Project Breaking Down Barriers: Getting to and our first day in Tinglayan

I arrived at the bus station 10 minutes before our ride’s scheduled departure for Tinglayan, Kalinga, which was our jump-off point for our visit to Buscalan to meet the esteemed Apo Whang-od.  Typical me, I did everything last minute – submitted final output for work (sent 4:15 PM), packing (done 6:15 PM), withdrawal of pocket money (done 6:20 PM),  and picking up of books for the kids of Guina-ang (done 6:25 PM).  I felt Tara quite relieved that I showed up. Truth be told, I think I was having a tinge of anxiety due to fear and uncertainty. See, this was the first time I was going to do legit backpacking. I was so used to traveling in a comfortable and well-planned way, and this trip was designed to be a little more open-ended. I was not sure of what to expect or how I would feel. But, I took the plunge anyway… because I needed it. I needed to be brave, to do something big. I was in a place in my life where everything seemed like a blur, like I was just reacting to what life threw at me. And, I just wanted to be done with it. I grappled for direction. I desired for a plan. I aimed for control. I felt like this was my way of taking the reins back in my life.

We found our seats and settled down. During the first couple of hours after the bus left, we tested Tara’s new recorder, H4N Zoom, which she got also last minute from Shutter Master.  We created what this trip would be for us and listened to our recorded voices.  The quality of the recorder was awesome!  And, it would prove to be perfect for capturing conversations with our lovely hosts in Tinglayan, music from the traditional dance performed during a wedding in Tinglayan, conversation with the adorable then-92-year-old tattoo artist Fang-od, conversation with our wonderful host in Sabangan Russell, playing of drums and singing of the talented kids and teenagers of Lake Sebu, sound of mornings in Lake Sebu, interview with the Eskayas in Bohol, and the sound of a beach in Samar.

As soon as we got to Tabuk, we looked for the red jeepney to Tinglayan that Manong Francis advised us to take.  A newbie that I was, I told Tara that we were supposed to look for a red jeepney, instead of the green one that we saw. She said, “They might change colors, you know.”  Oh yeah.  So, after confirming with the driver of the green jeepney that it was also going to Tinglayan, we left our bags inside, without worrying if anything would happen to our stuff, and looked for a place to have breakfast.

That was a taste of the many instances where I grew and expanded as a human being. I was going through a breakup and I was having trust issues. But, seeing Tara so open and

We walked and enjoyed the first morning of our trip.  It was so beautiful.  We breathe fresh air and were greeted with smiling faces of the people in Tabuk, who were very accommodating despite the almost existence of a language barrier.

Around 9:00 AM, the jeepney left.  While doing our research, I read in blogs that, most of the time, people ride on the roof of the jeepney, specially since there were limited trips from Tabuk to Tinglayan.  But, witnessing it firsthand was still different.  A bit scary and amusing at the same time.

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The ride to Tinglayan took about 3 hours.  And, when we got there, Manong Francis was already waiting for us at the Sleeping Beauty Inn, where we were supposed to stay for almost the entire stay in Kalinga.  But, because there was a wedding scheduled on the day after our arrival that caused the inn to get fully-booked, he arranged for us to stay with her sister instead.

The walk to the house was uphill.  And, for someone as unfit as I am, it was quite difficult, especially since we were walking under the heat of the sun.  We stopped once, however, to meet Manong Francis’ parents.  His mom is also tattooed!  And, she’s so adorable in this picture, looking at Tara with curiosity.

Manong Francis prepared food for us upon our arrival at her sister’s house.  Tara and I left our bags in our room, freshened up, and drank lots of water.  Another thing that amazed me was that we could drink water directly out of the faucet, something I’d never do in Manila.

It was a day full of firsts for me.  It was my first trip with Tara.  It was my first trip to Tabuk.  It was my first trip to Tinglayan.  It was my first time to cross the hanging bridge (which I did twice!).  It was my first time to see the Chico River (beautiful!).  It was my first time to meet a real live lola with lotsa tattoos (amazing).  It was my first time to do a real mountain trek (survivor level in my opinion).  It was my first time to see Sleeping Beauty.  It was my first time to see pigs roaming around the village like dogs.  It was my first time to step on a snake (and not notice it).  It was my first time to witness someone pound coffee beans (and sing at the same time!).  It was my first time to do home stay, which was awesome.

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The people in Tingalayan were so friendly and accommodating.  They would always greet you “Hello!” and smile at you or nod at you.  I knew and got it that I was an outsider and I also got it that my presence there was also welcome.

A lot of them are better at speaking in English than in Tagalog.  And, there are also a lot of professionals in the village!  Ate Concepcion, for example, is a nurse and was a government scholar in college.  She was not unlike many of us who once wished to work abroad.  Her husband, however, just wanted here to stay here and raise a family with him.  So, she obliged.

Her kids were also awesome.  Ligalig is the kuya and acts it.  Bullet, their only girl, is giggly and just seems to be such a happy kid.  Chavez is hyperactive, like the youngest, Baron.  Baron, however, is naughtier.  They’re all so adorable.

Before going to bed, Tara showed Ate Concepcion some yoga poses that she could use to help address that which she’s going through.  Since my legs ached from all the walking we did that day (yes, I’m that unfit) and also to prepare myself for the (supposed) hike next day to visit a community, I joined in.

We slept and got ready for the following day.

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