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12.11.2016


30 seconds is not enough to show how amazing the experience was. We're extending our Get Lost series to a full minute for this one.


12.10.2016



Here is our Itinerary for Ampucao Ridge a.k.a. Mt. Ulap.

DAY 0
0900 PM - Assembly at Victory Liner Pasay Terminal
01000 PM - ETD Manila to Baguio

DAY 1
0500 AM - ETA Baguio City. Early breakfast
0700 AM - ETD to Baguio Central Mall. Look for jeep heading to Ampucao
0800 AM - Departure to Ampucao
0900 AM - Arrival at Ampucao. Register.
0930 AM - Start trek
1130 PM - Lunch at Ambanaio Paoay Peak (Stonehenge)
1200 PM - Resume trek
0200 PM - Arrival at Gungal Rock, Photo Op.
0300 PM - Arrival at Campsite. Set up Camp
0400 PM - Summit. Watch sunset
0430 PM - Descend back to capmsite
0600 PM - Dinner. Socials

DAY 2
0530 AM - Wake up Call. Sunrise viewing
0630 AM - Breakfast. Breakcamp
0700 AM - Start descent
0800 AM - ETA Burial Cave
1000 AM - Back at Sta. Fe exit
1100 AM - ETD to Baguio. Lunch
0100 PM -       ETD Baguio to Manila



BUDGET:

RT fare Baguio to Manila - P 900 pax (P450 one way Airconditoned Bus)
RT Baguio to Ampucao - P 100 pax
Overnight Guide Fee - P 800 / 10pax (P 400 per day)
Registration - P 100 pax
Camping Fee - P 500 / 10pax
Shower - P 20 pax
Food contribution  P 150
TOTAL = P 1400

If you want a hassle free trip we also recommend the service of Mt. Pulag Edelweiss Tour; they also do Mt. Ulap tour. You may contact them at 09107987005 or 09303631218 for their affordable rates.



9.17.2016



It was afternoon when we reached Baguio City, a few more hours and the night stars will start to show up. The weather is colder than usual due to the recent downpour. We alight from the bus we considered our temporary shelter during the 7 hour travel; there was already the usual crowd waiting at the terminal offering guest house for rent and souvenirs for sale.

From the terminal, we traveled to Erickson's place to stay for the night and head to Ampucao the next day. We took our dinner at Good Taste Restaurant near Burnham Park before calling it a day. We prepared everything we need for our overnight trek to the famous Mt. Ulap tomorrow.



The next day, we head to Baguio City market where we heard there are jeeps that could take us to Ampucao for P50 each. The bus terminal is just across the market besides Baguio Center Mall. In the terminal, you can easily ask locals where is the jeep heading to Ampucao. Travel time is around 40 to 60 minutes.

The registration area in Ampucao is near the basketball court. It can be easily identified as there are tarpaulin hanged on the walls, and most people who is planning to climb Mt. Ulap is either resting or preparing for their climb.



We paid the necessary registration fee, and we were assigned with two guides. We did our last minute packing before we start our trek.

Our climb started out good, the weather is not that hot but not yet raining. Although we were already expecting that during the climb or on the camp it will start to rain again. Ampucao Ridge easily became our favorite hike as we are surprised with the beautiful scenery every stop on our way. It was like a well laid show by mother nature. The fog is covering the area, and when we stop to rest, there will be a clearing to show you it's green, lush mountain, pine trees, rock formations and many more. After a few minutes of adoring the place, the fog will cover the scene again as if mother nature is saying "move on, there are more I want you to see".



When we reach camp it was the most beautiful thing to see, it was only us who'll be staying for the night. Our guide explained that the usual weekend would have the whole camp site covered with tents and people, but that day was an exemption.

Just right after we pitched our tent it started to rain, but the rain progresses from a drizzle into a full downpour slowly while the sun is slowly setting and bidding goodbye. One of the best sunset I've witnessed during a rain.

The campsite

The evening was a bit playful as the rain did not stop until we finish our dinner, but luckily we had a great sleep the whole evening.

The next day, the weather is much better, we continue our traverse down Ampucao ridge into a different path.

The summit of Mt. Ulap

A couple of hours and a familiar scenario of small halo halo store resides at Sante Fe, signaling that our trek is almost over.

We continued to embark down the trail as it progress into a small community and the  climb was officially completed. Some of us took a bath before heading to Baguio, while most decided to return to Bagiuo and just freshen up there.

Gungal Rock


You don't have to worry about transportation heading back to Baguio as there is always a jeep waiting at Santa Fe. From here the jeep brought us to the nearest Good Taste Restaurant in Baguio for another hefty late lunch.



We returned to Erickson's place to freshen up. Some decided to roam around Baguio more while some decide to rest and wait for the bus back to Manila.

Itinerary and budget to follow.






9.01.2016



From Buscalan, we traveled back to Bontoc with plans to visit Sagada. We left Buscalan at 12 noon and was able to ride a bus back to Bontoc by 1:00 PM. The travel started out fine, but suddenly the weather turned into a downpour. In Bontoc, we hurriedly look at the jeeps heading to Sagada. After one and a half hour of travel, we reached Sagada at around 3 PM. We were out of our planned itinerary for almost half a day, so we were already expecting to spend less than 24 hours here. To make things worse, the weather is not cooperating as rain continues to pour the entire afternoon. We were able to accept that we cannot do some activities like spelunking, but still, we were able to manage to enjoy our short visit; we list down the things we've done during a rainy day in Sagada. 

DAY 1 - 3:00 PM
We reached Sagada, and decided to first look for a place to stay. After roaming around, we chose the Vallew View Inn, one of the inns in the upper part of the town with a good view of the whole Sagada proper. We rest for a minute as we wait for the rain to at least calm a little.



DAY 2 - 5:00 PM
The weather gave us a window of opportunity to further check the town. It's almost night time, but the daylight is still up. We first look for something to eat, and decided to try The Yogurt House. We enjoyed the sweet confectioner along with the drizzling rain. Like most restaurants in Sagada, food are a bit pricey, yogurt prices range from P80 - P100.

Sagada Yogurt House
One of their original best seller: Yogurt with Honey

DAY 3 - 6:00 PM
We checked St. Mary the Virgin Parish and the nearby Calvary hills. We met Ate Rose, a guide who offered to take us to the hanging coffins and Echo Valley; we hesitated for a bit, but after assuring us that we will be able to witness them before dark, we agreed. The trek was short and quick, but we moved with caution since the trail was muddy and slippery due to the recent rain. Ate Rose's  stories regarding Sagada and the Echo Valley made the hike more interesting. She explained that we were her last tour for the day, as she already had plans to go back home due to the bad weather, but luckily we were able to catch up with her. Guide to the Echo Valley and hanging coffins is P200.

The famous hanging coffins

DAY 4 - 7:00 PM
After our tour in Echo Valley and Hanging Coffins, we went back to town to seek for a group whom we can hitch along going to Kiltepan Peak. Luckily there was a group of visitors (whom we first met at the jeep ride on the way to Sagada) who were also looking for someone to  join them and complete their group who'll be going to Kiltepan Peak the next day. We decided to meet early tomorrow to witness the famed sunrise and sea of clouds of Kiltepan.

Echo Valley. Taking a look at the town proper.

7:30 PM
We looked for a place to have dinner. There are a number of restaurants you can choose to dine in. We decided to try Sagada Lemon Pie House. In addition to their  famous lemon pies, we also tried some of their meal dishes. Price of their food ranges from P150-P200 each.




8:00 PM
After our dinner we bought some chips and drinks to one of the groceries in the market. We brought it back to our accommodation and decided to just rest up and enjoy the night. It was almost midnight when we saw that there was a bonfire in a nearby Sagada Homestay Inn and Diner, We decided to go outside, enjoy the cool night breeze in front of the fire pit.

St. Mary Virgin Parish

DAY 2 - 4:00AM
The sun was not even up, but we were already bundled up on layers of clothes, walking the empty street of Sagada to meet with our group for the Kiltepan sunrise. We waited for the van we hired that will take us to Kiltepan, and after a few minutes he showed up. We were one of the few who first came to Kiltepan Peak, but little by little as the sun is nearing to rise, people were also starting to flock the place. By the time we had a good view of the sun and sea of clouds, there were already a hundred of people in front of us.

There are a number of people flocking Kiltepan Peak to witness the sunrise.

We were unable to get a good picture of the sea of clouds, but luckily, our guide/van driver made a detour to one of the nearest highway in Sagada. He said it is a surprise where we were going next, and only a few people knows of the place. We stopped on the side of the highway where there is a clear view (same view from Kiltepan) of sea of clouds and sunrise. He said that we were lucky to witness the sea of clouds due to the downpour last night; if he knew we wanted to see the sea of clouds he could have just suggested to skip Kiltepan and just go directly here.

Sea of clouds in the less crowded highway

DAY 2 - 6:00 AM
We went back to our accommodation to pack our things. We want to catch up the 7:00 AM bus ride back to Baguio and continue our journey. Before heading to the bus station, we first took a breakfast at Sagada Homestay Inn and Diner. Meal prices ranges from P100 to P200. After our breakfast we hurriedly ran back to the bus station to catch up the ride to Baguio, hoping to roam around Baguio before we head back to Manila.



If you are wondering if you can enjoy Sagada under 24 hours, then my answer is yes. We might missed some outdoor activities here, but the stay was very enjoyable and relaxing enough that we decided to intentionally opt it out and reserve it on our next visit. The rain might added up to the shortening of our time spent here, but it did help out big time to cap our very quick Sagada trip with a bang. What I like most about Sagada, in addition to it's numerous attraction is that the place is like a small traveler's village, (I think Sagada is smaller then Bonifacio Global City), you can easily roam around and  meet a lot of people and make new friends; add the gloomy cold weather that day and you have this tiny home-y feeling while away from home.

Schedule of trip to, from, and around Sagada:



More Pictures:




7.24.2016



The small village of Buscalan in the province of Kalinga is home to a tribe known for their distinct traditional art form. The world was first introduced to the Butbut tribe and their unconventional tattoo when one of the earliest episodes of Lars Krutak's TV show, Tattoo Hunters featured Apo Whang-Od and the art of 'Pagbabatok'.

We list down few important things to remember when you are planning to get the traditional art from Buscalan.


1. The history

A few decades back, the Batok or the traditional tattoo was only given to the women and warriors of the Butbut tribe for protecting their land and taking the heads of their opponents. As years go by, the Butbut warriors and the head hunting activity have slowly seized to exist. Today, it is a privilege for the tourists and travelers to receive this unique traditional Filipino art, but there is also a number of discussion debating whether the influx of tourist either cause harm or good to the people of Buscalan.



2. What is your reason?

First and foremost, I have high respect to Whang-Od. She was one of the original tattoo masters who render "pagbabatok" to the head hunting warriors of their tribe, but one of the common points surfacing the debates is how the 98 year old Whang-Od is treated as an attraction of the village. Most says that the number of people seeking a tattoo from her is counting up to her advancing age and health.

Visitors should know their reason for visiting Buscalan. Instead of focusing on Whang Od, make the tattoo and the place your reason for traveling. Instead of saying "I'll get a tattoo from Whang Od", why not say "I'll get a traditional tattoo in Buscalan". Apo Whang Od already have two apprentices helping her out, and there are talks among locals that there are other few from the village who practice it as well. Whether we got the tattoo from Whang Od or not, what matter is that we are grateful to be allowed to receive this traditional tattoo from their tribe.



3. Three ways to get to Buscalan

There are three ways to get to Buscalan from Manila:
  • Via Tabuk: Victory Liner has a direct trip to Tabuk; travel time is around 11 hours, fare is around Php 850.00.  From Tabuk, take a jeep bound to Bontoc in front of St. Williams church for another 3 hour travel, and get off at Bugnay (Php 120). From Bugnay, charter a habal-habal to the jump off point to Buscalan (Php 100).
  • Take note, that jeep bound to Bontoc are only available at Tabuk up util 9:00 AM. In case of mising out the last trip, there are also van just beyond St. Williams church bound to Tinglayan.
  • Via Banaue: Florida Bus and Ohiyami from Dangwa in Manila has nighty trip to Banaue (Php550), trip will take around 9 hours. From Banaue, ride a jeep bound to Bontoc (Php 150), for another 2 hour travel. From Bontoc, ride a jeep bound to Tinglayan and drop off at the jump off point of Buscalan (Php110). 
  • Via Baguio: Take regular trip from Manila to Baguio (4-6 hours, Php 500), and take a bus bound to Bontoc in terminal near Bugio Public Market. From Bontoc, ride a jeep bound to Tinglayan and drop off at the jump off point of Buscalan (Php110).



4. Guides and registration

Guides and registration are required when visiting Buscalan. Unfortunately, since tourists and travelers can come from either Tinglayan or Bontoc, your place of registration and guide assignment will depend on where you were from. Local guides recommend to register in Buscalan as it will directly benefit the villagers rather than registering from Tinglayan.

We also learned that guide fee and registration in Buscalan are a bit more affordable than in Tinglayan. So if arranging for your guides, better to get them directly from the jump off point of Buscalan.

Guide Fee: Php 1000.00 per head per day
Registration: Php 75.00 per head

Grace who took lessons under Whang Od since she was 10 years old

5. Get a tattoo from Grace

Remember what we wrote in number one? There are two young women who are currently  helping Whang Od out, her two granddaughter Grace and Eliang.

Grace, who took lessons from her grandaunt, Apo Whang Od since she was 10 years old is now [18 years old and] also considered as a master in her own rights. As I observed from her work, going back and forth to press down the ink  deep into the skin that her work is finer and cleaner. Her age could be a factor, but it is no doubt that she is very keen to the details when it comes to the tattoo.

Grace was the one who made my tattoo, and I could not wish for anything else. I really recommend to get the tattoo from her as you will be very astonished with the result.

Eliang, another granddaughter of Whang Od taking apprenticeship under her

6. Respect the Culture

There are no hotels in Buscalan, so most visitors stay with the local family. With that, always remember to respect their culture. If we are not familiar with their culture, show respect as much as we know we can.

The accommodation with the family also includes the  meal during the whole duration of your stay, if you bring your own food, you can share it with the whole family, and be kind enough to offer to help with the dishes.

Drinking alcoholic beverages to get thru the night is okay, since most guides and villagers also do it and even invite you to join them, just keep the volume to a minimum and refrain from making late night partying.

If you want to take pictures of anything or of the villagers in particular, always ask permission first.



7. Avoid the Weekend

One integral part of eco-tourism is minimizing the impact we make in a destination. Since most influx of visit is during the weekend, I would recommend as much as possible to schedule your visit on weekdays [Monday to Wednesday to be specific]. You will definitely help lessen the concentration of tourist on weekends and would better appreciate the village with lesser crowds. You will also have a lesser waiting time in queue for your turn to get the tattoo.

The needle is made out of thorn from pomelo tree, while the ink is a mixture of coal and water

8. The Tattoo

By now I'm sure you already know that this tattoos are a bit different from the conventional we know. The process of "Pagbabatok" includes the use of a thorn from a pomelo tree as a needle, and the ink is made from a mixture of charcoal and water. The thorn will be repeatedly tapped with a wooden stick to introduce the ink deep into the skin pigment.

There is no need to worry about possible blood to blood transmission of disease as each one will have their set of thorns. Some also prefer to use Tetanus Toxoid and antibiotic cream for prophylaxis against tetanus and infection, but there are also some who want to keep it as close as possible to its traditional form and refrain from using such medications, only relying on proper tattoo care. It's your health and own discretion, so either way is good and safe.



9. The design

The traditional Kalinga tattoos are mostly tribal and geometric in design, it is also heavily influenced by the environment and the meaning it represents on their tribe. Some of the notable designs are the centipede, the serpent eagle, the hawk, the crab, and the star, the sun and the moon.

If you have a personal design in mind to put in your skin, I recommend to keep it to yourself for now and save it for machine tattoo. Take our word of advice that it could more likely end up bad than good if we persist with our own design. Just choose from their library of beautiful [although limited] designs. Remember that it is also part of respecting their culture. You may ask your guides to help you explain the meaning of each tattoo.