North Trip: Part 1

Every year, I spend the last week of December away from the city to celebrate my birthday. Last 2014, I decided to head up north to finally check one of the items in my "Things to do before 30" list - Get tattooed by the last mambabatok in the Philippines, Fang Od.

I sort of didn't have that much plan or itinerary. My 29-year old self wanted to YOLO it (HAHA):

December 26: Unusual 11-hour drive from Manila to Baguio. Traffic was such a pain in the ass, literally and figuratively. Lahat ata ng tao pupuntang Baguio. Stayed for the night.

December 27: Headed out to the Slaughter House Compound in Baguio to wait for the bus going to Bontoc. If you must know, Bontoc is the capital of the Mountain Province. Buses to Bontoc leave as early as 5am. Last bus to Bontoc leaves at around 1-2pm. The bus gets full super fast, btw. I was able to chance the 2pm bus (LAST BUS WOOHOOOO.) Arrived at Bontoc 8pmish.

  • Baguio to Bontoc travel time: 6 hours (with 3 stopovers)
  • D'Rising Sun bus fare: Php 176.
Hello from my freezing self. Next time, wear a jacket.

Hello from my freezing self. Next time, wear a jacket.


My YOLO self forgot to book a hotel in Bontoc. Luckily (sort of), the innkeeper at Churya-a let us stay in their quarters at the Laundry area (YES, Laundry area. I had no choice haha!) I still had to pay Php 200 for my stay, though.

December 28: Birthday! Took the first jeep (7am) bound for Tinglayan. TOPLOADING IS A MUST! The view is nice but it gets super chilly so make sure to wear a jacket - unless you want to freeze to death.

  • Go down at Bugnay Junction.
  • Fare is Php 100. Travel time from Bontoc to Bugnay is 2 hours.

Went down at Bugnay Junction to meet our guide, Francis Pa-in. He is one of the pioneer guides in that area (the guide fee is kinda expensive already). AND SO THE TREK BEGINS!

Our guide, Francis Pa-In

Our guide, Francis Pa-In

Pretty view of the Tinglayan Village

Pretty view of the Tinglayan Village

I read somewhere that to get to Buscalan village, you can trek all the way up (2-3hours) or take a habal-habal up to a certain point and then trek (1 hour). However, our guide insisted on doing a full trek for us to enjoy the view. He said "Trekking? It's good for the heart!"

My legs wanted to die. Really. My beach-loving self probably said "I'll never go trekking again" a million times over the last 3 hours.

After countless breaks and what seemed like forever, we reached the top! Our host family let us stay in their new guest house which has a nice they served us the best brewed coffee, ever <3  


Since Fang-Od and Grace were still busy tattooing other people, we had time to roam around the village.

Knife maker in Buscalan village

Knife maker in Buscalan village

Francis Pa-In and Nico with the Pipe/Broom makers of Buscalan village

Francis Pa-In and Nico with the Pipe/Broom makers of Buscalan village

What a view! &lt;3

What a view! <3


Things to note:

  • Time flies super slow in Buscalan. It's quiet and peaceful. The weather is pretty warm during daytime but chilly at night.
  • The villagers do not understand Tagalog but they can speak/understand a bit of English. It's a must to bring matches as gifts/tokens for the villagers, and candies for the kids. 
  • We got a locally woven knife design for Php 250, Pipe for Php 150, and a bag of Coffee for Php 100.
  • Francis Pa-In charges Php 1,000 per day. You can contact him at +639157690843.
  • Homestay at Buscalan is Php 200 - Php 250 per night. Meals are served but of course they're not as grand as in hotels. You eat what the family serves you. Coffee is unlimited!

My tattoo escapade will be detailed in the next post! xoxo