‘Kalinga’ is a word in Tagalog which directly translates to ‘support’ or ‘care’ in English. In my country, it is not only associated with that word defined but also a known landlocked province situated in the vastness of Cordillera.
For me, the definition and the place are related because the wondrous province ignites nature appreciation. A trip to Kalinga is nurturing to the spirit which would make one support, and care even more to the beauty that surrounds us. Depending on the activity/ies you have in mind you can choose to stay at a hotel in Tabuk or Tinglayan, or both.
When going to a trip to Kalinga, countless of ideas come to my mind. However, I have only done two major activities. One of which is to white water raft at the lifeblood of the Cordillera region, Chico River. Rafting itself is exciting but Kalinga takes it to another level because it shows off the spectacular mountain scenery and takes you to see the more inaccessible and lesser known areas of the Cordillera. The activity has several levels depending on the weather, water level, and how strong the current is.
Kalinga province has several villages which needs long hours of trek. So for the second activity when I came back after three years, we made a plan to traverse three villages in one day and opt to choose closest possible in our route. From Luplupa village where we were staying, we rode a jeepney and ‘habal habal’ (motorcycle modified to seat more than two people) to the jump-off point of the hike. We started at Buscalan Village, which gained its popularity the last few years due to Apo Whang Od, 96-year old and the last tattoo artist (‘mambabatok’) of her tribe. En route to Buscalan, you’d see a small waterfalls apart from the many rice paddies. The next village we hiked was Loccong, less touristy and a lot of kids to play with. Apart from the picturesque view during the trek, you can also easily see the smiles from the locals who were just happy to see people visiting or passing their village.
Last but definitely not the least is Butbut Village, the route is quite different due to the ongoing changes to make a main road. It was a more relaxing trek since there weren’t much steeps going there but the view became more impressive because it provides a panoramic viewpoint of the expansive mountain range from a distance. We reached the last village in our itinerary around 3pm, where our guide, Kuya Moises, brought us to a house to freshen up, eat, and taste the irresistible Kalinga coffee. I avoid coffee because it makes me hyper but I made an exemption when I visited the province. My friend was eager to try the wooden bike we saw. Too bad it was broken so we ended up having our pictures taken instead. Kuya Moises fee per group for the day to guide around the villages is Php 1000. We gave more because we were overjoyed to have him as our guide especially when he poured his heart out when he shared his life story to us, another long story. Going back to the main road, we rode another ‘habal habal’ to finally end our traverse since it was a long way going down and sunset is about to come.
We also visited Mabilong village in Lubuagan the next day, side trip before going to home. You can drop by there by riding a jeepney going to Tabuk from Tinglayan. We wanted to add this to our list to see the Mabilong Weavers, they are one of Kalinga’s weaving community which has faithfully preserved this time honored cultural expression of traditional art work. The group has sustained several distinctive traditional designs and patterns, and given birth to newfound color arrangements, combinations, and variants.
Traveling in Kalinga, the route constantly greets you with the scenic greenery passing numerous rice terraces and mountain ranges. It is popular in the provinces to ride in ‘top-load’ style, where one can sit on the top of the jeepney. Very much enjoyable to do so but one must also be cautious because this scenic route also includes several cliff roads.
There are two ways to get to Kalinga, one of which passing through Tabuk (11 hours from Manila) and there are local jeepneys, buses or vans going to Tinglayan which takes around three hours. Another way is via Baguio (6 hours from Manila), where you can find buses going to Tabuk which passes Tinglayan for around another 6 hours or so, depending on your jeepney's mood. I'm saying the jeepney's mood because ours had two unfortunate stops due to mechanical issues which made the time going to the destination to take longer than usual.
I’ve just been to Kalinga twice and there’s still loads of things to do and see in this great region. Looking forward to visit again and see more in the coming months or years.