Monday, September 16, 2013

Overnight in Buscalan and Hiking Back to Tinglayan over the Boondocks

Buscalan - Lola by the fence
Buscalan tattooed elder by a fence
After a tattooing session with Fang-od, we went around the community to meet some of the villagers and to observe.  The only thing with an overnighter in a small village like Buscalan is that you end up being observed yourself and queried especially when there's not a lot of outside visitors around.  But that's life.  And a different story altogether.  Maybe next time, we can stay longer and be a bit more assimilated into the community so I can observe unhampered.

At first, Fang-od seems to me an anomaly, strong and nimble for her age of 93.  We chanced upon an elderly man assembling a broom by the light of a small window.  The light was beautiful though the overcast condition rendered the room a bit too dim for doing such a task.  Our guide, Francis, chimed in, "He's 93 years old, too."  And he's not alone in the 80- something demographic in the barangay.
Buscalan - 93 year old Broommaker
93 year old broom-maker working by the light of a window
In the silong (basement that doubles as work area/storage/livestock raising space) of an adjacent house, an 83 year old man was making knives with ornate woven rattan handles.   There must be something about living in a remote mountain village that alters one's constitution -- all the hiking just to get to the nearby village; the strenuous farming; the clean air and water; the diet (we had native chicken tinola for lunch and stewed mixed beans with mountain red rice for dinner).  I can't blame Fang-od for refusing to go to the city for reasons of health concerns.

I digress but it's a bit ironic that we had our first taste of Kalinga barako coffee here, never thinking of requesting it in Tinglayan.  Poured straight from an old-fashioned thermos, it's a bit gritty owing to the boiling process but the taste is deliciously nutty.  I had second and third helpings.

The family of Abu was kind enough to let us stay in the bedroom for the night, her family opting to sleep on a straw mat in the kitchen.  One thing I've noticed is the ubiquitous-ness of portable radio sets.  Abu's son told me the village teenagers love having the sets, pulling in country music aired from Bontoc. It's something I've grown to be familiar with when traveling in the Cordilleras.   No one knows how to play the guitar so we had nothing much to do that evening but to enjoy the nippy weather.

It rained almost the whole evening and by the time morning came, it was like 27-28ยบ Celsius.  Stepping out and breathing in the cool air, I can see my exhalations.  While the roosters crowed and pigs resumed their roaming, kids and adults alike were huddled talking about sundry matters like the crops, harvest, weather, Francis intimated.  A fine time to enjoy another cup or two of that Kalinga coffee and a breakfast of sardines mixed with native eggs -- the better to fuel ourselves for the long hike back to Tinglayan.
Kalinga - Hiking to Ngibat II
Hiking to Ngibat
We left Buscalan before 8am for a traverse of several villages including Butbot to the east and Ngibat to the south headed for Liyao.  The scenery, while continually shifting, is always postcard-worthy especially in the early morning when the fog shrouds the mountains; the views read like a photography coffeetable book: a lovely waterfall here, more rice terraces over there.  For stretches of the six-hour hike, we were left to ourselves and our thoughts with no other soul in sight for kilometers around.  When we got to the villages, we also met interesting personalities like a former NPA high ranking officer in Butbot, who excitedly showed us his battle scars even as he was equally excited to see my friend's tattoo. 

By the time we reached the barangay of Ngibat, it was already noon.  Ngibat is the place where Fang-od got her tattoo when she was 16 (that was in the 1930s before the second world war and another time altogether).  The free flowing spring water quenched our thirst and quelled our hunger somewhat.
Attribution:  Google Maps
Oh, the hike is tough to be honest.  I was never a strong hiker and there were a lot of moments when all I can think of is putting my left foot forward followed by my right, then repeating the process over and over again for the next couple of hours, sort of like a meditation exercise.  But the amazing scenery makes up for the arduous trek.  The steep descent to Liyao near Luplupa via concrete path is really hard on the knees which makes me thankful to Francis for finding us wooden poles for support.  From Liyao, it's still a five kilometer walk on paved road to Tinglayan passing through Luplupa.  Talk about being starved and famished. We passed through a beautiful portion of the road with high cliffs which reminded me of the breathtaking road to Chavayan in Batanes.  Francis spoiled my reverie by saying this was the site of many ambuscades during the Marcos regime, the locals positioning themselves high up the vertical cliffs waiting for the soldiers to slowly negotiate the twisting road.
Buscalan - Early morning scenery
Hiking to Butbot from Buscalan scenery
By the time we got to Tinglayan, we were spent and very, very hungry.   Never mind if all that was available at the nearby eatery is fried chicken leftover from noontime.  All I wanted to do after eating lunch at 3pm and taking a shower was sleep the rest of the day away.  Still, it was wonderful to be able to see these parts and meet the locals.  Would I replay this hike again in the future?  Hmmm, ask me again after my swollen ankle gets back to normal, my insect bites subside, and my badly sunburned neck and arms get restored to their pale whiteness.

Buscalan - Fang-od inspecting the thornRead my related posts:  









Tinglayan Chico River and Bridge with View of Sleeping Beauty Kalinga: Getting off the grid, ignoring the bed weather and bad rep in Tinglayan

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