sun was out. scorching. its rays were piercing.
on top of the jeepney, our only aid in surviving the sweltering heat was a bottle of emperador. fight fire with fire. we tanked up on alcohol with hopes that it will be enough to numb our senses from the punishing sun. somehow it did, to a certain extent.
our jeepney hit the road around 8am. after 30 minutes, we started the ascent. the plains on the background drifted and gave way to hills and mountains. the ascend was gradual and so was the width of the road. from 2 lanes to, barely, 1. and, it’s up there in the mountain. definitely, it’s not a cruise for the faint of heart. the dizzying heights can surely send chills. it is after all literally and figuratively a highway.
of course, the journey was not all that bad. though the sun and road conditions were not our side, the splendour of nature was. it was ranges of mountains in all four horizons. the silhouettes of tree-clad mountains, in all shades of green, was sheer sexy.
it was a 12-hour ride from Manila to Tabuk; roughly a 3-hour ride from Tabuk to Buscalan. the home of the Last Mambabatok and the place where our group TREK( TRails to Empower Kids) was set to give aid and smiles. barangay Buscalan/Loccong was the destination.
TREK is a non-profit organization, established by a group of mountaineering friends, that aims to aid support to far-flung communities.
this is my feeble and long-overdue attempt as a Kalinga to learn more about Kalinga. i was born and raised in Tabuk which is the capital of the province but i failed to explore further than the capital’s borders. as a child who grew up around tribal wars and conflicts, it was unconsciously instilled in me about the vulnerability of the place.
the truth is traveling around my hometown had always been at the back of my head. but, somehow, something would always come and messed things up.
it was mid afternoon when we reached the end of the road for our truck. we started the 1-hour trek. the trail was fairly easy. though some parts were almost too shallow even for one person passing. one side you hug the mountain; other side a ravine. and the awesome scenery was a dangerous distraction.
we stopped by Buscalan. distributed school supplies. peeked at the legendary Whang-Od working and got scheduled.
we continued our hike to Loccong. it started to drizzle. it was an assault ascend to the top. we treaded through terraces which were then sleepery. the drizzle turned to a full-on rain.
with soak wet clothes, we crawled the final stretch- and so did darkness. it was nightfall when we arrived at the elementary school, our home for the night.
the temperature dropped. it was lightly cold. the water was freezing. the supposedly relaxing shower turned to what felt like an ALS ice bucket challenge. the first pour of water almost sent me running out butt naked.
the night was spent on classic-Kalinga pinikpikan, warm beer and tribal dancing. the night was dark, sans electricity.
morning broke and the sleepy village came alive. the sky was lovely with orange streaks piercing through the clouds. the morning sun casted rays to golden rice terraces and the endless verdant greens. the air was chilly and fresh. it was a glorious august morning. Loccong is sweetly tucked in the middle of virgin Cordilleran mountains.
the day went on with TREK activities and the tattoo session with Whang-od.
blood on my lower left tattoo-beaten arm gushed as the rain poured.
it was late afternoon when we bade goodbye to Buscalan. rain continued to rush, and so did we. i wore cotton shirt and running shoes both then were soaked. it was a stupid idea really. sneakers almost whacked out. apparently i need to get new shoes at Zalora once i get home.
the alcohol did numb my senses when we toploaded our way to Buscalan that morning. to a certain extent. a few days after the trip, now in Manila, my skin was still sore. two weeks after and it was still peeling.
my first attempt in seeing more of Kalinga left me 5 shades darker, sense of heritage 5 degrees richer, and morale 5 times happier. it was a good trip. long overdue but great, nonetheless.
TREK and tattoo experience will be on a separate post