Apo Whang-od is the famous tattoo artist of Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines. She’s the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines and believed to be the last mambabatok (Traditional Kalinga Tattooist). Traditionally, She’s been tattooing the headhunters and women of the Butbut tribe for more than 80 years. But unfortunately, the Butbut warriors who used to earn tattoos through protecting villages no longer exist. Now people around the world go to Buscalan just to get a tattoo from Apo Whang-Od.
Just last November, I visited Buscalan for 2 days to get a batok (tattoo). Note, weekends can get pretty crowded and I advised you to go on weekdays if possible to avoid long queue to get a tattoo.
How to get there:
There are several ways to get to Buscalan from Manila. We opted to take the via Banaue route. We left Manila at around 10 PM and arrived at Banaue at around 7 AM ( 10 hrs. ride). We had an overnight trip first to Maligcong to visit Mt. Kupapey and Mt. Fato first.
1. Metro Manila to Bontoc
There are 3 options to get to Bontoc. We prefer to drop by at Banaue first for breakfast before going to Maligcong.
Option 1: Manila – Bontoc (via Coda Lines)
Coda Bus Lines has daily trips to Sagada via Bontoc. Leaving at 9PM and arriving at 7AM the next day. The bus station is at HM Transport Cubao Terminal. Fare is Php 685.
CODA LINES BUS SCHEDULE:
277 E Rodriguez SR. Avenue
Proceed between TUA and Shakey’s
0927 559 2197/ 0929 521 3229
Poblacion, Sagada, Mt. Province
0920 651 9672/ 0977 341 5295
Eyeb, Poblacion, Bontoc
Option 2: Manila – Baguio – Bontoc
- Take a bus bound for Baguio such as Victory Liner in Pasay or Cubao. Fare is Php 445.
- Take a cab to Slaughter House and catch the rising sun going to Bontoc. Travel time is 6hrs and the Fare is Php 250.
Option 3: Manila – Banaue- Bontoc
- Take Ohayami Bus to Banaue. The Fare is Php 450 and the travel time is 9 hrs.
- From Banaue, take a jeep or van to Bontoc. The fare is Php 150 – Php 250. Travel time from Banaue is 1.5 hrs.
OHAYAMI BUS SCHEDULE:
Cor. Fajardo St.,
Lacson Ave, Sampaloc, Manila
Poblacion, Marker, Town Center,
For more info visit their website.
2. Bontoc to Tinglayan
From Bontoc ride a jeep or bus bound to Tabuk that passes through Tinglayan. This is the town where Buscalan belongs.
From there you can walk your way up or opt to take the habal-habal (motorcycle) ride. Then start a short trek to the village of Butbut.
Where to stay:
Homestays are the only accommodations in Buscalan. Many families, renovated their house to accommodate guests. The fixed price is Php 250 (5 USD). This includes unlimited coffee and rice. There are cooked foods available but with limited choices. But if you’re picky or you want to save money, you can bring your canned goods. Cooking is also allowed.
We stayed at Kuya Gilbert’s guesthouse. though a few minutes away from Apo Whang-Od’s workshop. The view from there is breathtaking. You can see the whole rice terraces from here.
Contact number: 09084792012 / 09299579828
During your free time, you can visit the falls nearby the village. But we decided to stay and play around with the Butbut children.
At night, the gentlemen of the village invited us to join the bonfire with them. We were entertained by their “Tito jokes”. Too bad, we don’t have marshmallows to roast.
Sample Itinerary (2d 1N)
Day 0 – Departure
- 10:00 PM – ETD to Banaue
Day 1 – Travel Day
- 07:00 – ETA Banaue
- 07:00 – 8: AM – Breakfast and stretching
- 08:00 – Depart to Bontoc
- 11:00 – ETA Bontoc / Buy supplies
- 12:00 – Depart for Tinglayan
- 13:30 – Arrival at Turning Point (Trek)
- 14:30 – Arrival at Buscalan (register)
- 15:00 – Free time
- 20:00 – Dinner
- 21:00 – Bonfire sesh with the locals
- 22:00 – Lights out
Day 2 – Tattoo day + Departure
- 06:00 – Wakeup call / Breakfast
- 07:00 – Queue for the tattoo
- 11:00 – Start Trek
- 12:00 – Depart to Banaue
- 16:00 – ETA Banaue / Free Time / Dinner
- 18:30 – ETD Banaue to Manila
- 04:00 – ETA Manila
Tip: Jeep from Tinglayan to Bontoc departs at 9 AM and 12 NN. Better be safe to leave the village before 11 AM. We’re unable to catch the last trip. Luckily, a jeepney coming from Bontoc to Tinglayan passed by. The driver said he was free to accommodate new passengers as he has just finished transporting foreign tourists and is heading back to Bontoc. We felt so lucky! Kuya Gilbert did most of the negotiation for the fare.
Estimated Budget for 3pax
- Transportation (roundtrip) – Php 900
- Van to Bontoc (roundtrip) – Php 300
- Bontoc to Tinglayan (roundtrip) – Php 80
- Habal-habal ride (optional) – Php 100
- Accommodation – Php 250
- Tattoo: Php 300
- Guide Fee (max 5 pax) – Php 1000/3 – Php 333.33
- Total: Php 2,748.33
Safe Budget is around Php 3,000
Team Kupapey with the legendary Apo Whang-Od. There’s this Facebook group you can join this facebook group, Tattooed by Apo Whang-Od to find others who are planning. And most of all, read through the page to learn the issues concerning Buscalan now due to the “commercialization of the batok experience”.
If you have questions and inquiries regarding visiting Apo Whang-Od, Feel free to drop your comments below. I’ll answer it as soon as possible.