[Philippines] How to reach Buscalan to visit Apo Whang-od
Apo Whang-od doing her Kalinga traditional tattooing in Buscalan, Kalinga, December 2012

[Philippines] How to reach Buscalan to visit Apo Whang-od

Okay, so you want to get your tattoo from Apo Whang-od. How do you reach Buscalan to visit her? What can you expect? What do you need to prepare for? 

I know a lot of people are interested to visit Apo Whang-od and experience first hand the magic of her tattooing skills. So, I compiled some FAQs to help you plan your trip. I hope you find them useful and please do share your experience with me! 

How did you get to Apo Whang-od in Buscalan, Kalinga?

We took this route: Manila (bus) > Tabuk (jeepney) > Tinglayan (jeepney) > Bugnay (hike) > Buscalan. Pro tip: Book your tickets ahead of time to make sure that you have your seat!

Toploading in Tabuk, Kalinga

How were the jeepney rides to reach Buscalan?

It was long and quite perilous. We passed by rough roads. And, from Tinglayan to Bugnay, we rode on top of the jeepney!

Was the hike difficult?

I guess it depends on your level. It was my first time hiking and my health was not in tiptop shape. So, yes, the hike was difficult for me. But, my friend said that it was just like a walk in the park for her.

Do you recommend getting a guide to reach Buscalan?

If you are someone like me who has the propensity to get lost, if you do not speak their local language, and if you do not mind paying a little extra, then definitely! A plus is that you get to help their local tourism industry 🙂 

Where did you stay in Buscalan? Where did you eat?

We were fortunate enough to stay at Apo Whang-od’s home during our visit. Our host, Apo Whang-od, also prepared and served our meals. 

Tara on the floor of Apo Whang-od's home

Where did you pee & poop?

Oh, this was one of my concerns, to be honest. Apo Whang-od’s home had an outside bathroom that was clean and smelled good! The door behind Tara was the door to the bathroom.

Tara showing off her tattoo by Apo Whang-od

Do they have electricity? What about cellphone signal?

Yes, there was electricity. Mobile signal was weak to non-existent. But, honestly, it was not such a big issue. Buscalan is such a lovely and interesting community. It would be a pity just spending time on your phone instead of exploring and getting to know their people and culture more.

What else can you do in Buscalan?

Aside from getting a tattoo from Apo Whang-od, you can also:

  • Socialize with the locals
  • Take pictures of their beautiful people and village
  • We also had a Q&A with Apo Whang-od and the kids of Buscalan
Elderly in the Village of Buscalan, Kalinga
Tattooed woman in Buscalan, Kalinga

Did you get a tattoo from Apo Whang-od?

No, I did not. Getting a tattoo was never part of my plan. But, because of how difficult the hike was from Bugnay to Buscalan, I admit that the thought crossed my mind. After taking a break and spending time with Apo Whang-od, I realized that I did not need it at that time. I just really wanted to meet her, take pictures of her, and write about her.

Do you plan on going back to get a tattoo from Apo Whang-od?

Yes, I do! I want to do this before I turn 40. I hope that once the pandemic is over, we can all travel again and that I’d be given the chance to visit Apo Whang-od in Buscalan once again.

The Boho Travels Apo Whang-od

Is Kalinga open to tourism now?

Because of the pandemic, Kalinga is not yet open to tourism. But, if you need to go to Kalinga, you may click this link to find more information about entering Kalinga from their local government.

Sending you love and good vibes,


P.S. Thank YOU! And, in whatever space you are in now, I hope that you got something from reading this post. Talk to you soon!

Updated on March 1, 2021. Originally published on December 27, 2012.

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    1. monica

      Go for it!!! 🙂

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