there were two German nationals who passed by and an Australian who introduced himself to us when we checked in at Riverside Inn, Lonely Planet's recommendation for a stay in Luplupa in the municipality of Tinglayan. after few hours two Norwegian backpackers arrived at the inn from a trek with their guide.
this was something i did not expect because in the first place who would have thought foreigners to reach this far and make this quiet village their temporary abode. there must be something here.among the first foreigner to embrace this side of Kalinga is the German national Otmar Holz, who first reached the village of Luplupa in the 90s. he was in Sagada when a German teacher recommended him to explore the town of Tinglayan. on his first visit, he can hardly speak English. he stayed at the house of the village chieftain, who goes by the name Chupper.
he was attracted to the culture and decided to go to Australia to learn English and returned with the hope that he will be able to interact with the locals more. from then, he returned from time to time until he decided to establish Luplupa Riverside Inn to accommodate other tourists who started to discover the place.
he soon married Belle, a local of Tinglayan and started supporting the locals through scholarships which he gathered in Germany. until now he continues to extend help through donations of sacks of rice and sometimes even finances. all this he got out of the strong friendship with the former chieftain and the love for the people of Kalinga.
Chupper on the other hand served as the village chieftain for 29years and now serves as a highly recommended and experienced guide to treks around Tinglayan. his real name is Victor Bucali but is more popular to the locals as Chupper. a nickname given to him by his parents which came from the typhoon Chupali which destroyed almost the entire crops of the village in 1947. the year Victor was born.
the night before our last day in Tinglayan, we all gathered at the inn's corridor sharing stories of the village and the people. Chupper, now on his 60s had the chance to go to Germany through Otmar's desire for him to visit his country. but as many who would expect him to be old and boring, Chupper has almost unending stories of his experience and more often shared with humor.
at some part of our conversation, i requested him if he can give me a local name as a way to remember the bond that we've had. Chupper himself wrote on my travel journal "hachan no ad Pagtan eng nga chan Chupper" which meant "your name is Pagtan given by Chupper". it was an honor.
we ended the night discovering that the two Norwegians were students on a tour in Singapore who decided to grab the chance to visit the Philippines during their vacation period. like Otmar, they accidentally discovered Tinglayan while in Sagada. the Australian national was a writer of a local paper in Sidney who were writing about the Ponchon or the Bodong peace pact that ended the tribal wars in Kalinga.whenever one mentions Kalinga, one of the first thing that would come into their mind would be head hunters. but contrary to this, the locals here are very friendly. in fact, i was offered coffee many times including ate Josie. the coffee here is famous and is known as Kalinga barako coffee. one of the best coffee that i've tasted. the next day, we were off to our main objective which was to find the few remaining locals who has traditional Kalinga tattoo patterns on their body. we found out that in Luplupa, there are still four who were already on their late 60s who has it.
with a village of just about hundred houses, it was not difficult to find them. in fact two of the elderly women were just few steps away from the inn. first to meet was Chang-ag who was at first hesitant in showing her tattoos. in the olden times, women with these tattoos would signify beauty while men with tattoos would signify as warriors.common area of the tattoo were the shoulders, the arms, the neck and the forehead. intricately made with the use of natural ink and a special needle. there's one remaining known tattoo artist in Kalinga elderly women. the second woman we met was Gumpayaw, who was a close friend of Chang-ag. it took us to talk to a relative for us to ask permission to take photos of her tattoos.
this tradition failed to be passed on to the new generation. the younger ones would see it as odd and the idea of the pain, one gets out of it, hinders them from inheriting this tradition. this meant, the very few remaining could be the last ones to see. i hope not.
how to get there:
take the bus (Florida Bus, Ohayami, or Autobus) from Manila to Banaue. regular trips to Banaue usually are between 9:00pm - 11:00pm for a nine-hour road trip.
from Banaue, take a jeep or van to Bontoc (about 2hours). regular trips are usually the whole morning till early afternoon.
from Bontoc, look for the jeep or bus that leaves Bontoc usually just once a day. jeepney travel time is 4hours.
take a bus (Victory) from Manila to Tabuk. regular trips to Tabuk are available everyday. mostly around 9:00pm - 11:00pm for a 13-hour roadtrip.
from Tabuk, a jeepney that has an irregular schedule to Tinglayan. usually trips are in the morning. you can also take bus trips to Bontoc which will pass by Tinglayan. road trip will take about 3hours (with 2hours paved highway and about an hour of roads under development).
rural village: 4.0
immersion experience: 4.5