Never have it crossed my mind that someday I’m getting a tattoo (needles scare me to death!), until I heard about this 100-year-old “mambabatok” from Buscalan who does it in a traditional way. It is such a pleasure to be able to get the chance to be tattooed by a National Living Treasure, a simple tattoo design turned into an extraordinary experience. It still gives me chills to the bones reminiscing our tattoo session and meeting her in person. Just so much pride and admiration. This tattoo will serve as a memorable mark on my body that in one ordinary day in Buscalan, I got inked by a legend.
The travel to Buscalan is not easy as sight-seeing in museums and parks not to mention the long queue when you line up for her tattoo, it can be really tricky and exhausting especially if you’re planning to do it yourself. As for me, I personally did a lot of research and made a lot of plans before I went here. If you’re reading this it means that you’re interested to go here, too, so I wrote this article to give you the list of things you need to know before, during and after getting a tattoo.
- What you need to know: Tattoo, materials used, tour guide, food & water, homestay, what to bring and NOT to bring, do’s and don’t’s
- How to get there plus 2D1N itinerary: transportation, 5 step travel, complete itinerary
- Expenses: how much should be your budget?
- Important tattoo care: what to do and NOT to do
What You need To Know:
- Plan your trip on weekdays (for DIY travels)
Given the long queue to get a tattoo, the best time to go there is on weekdays. Numerous travel agencies and tour events come here every weekend, so it’s best if you save yourself from the long line and enjoy the village with less tourists.
I originally planned to join tours that goes here directly so it could minimize the hassle. However, I could not find a tour event on weekdays. All of them are touring every weekend and I didn’t want to visit the place with so many tourists. That’s why I decided to do it my way instead. I researched and read a lot of articles about the place until I was able to come up with my own itinerary. The result is satisfying as there are not much tourists when I came there, as what our guide told us.
2. Prepare yourself physically and emotionally
Many people think that getting a tattoo concerns only the physical pain, but no, it also affects you emotionally. Getting a permanent mark on your body is something not decided within the day. You have to think thoroughly if you really want to get one. You need to prepare yourself not only physically but also emotionally. A permanent mark on your body is not a joke, it’s gonna be there always until the day that you might regret it. Concentrate, relax, think about it, if you have the slightest doubt don’t continue. But if you’ve really decided to get one then go for it! Never ever regret it. Never ever let anyone’s comment weigh on your decision. Remember that it’s your body.
3. Choosing your tattoo
Now this is the cherry on top of your long exhausting travel to meet Apo Whang Od. You need to know that the tattoos she can only do are the designs on the board. She cannot do customized tattoos. If you want the traditional way of getting a tattoo but the design is not on the board, you can ask Apo’s grand daughters Grace and Elyang. These two has the sense of creativity and they like challenges when it comes to tattooing. So just be polite and ask them if they could do customized tattoos for you if that’s what you really want.
Materials used: Charcoal (ink), calamansi thorn (small needle), and pomelo thorn (big needle).
Getting a tattoo also comes with a sacrifice, you’re not allowed to donate blood for a year. 😦
Tattoo designs and meanings:
Also, I’ve heard from a lot of my friends who sent me message if it’s true that the Apo will be the one to choose your tattoo and that she will not give you one if she doesn’t like you in her first impression. Now I’d like to put the record straight from someone who has been there and met with the Apo, it is not true that she will choose your tattoo and that she will not give you one if she doesn’t like you. Those only happened back in the days when she was giving tattoo to hunters and villagers accompanied by a prayer and YES she will be the one to choose what tattoo suits your personality. But nowadays, whatever you like her to put on your body she’ll happily give it to you.
4. Contact your Tour Guide
It’s very important to contact your guide 1 week prior your plan to get there. It’s better that you have a contact waiting for you there rather than going without one. You can contact Kuya Steve below and he swiftly responds even though the reception in their area is not good. He’s very kind and thoughtful, he’ll help you with the queue and find a homestay.
You can reach him at: 09082906122
5. Pack light
What you should always keep in mind when you’re packing is that you have to bring the only things you need. Don’t bring things you won’t be needing. That’s the problem of every girl, we pack everything including our house and tool box inside our bag. Below are few reminders on the important things we should only bring in a 2D1N getaway.
Extra Cash – There are no ATM machines there
Monthly Lady Equipment (For Ladies) – don’t paint the town red!
Canned goods/instant noodles – There are no eateries here but it’s free to cook your food and unli rice for rice monsters out there! Unli brewed coffee, too!
Flashlight would be very helpful!
Bathroom necessities – keep your hygiene well
Extra Clothes – girls, please don’t bring your closet. Jackets and comfy clothes will go just fine
6. Where to stay/Food and Water/Toilet
Homestay: We stayed at Granzion Homestay for PHP300.00 per night and per head. It’s where Kuya Steve, our guide, took us. You can request your guide to bring you here. The land lady was so welcoming and she offered us brewed coffee every time she sees us. The room we rented for 1 night is reasonable for the price we paid. There are 2 beds in the floor and a few blanket and pillows and 1 light bulb to shed light for the whole night. That’s how simple the room was, don’t expect any other things inside the room since you’re in a remote village not in some urban city.
Food and Water: You have to know that rice and brewed coffee is unlimited but you gotta bring your own viand. Canned goods and instant noodles would suffice.
Toilet: Toilet is not a problem, it’s pretty much everywhere in the village!
7. Respect the place, respect the locals
Bring a humble and polite attitude. You’re just visiting a place that you’re not from. A simple greeting of “hi” and “good morning” will show enough respect for the locals. In fact, the locals are so polite they will be the one to greet and welcome you first.
8. Bring something for the Host (Apo Whang Od)
I’ve read a lot of blogs and they never forget to remind readers to bring gifts for the children in the village and for Apo Whang Od, too. In our case, we bought candies and gave every kid we met on the way. If you have time to shop for coloring books for them, that would be nice!
How To Get There + 2D1N Itinerary
Manila – Baguio – Buscalan (my way: 5 step travel)
This is the route I took since I lived in Baguio when I was still studying back in the days. This route is also better because the travel time will take about 13-14 hours all in all, compared to when you pick option 2 you’ll travel about 15-16hours in total.
- DAY 0: MNL to Baguio
11:00PM Ride a bus in Cubao bound to Baguio City.
I rode a Victory Liner bus and the bus fare is PHP445.00. The travel time to Baguio is only 6 hours if you will leave at night. Hence, you will be arriving Baguio City at 5:00 in the morning. If you want a shorter travel time, you can take the deluxe/first class bus in Victory Liner and the travel time will only be 4 hours or less. Do take note that the bus fare is expensive given that it’s the fastest way and fare will be about PHP700.00 to PHP800.00.
- Day 1: Baguio – Bontoc
06:00am Ride a bus from Baguio to Bontoc
The only bus terminal that offers this route is D’ Rising Sun located in the Slaughterhouse Compound near Center Mall and the bus fare to Bontoc is PHP212.00. You can hire a taxi to get here and just tell the driver you’re going to D’ Rising Sun terminal headed to Bontoc. Taxi fare is PHP70.00 to PHP80.00. Do keep in mind that the buses leave every hour and the first trip going to Bontoc is 5:00am while last trip is at 03:00pm. Travel time is 5-6 hours and they don’t travel at night since the road is too dangerous and slippery because of the fog.
11:30am ETA Bontoc
You can take your lunch in the town of Bontoc before riding a jeepney to Bugnay, Tinglayan since the first trip of jeepneys going to Tinglayan is at 1pm. Don’t worry because as soon as you get out of the bus, there’s a lot of eateries you’ll see. So feed your tummy first!
- 01:00pm Bontoc – Bugnay
Take note that jeepneys leave exactly 1pm and the next trip will be 2pm. So make sure that you’ll be there before 01:00pm. After taking your lunch, charter a tricycle and tell them to take you to the terminal of jeepneys headed to Tinglayan near MPCT. Tricycle fare is PHP9.00 each. Ride a Tinglayan jeepney and tell the driver to drop you at Brgy. Bugnay. Travel time is 1 hour and 30mins.
- 02:30pm ETA Bugnay
We also met with our guide in Bugnay, Kuya Steve. It’s important to contact your guide at least 5 days before you get there. The reception in the area is not that good, so please be patient enough if they don’t reply at once. Once you contact Kuya Steve, he will advise you to meet with him in Bugnay.
From Bugnay, you will be riding a habal-habal up to the turning point where you will start the hike. There’s no any other way or transportation going to the turning point but the habal-habal. The fare will be PHP100.00.
- 03:00pm ETA turning point
Start of 20-minute trek to the village of Buscalan. This is te most awaited part where you’re 2o minute away from a living legend.
03:20 ETA Buscalan Village
Tada! We finally reached the home of the oldest mambabatok. As we arrived the village, we immediately looked for Apo Whang Od and our guide, Kuya Steve, brought us to her. And wow! Just wow! Here I was standing a few feet from this living legend and the next thing I know, all the exhaustion from our travel went away just like that.
So we didn’t bother to line up in long queue to get our tattoos done. We decided to just call it a day and went straight to our homestay to rest.
Expenses: (For a group of 5)
Manila to Baguio – PHP445.00 (890 roundtrip)
Baguio to Bontoc – PHP212.00 (424 roundtrip)
Bonctoc to Bugnay – PHP100.00 (200 roundtrip)
Bugnay to Turning Point – PHP100.00 (200 roundtrip)
Guide fee: PHP200.00 (1000/5)
Environmental fee: PHP75.00
Homestay: PHP300.00 per head and per night
All in all: PHP2289.00 (tattoo not yet included)
Important Tattoo Care:
-Coconut Oil – bring your coconut oil or buy one once you get back in Manila. This is the best oil to put in your tattoo to speed up the healing process.
-Petroleum jelly can be an alternative.
-Clean it with soap and water in the morning and before you go to bed.
-DON’T SCRATCH OR PEEL IT OFF! Let time heal it. It can be really itchy on its first week, but you have to prevent from scratching it if you don’t want to get tattoo keloids.