Buscalan clouded peaks and a twin falls seen on the trail
Buscalan clouded peaks and a twin falls seen on the trail

“Our priority is to get back to Tinglayan!” I said when we were discussing about our plans for the next day. We wanted to somehow include the falls and springs in Kalinga but it seems time isn’t on our side. It’s either we go back the same route to Bugnay or we go by Francis’s suggestion – a Kalinga Villages Traverse to the next two villages of Butbut and Ngibat then descending at Liyao for the main road to Tinglayan. We decided to go with the latter not really knowing what we’re getting into.

The author on the trail in between Buscalan and Butbut Villages
The author on the trail in between Buscalan and Butbut Villages

Hike to Butbut Village

A fresh cup of Kalinga Coffee and a hefty breakfast of egg, brown rice and sardines to fuel us for what would be a long trek. “Kumain kayo mabuti at wala kayo pagkain sa daan! (Eat well because there’s no food on the road!)” Abu, Fang-Od’s niece, amusingly told us. Even if it’s just the next village, even their family don’t often go there unless necessary. Grace even haven’t been there. We said our good byes to the family and started our hike by 8am.

Just outside Buscalan Village is their terraces. Midway trekking the rice paddies, the mountains were wonderfully obscured by rising clouds. The peaks ahead of us had thin mist hanging and on one side we could see a twin falls flowing. I wondered if it would be possible to get there but I think it would take considerable time and hike. It was like this for an hour or so. Postcard-worthy views of mountains and rice terraces until we reach Butbut Village.

Butbut Village seems to be smaller, but who knows as we only passed through the main road. Our encounters with the locals was warm though, from taking shelter under the shade in one of the house where the woman was arranging twigs and we met a former high-ranking NPA office during the Marcos times, he is aged but his handshake was strong and showed a few of his tattoos like badge. His friends were there and was also admiring the tattoo I had. One guy at the house was also offering me food but I just nodded in thanks.

Mountain layers and Ngibat Village on the horizon
Mountain layers and Ngibat Village on the horizon

Hike to Ngibat Village

It seems Francis Pa-in is really popular in these parts, on the occasions we would meet people on the road they would chat in their own language then curiously would turn to me and I would show my tattoo and they would be delighted seeing it. While it feeds my ego that this tattoo feels like a badge of accomplishment, I get the feeling that they admire it more because it is Fang-Od’s work. Fang-Od is really a celebrity and people admire what she does.

The hike to Ngibat Village was longer and more challenging. It was a shift from open and seemingly converging trails to nowhere then we would go deep into mountainside narrow trails with thick vegetation, ascending and descending a few times I couldn’t count. I would get lost here by myself, am thankful Francis was with us. My supplies were also depleting. Good thing I brought a few biscuits and nuts as it seems we won’t have any lunch stop. When we reached Ngibat Village, I was glad to replenish my water supply. We could now see Chico River and the provincial road from Ngibat Village, the home of Pang-ad, the tattoo artist who did Fang-Od’s tattoo. Also we could see the trail ahead. Oh this would take time still.

Chico River and the provincial road seen from Ngibat Village
Chico River and the provincial road seen from Ngibat Village

Descending to Liyao and a long Walk to Tinglayan

I was thankful it didn’t rain even if the clouds showed impending signs. The trail descends towards the main provincial road, but it was a long and narrow, paved trail with probably a hundreds of steps. I think this would be dangerously slippery when wet and a good traction shoes would be helpful. The wooden walk stick we improvised was helpful to keep our momentum in balance. We reached a rest stop by noon and we could see Bugnay Village again on the far right. From here-on it still took us at least an hour to get back on the road through careful descend.

It was a relief to finally be back on the road again once we reached Liyao. But it’s still at least 5km to go for Tinglayan. I was already hungry, dead tired and feeling icky from all the sweat and grime so I picked up pace. When I already saw Luplupa, Tinglayan, I was relieved. We dropped off Francis and paid him for his service when we reached is house at the turn to Luplupa. We invited him to join us that night for dinner. But first we devoured what we could find at Shepherd’s Restaurant just across the church. It was lunch at almost 3pm but we didn’t care. Oh Francis never showed up for dinner, he apologized the next morning as he said he was just exhausted and decided to stay home. We understood. It was one hell of a trek, I’m not sure I would do that Kalinga Villages Traverse again (for now).

Essential Info

Tracing our route, the Kalinga Villages Traverse
Tracing our route, the Kalinga Villages Traverse from Bugnay, Buscalan, Butbut, Ngibat, Liyao to Tinglayan

Estimated Hike time in moderate pace

  • Bugnay (provincial road) to Buscalan Village is 2.5-3 hours 
  • Buscalan to Butbut Village is 1.5 hours
  • Butbut to Ngibat Village is 1.5- 2 hours
  • Ngibat to Liyao Village (main road) 1.5-2 hours
  • Liyao to Tinglayan is 1 hour
Early start of the hike from Buscalan
Early start of the hike from Buscalan
Rice terraces and shrouded mountains in Buscalan
Rice terraces and shrouded mountains in Buscalan
Butbut Village on sight
Butbut Village on sight
Descending to Liyao from Ngibat Vilalge
Descending to Liyao from Ngibat Village
View of Luplupa from the road to Tinglayan
View of Luplupa from the road to Tinglayan
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Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.

6 Responses to “Kalinga Villages Traverse | The Buscalan-Butbut-Ngibat-Liyao-Tinglayan Village Trek”

  1. Hello! This looks very exciting, thanks for posting this! I also read your blog where you went to Palan-ah Falls. I’m planning to go on a similar trip (Kalinga Villages traverse) on April 17-20, 2014. Is it possible to fit in one trip this village traverse, the Pana-ah falls, and the Chico river?


  2. Pike Soria

    You may contact me as a guide to Buscalan, Tinglayan Kalinga.
    Thank you…Godspeed.

    Pike Soria
    Bontoc and Buscalan Traditional Tattoo Artist Guide
    [email protected]

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