTEASER: "We talked with joy behind the darkness. That dinner unleashed the real us. The candlelight was a silent witness of our fears, happiness and life's perspectives." | 6
[TINGLAYAN] There was No Sunrise in Buscalan, KalingaTEASER: "So the sun didn't shine that morning. However, I was able to understand the other side of the story."
[TINGLAYAN] Buscalan Rice Terraces Kissed the CloudsTEASER: "This is my story about the Buscalan Rice Terraces. At first there is a foreplay with the clouds but it always ends up with a satisfactory finish."