Buscalan is a small village situated on the mountains of Tinglayan in the province of Kalinga in Northern-Philippines. It is home to the famous traditional tattooist Whang-od Oggay. Buscalan Village is also considered as the last traditional-tattoo haven in the Northern Philippines. Despite the distance and difficulty to reach the place, it doesn’t stop visitors (both local and foreigners) from visiting this village. That’s why sometimes, people’s journey to the village is considered a pilgrimage.
Whang-od Oggay. Circa 2014
I went to Buscalan for a visit after three long years. I first visited Buscalan back in 2012, then been going back and forth between 2015 and 2016. Most houses back then were completely made from traditional materials, its foundation and walls are made-up of woods and the roofs are completely made-up of cogon grasses. But now, almost all houses are made from modern materials, like concrete and metals. Most of the houses were also converted to transient homes to accommodate all the people who visit the village.
Typical Scene in Buscalan, Circa 2012
I also noticed a huge boom in tourism, there were like around thirty people waiting in line to get a tattoo. It’s nice that the village is receiving lots of visitors, however, this gives rise to some problems like problems with waste disposal, etc. I’ve observed that most visitors bring tons of plastic stuff with them and most of the time they just leave most of it in the village and this often leads to all of these plastics being scattered around.
So basically now, you cannot go to the village without a local-guide which I think is nice since it gives livelihood to some people. You also need to pay a visitor fee of php75 like around 1.5USD when you enter the village, which I think is ok as long as the money collected are being used properly for the development of the village. I still remember before, when villagers invite you over for a coffee whenever you pass by their homes but now you need to pay around 20php for a cup. Well, I think everyone needs to put a price in everything nowadays.
Visitors from other countries smile as they mingle with the locals over some bread and coffee. Buscalan, Circa 2014
One major noticeable change I noticed when I visited Buscalan is the construction of a concrete road towards the village. It’s sti ll on-going, but from the most vehicle-accessible point of the road to the village, it can now be only journeyed for 30 minutes. Many people (mostly people who are not from the village) were against it before, but now I think they’ve realized the importance of it to the villagers, especially to those young students who needed to walk several kilometers on rocky, muddy and narrow paths just to get to school back then.
Side of the mountain is carved to give way to the construction of the concrete road to the village. Circa 2019
Change is inevitable, especially in this modern world we are in. I don’t know when I will be able to visit Buscalan again, but I’m excited to see what changes will happen till my next visit.
Have you been to Buscalan? If so, then what are your thoughts and insights on the current situation of the village? Feel free to share them on the comment section below.
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