Roller Coaster Ride, Extreme Hike

A photo story about our Banaue, Ifugao-Buscalan, Kalinga trip on September 1-2, 2019

This is not just your ordinary road trip. Live with the locals and get exclusively tattooed in a traditional way by Apo Whang od. 


Going up, sliding down in split seconds, turning left and right alongside of the huge rocks and heights, round the cliffs, gold and green mountain valleys ahead–this is the kind of trip via Nueva Vizcaya- Ifugao-Mountain Province road. 

I’ve never known the word extreme road trip until we went to Banaue and Buscalan in Mountain Province.

On the first day of the ‘ber’ months, we hit the road in mid-night. My usual Sunday-Monday routine was given an unexpected twist experience with the upside down travel to the finest scenery of Mountain Province. 

It was originally a medical team trip composed of nurses and a doctor, but I was invited to join the adventure. We’re a total of fourteen pax plus our coordinator and organizer, Kuya Eddie and Ate Charm from Tara Let’s Explore event planner.


The trip went challenging yet exciting because of the twists and turns alongside of the Mountain province road. In the end, we were advised that it usually takes 15 hours but the driver was able to cut it down to 12. Our van driver from Taong Kalye 100 assured us it’s been like a playground for them, taking the same route four times a week.

Imagine our hearts pounding with thrill! It was purely an extreme ride! Eventually, we managed to overcome the ‘almost heart-attack stage’ to a fun-filled trip, setting aside dizziness and nausea, or I guess we’re just trying to forget it, otherwise we would end up smelling vomit. Overall, it was such a long trip we survived. 

Let the trek begin! Buscalan trail should only take 45 minutes but our team is composed of mostly beginners so we reached the top at an average pace of less than two-hour hike. For me, it was a tricky trail because of the concrete stairs in between a stiff altitude and rock slides.

Imagine our hearts pounding with thrill!

Meeting a 102-year old rockstar in the world of traditional tattoo, Apo Whang od is the oldest ‘mambabatok’ from the But-but tribe in Buscalan Village. I felt like I was star-strucked when I met her for the very first time because she’s so cool and she looks younger than her age. 

At first, it was awkward to approach her because she doesn’t speak Tagalog, only But-but dialect, but when it was my turn to take a photo with her– her smile is contagious! She has a ducane smile which I admire. I was truly tempted but I never get a tattoo. Sadly, not even Apo Whang od’s three-dot signature. 


Photo opp with Apo Whang Od at 102 years old

Apo Whang od had this naughty style of touching a male’s testicles when she’s in the mood. One of our co-traveler was actually sampled and it was a joyful scene and a precious moment with a local legend. 

Two days and one night stay in Buscalan was such a mix of experience. We traveled with our expectations and we end up overwhelmed with the overflowing warmth of the scenery in spite of the low temperature in Banaue. I love the wooden house where we shared sleeping beds and stories about knowing each other. A 12-hour-ride from Pampanga to Buscalan had put everyone into a goodnight sleep that quiet Sunday evening.


The locals were so accommodating and hospitable. I won’t forget the next morning when I wake up and I was greeted with a cold crisp wind and the view of the sky kissing the mountain while I sip a freshly brewed coffee. I had a chance to take a photo with a local lolo having his coffee, too. 

Morning coffee with the locals in Buscalan Village, Tinglayan, Kalinga
Courtesy shot by Xanthi


Our tour coordinators, Kuya Eddie and Ate Charm Asuncion are generous and friendly. They know when you can’t go on and give you a tap on your back to loosen up. I woke up in the evening for dinner and chatted with Kuya Eddie about my previous trek in Mt. Ulap. Ate Charm is such an experienced traveler as well, they both made it a meaningful trip for everyone. How can I forget the tastiest daeng na bangos that we ate for breakfast? Deliciously crunchy! 

When you travel, you encounter the most unexpected journey of your life. Came across different types of people whom you end up as comrades instead of just acquaintances. It is true that when you conquer a new destination, you become more humble and appreciative with what you have in life rather than complaining about the obstacles you can’t surpass.

Life is hard, but how you see it makes a lot more difference than just doing nothing about itTara Let’s Explore and Hang around!

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