A few photos from a recent trip to Buscalan Village, home of the Butbut tribe and the legendary tattooist, Apo Whang Od, the last mambabatok and at 100 years old, believed to be the oldest tattoo artist.
When we arrived at Tabuk from Tuguegarao, we were told that the last jeep to Buscalan had already left. They told us to take a van up to Tinglayan instead and then a motorcycle up to Buscalan. These last two were taken from a tiny sliver in between tinted van windows on the way up to Tinglayan. Every few miles, we'd arrive at small barangays situated among the hills and cliffs of the tall mountains.
As it was already nearing dawn, our guide advised us to spend the night in Tinglayan as the trek up to Buscalan was dangerous in the dark.
We hopped off at the first inn we saw and ate our first rations of canned sardines (the inn only served rice and coffee).
The next day we woke up at sunrise and took the first jeep up to Buscalan.
What was supposed to be an hour long trip turned into half the morning as our jeep broke down halfway to Buscalan. By the time the jeep had started back up, we were full from all the bitter cherries and pomelo the women in the jeep had shared with us.
This lady who sat across from us had beautiful tattoo sleeves. She didn't speak any Tagalog, but luckily, the lady sitting beside her did, and through her, told us how she had gotten the tattoos when she was only 11 years old.
It was customary for parents to have their children tattooed and she recounted how her parents had to hold her down during the tattoo process.
We lost communication with our guide and got dropped off in the middle of no where.
A police vehicle drove by and asked us if we were heading up to Buscalan Village and told us to hop on.
On the ride up, we told them we wanted to meet Apo Whang Od. Coincidentally, they were on their way to pick her up for an important engagement in Baguio.
By sheer chance (or destiny?) and just in the nick of time, we met Apo Whang Od.
As we walked towards her, Ena placed her hand on Whang Od's forearm and exclaimed "Gwapa!" to which she warmly replied "Maganda!"
We didn't get inked, but we did get a cool design printed on the back of a travel itinerary print-out ena found in her backpack.
From the starting point of our trek to Buscalan Village (the group of houses in the background).
After a long, strenuous trek. Ena looking through photos of the Whang Od and the tribe as I go through 2 bottles of purple gatorade.
We spent the night in an old hut made of hard pine wood and cogon. Even the nails were made out of wood!
It was cool during the daytime and warm during the night.
Neighbors from across our hut.
We walked around the village. Sometimes (most times), we had to step around pigs who roamed around the village freely.
Apo Whang Od's hut is adorned with photos and old drivers licenses of people she's tattooed over the years.
Men cutting up firewood for a big wedding event coming up. We were told carabaos were going to be roasted.
Buscalan Village from dusk 'til dawn. I couldn't get enough of this place!