TRAVEL CORDILLERA CHRONICLES: BUSCALAN 1.0 + 2.0

Note: Since it’s taking me awhile to update this and have so many travel backlogs, I’ll be posting articles I’ve written for FilAmStar News, a US-based online and print newspaper catering to the Filipino Community.  Check them out at http://www.filamstar.com.

These published articles chronicle my 2016 backpacking trip up North covering Kalinga, Banaue and Mountain Province. Travel date: 5-11 February 2016

This specific article chronicles my first (30 November – 2 December 2015) and second trip (9-11 February 2016) to Buscalan. 

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Date Published: March 24 – 30, 2016, Issue 363

PART 1: FINDING BUSCALAN

I have been meaning to climb Barangay Buscalan since reading about Whang – Od in 2011, but it never pushed through. I finally got around to doing it in 2015. It was part of the first major climb I took that year, along with Mt. Pulag.

The travel going to Brgy. Buscalan is long and entails a lot of waiting. On our first trip there, it took us over 15 hours of travel time from Baguio. That’s seven hours on the bus, 30 minutes on jeepney, five hours of waiting for the cargo/passenger jeep that will bring us to Tinglayan, two hours riding on said jeepney, 15 minutes on habal-habal (motorcycle) and lastly, 45 minutes hiking up to Brgy. Buscalan.

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Topload view going to Bontoc. Photo by Eunice Maximo.
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Habal-habal terminal. Photo by Eunice Maximo.

The view during the entire trip more than makes up for the length of it. From the surreal cotton candy – colored sunrise to the marvelous stretch of Chico River and the 360 degree beauty of the Cordilleras, one will be left watching in awe, glued to the window of the bus (or in some cases, disregarding the hair-whipping wind riding topload). A picture would never give the view justice. The best photos I took were all in my head.

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Photos don’t give justice to the beauty of the great Cordilleras. Photo by Eunice Maximo.

THE NEW ROUTE TO BUSCALAN

For this second trip to Brgy. Buscalan, we were supposed to go to Tabuk from Baguio, where our contact will meet us. But the bus conductor at the Dangwa Terminal in Baguio told us of a faster route via Bontoc. We boarded that bus and got dropped off at Dantay Junction, where we rode topload jeepney going to Bontoc.

In Bontoc, we were supposed to take the Tabuk jeepney, but was once again discouraged by the locals. Fortunately for us, the cargo jeepney bound straight for Tinglayan decided to offer seats for travelers that day. I say this with pride: We were part of the first group of backpackers to ride the new route.

 The jeepney dropped us off at the habal-habal terminal, where we rode the motorcycles to the trekking jump-off point. From there, we took a scenic climb up Brgy. Buscalan, passing by small-scale rice terraces and a waterfall. We reached Brgy. Buscalan just as the sun was setting, and needless to say, it gave use the most dramatic view of the Cordilleras.

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Reaching Buscalan. Photo by Eunice Maximo. Edit: A souvenir shop now stands on this spot.

ARRIVING AT BUSCALAN

The people of Brgy. Buscalan are known as Butbut. Charlie Pan-oy is a Butbut and is probably the most popular tour guide from the place. He owns a very hip homestay “Charlie Knows”.

There are no hostels in Buscalan and homestays are the only option for accommodation. The room we stayed in is big and bare. Mats, pillows and blankets are available for use. They do have electricity, but black outs are common.

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Photo by Eunice Maximo.

The Filipino hospitality is still very much apparent in the Butbut tribe. Arriving at Charlie’s, we were offered what is hailed as the best coffee in Kalinga while his wife prepares our room. When we arrived, locals and tourists alike were hanging out outside their home, and both warmly welcomed us as we all enjoy our coffee.

The homestay host usually cooks food for the guests, but we offered to help out in the kitchen and cooked our dinner that night. Charlie and two of his in-laws stayed around after dinner, sharing stories about guests and joking with us until lights-off. We settled in for the night, tired but thankful from the long travel, and excited and anxious about tomorrow’s tattoo session with Whang-Od.

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Waiting shed. The first structure you will see upon reaching Brgy. Buscalan. Photo by Eunice Maximo. Edit: The shed has already been replaced by the souvenir shop.

ITINERARY

The passenger / cargo jeepney bound for Tinglayan promptly leaves at 3:30pm from Bontoc. Work your schedule around this when planning your itinerary.  Edit: They now have two trips everyday: 7am and 2pm. 

From Baguio, go to Dangwa Terminal and look for the bus that will pass by Dantay Junction (Php 200).

From Dantay Junction, ride a jeepney bound for Bontoc. RIDE TOPLOAD FOR AN AWESOME VIEW! (15 php)

 The jeepney will drop you off in front of Bontoc DENR office. Walk down the road and ask for the cargo/passenger jeepney bound for Tinglayan. (110 php)

The jeepney will drop you off at the habal-habal terminal. You can ride one or start your trek from this point. I suggest you ride one. (50 php) The habal-habal will bring you to the jump-off point. Trek starts here. PACE YOURSELF! Edit: The road is now fixed. You can do away with the habal-habal and just trek up the barangay. 

Having a flexible schedule going up Brgy. Buscalan is ideal, since the line is erratic, depending on how many people there are and the size of their tattoo design.

Up next: Part 2 of FINDING BUSCALAN: The Art of Batok

Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at emaileatpraylovel@gmail.com  

 

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