December 2015, I’ve grown tired of faking my life. From living up to what others expect me to be and what I should become. From not living up to what I’d like to get a hold of and not listening to what my heart tells me to do. From denying that I am different and seeking approval to act like one. From dying everyday because I am surviving, not living. From the fear of ending up dying without taking all the risks.

And I wished of breaking free from what life has tied me up— responsibilities.

I dreamed of the possibilities but once again, I shut it down. Not because I wanted to, but I needed to put first what I value most (family’s ease of living).

Slowly, I noticed I have grown tired of moving around and have been accustomed of what the city offers me. One time I was at the mall, I got torn apart between buying the bag I’d like to bring on my travel and spending less to have enough travel funds.

I know myself that it is ordinary for girls to get too materialistic when they want to look good. However, this won’t match well with the simple life I have been dreaming of. I then questioned my heart if I am still passionate about my travels or am I just traveling to let the social media know what my lifestyle is.

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April 2016, I traversed Negros and Siquijor with my travel half @mikeaunzo . I feel both pressured and stressed of how it might go cause I understand well how this trip’s outcome can affect my sentiments towards traveling.

After spending 5 days wandering, all I sense was nostalgia towards what I felt in Siargao (place of rebirth). I reminisced how I laughed without any holdbacks when I tell my stories to those people who shared the same passion I have. I remembered what made me love the idea of packing and leaving without the fear of what tomorrow may bring.

I have just never felt so complete when I travel. I don’t mind what I wear, how my skin burns to dark brown or if I didn’t wear make up. Learning one’s difference from my customs was enough for me to go on and fight for what I believed I deserve.

Wholeheartedly, I decided to get a tattoo to mark a year of when I started my journey.

It was April 2015 when I traveled to Sagada, the first DIY destination where I don’t know anybody. I have revised my itinerary several times, packed too many clothes of what I needed and had fears. Yet it was one of the most memorable adventures I’ve ever had.

And I wanted the tat to be different as it would be my first one so I plan of doing it with Apo Whang Od, the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut tribe and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines.

April 22, 2016.

I traveled  on my own to Kalinga at 7PM and left the gang in Ilocos. I found excitement and fear both chilling my vines as I do my first solo backpacking.

The bus ride took 7 hours and I arrived in Tuguegarao, Cagayan at 2 AM. I first looked for a nearby pharmacy where I can buy the goods, medicines and candies I’ll bring for the tribe. The trike was overpricing but I didn’t mind as I got no other means of transportation. Afterwards, I asked the trike driver to dropped me off the van station for Tabuk, Kalinga. Since it was quite early, I slept at the bench while waiting for the first trip.

The van got fully loaded around 5 AM. What I love the most in the mountain province is the scenery you’ll get to see at sunrise. Those lush greens and brown mountain ranges that’s never ending.

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I arrived in St. William’s Cathedral at Tabuk, Kalinga around 6AM and I waited for a couple of hours since the jeepneys or mini-buses going to Tinglayan have been limited which makes way for illegally-operating vans to run into business. Thanks to the trike driver who leaded me to one!

We coursed the mountain highway for 4 hours before I reached the Sleeping Beauty Inn. There I met my three hilarious guides from the Butbut tribe that was sent by Charlie Pan-oy.

I was shocked getting three guides as I read in the blog that you need to pay P1,000 per guide but the trio explained that they’re sharing it. We ride a motorbike to the turning point and they brought my belongings as we trek up to Buscalan where Apo Whang Od is.

You’ll see rice terraces along the way and a waterfall where you should see some ganjas growing wild. Upon arriving, they gave me a cup of the good tasting Kalinga brewed-coffee which you shouldn’t miss. Undeniably, traveling for 19 hours knocked me down to sleep.

April 24, 2016.

I woke up early to see the sunrise. At 5 AM, the villagers are already awake and you’ll see wild pigs roaming around the rice paddies. I hand out the matches to the elders and kids went running to me when they saw me giving candies. I can sense how simple and happy their living is.

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Apo Whang Od was pretty tired and not in the mood because she tattooed a number of guests the day before as it was the weekend. Fortunately, the guides was able to convinced her to start the session by 7 AM.

I needed to travel back to Manila the same day so I was kind of worried as we got a long list of visitors who would like to get a tattoo. However my guides were pretty confident that they’ll get me in line.

While waiting, I get to talked to two Cebuanos who went there with a group and it was great speaking with them in our native tongue.

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I watched Apo Whang Od while she tapped into my skin. I want to scream and cuss but the rhythm of the tapping stick made me trance into the Kalinga mark.

I turned my head away as I’m afraid of seeing the bloody mess and trusted on my guts that I can bear the pain. Numbed with the beating, I know for sure there will be no turning back after this. There would be chances of not getting a job or countries that would ban my entry. However, I don’t mind.

It was never the path I choose. I never wished to work in the corporate world and look well-groomed.

I am a wild soul. Free from rules and limits. Never giving a shit to human judgments. And my decision was sealed by the living legend, Apo Whang Od with a mark of the Kalinga’s Crab, the wanderer.

I was happy with my travel. The Butbut tribe has a never ending hospitality and treated me specially as I was the only woman who dared to travel solo up to their village as what they told me.

They even joked that I climbed up to their village because I was broken-hearted and Kuya Charlie made me an engagement ring to give to my future lover.

They complimented me for being brave to get my first tattoo with Apo Whang Od, whom some had backed out after seeing her tattoo session.

And I surely didn’t missed the chance to get the signature of her two successors, Ilyang and Grace. My guides were shocked as it was the first of a guest to get a complete set of signatures from the three Mambabatoks and I have it tattooed on a vertical six-connected signature dots which was unusual and a first.

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Kuya Ambhoy, Jones Simeon and Olivier Luis: the trio guides
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I waved goodbye but I’ll come back with goods from Cebu
P.S.

You can read Potpot’s blog for a detailed trail when going to Kalinga or send me a comment below.

 

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44 thoughts on “A Mark of What I Have Become— Apo Whang Od

    1. Thanks Ate! Hope to see you soon. If you’re free, I’ll be in Ayala this Tuesday at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

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  1. Fan of your tattoo! I love your photos as well. I understand your thoughts about having a moment of learning and discovery once you start travelling. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Damn! your tattoo is, wait for it…. legendary! That was a brave move for you to go solo in Kalinga, I am from mountain province as well and yes, the hospitality is one of a kind up there.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Everytime I see your photos getting a tattoo asawa they remind me of how brave you are to let it all your issues in and then just let them go in a blink of an eye. Superwoman? Let’s travel more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huhu. Sige kog agda nimo laag, pero busy na kaayu kag schedule :(( Thanks for the kind words asawa, I’m missing the whole gang while uploading the pictures

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ohh the adult life! Figuring out things in my life too but traveling is simple one of the most satisfying things in the world. It’s best to travel when we are young 🙂 Btw, Wang-od looks like the sweetest woman. Hope to meet her someday. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Thank you! Whatever’s referaning yoou from getting one, i hope you’ll get the guts to overcome it one day! It feels good to have one. Serves like a reminder when you tend to forget your purpose. ❤

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  5. First of all, congrats on your first solo backpacking trip and that beautiful tats that you got from Apo Whang-od.

    I love the first paragraphs of this post, it just rings true to me. Sometimes when a new place gets discovered or popular in social media, it becomes difficult for us to discern if we want to see it because it’s interesting or because we don’t want to be left behind by our travel peers. We need that moment of silence where we have to listen to ourselves and what we truly want. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree Kat! Slowly I realized, its not about the destination, its about the people you meet along the road. 🙂

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  6. “I have just never felt so complete when I travel. I don’t mind what I wear, how my skin burns to dark brown or if I didn’t wear make up. Learning one’s difference from my customs was enough for me to go on and fight for what I believed I deserve.” RIGHT ON!

    I’m also planning to get a tat this year. So, what was the meaning of the tat they made for you? Will they ask you what you want? Will they let you share your story first before they decide what to imprint on you?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Whang Od doesn’t speak Tagalog so you may have troubles telling your story but your guide sure can translate it for you. Commonly, you just choose from the designs they have on a board they’ll show before you get the tattoo. My tat is the most popular choice for travelers cause it means “the wanderer”.

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  7. There’s nothing more fulfilling than traveling all by yourself… it is where I’m most powerful in my own skin 🙂 braver than i never thought I am… I started at age 17 and it is where it all started. 😉 there are so much things to see and do… I got so envy with your kalinga trip to whang od… I’ve never been there yet.. and I know I will be there in an unpexpected way.. let the universe showed everything for you.. keep those feet walking… and oh.. the tattoo is pretty amazing.. hope you could be in Siargao soon too.. Have a happy travels

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  8. Wow you are very lucky to have gotten a tattoo by Apo Whang Od! I have not had any intentions to get a tattoo yet, but her story is really inspiring! My friend went there before and hiked just to get inked by her! It must have been worth it! Glad you are breaking free from the norm!

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    1. Thanks! I’m really proud of it but there are instances I get to have some fears that it may cause me to have troubles working abroad. 😂✌🏻️

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    2. The trip is totally worth it. It’s like going through a lot before reaching Nirvana but the tattoo’s pretty painful specifically if you get it from Whang Od. 😁

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  9. Kudos to you not only for traveling solo and getting marked by Apo but also for sticking to your guns. We all grew up trying to follow what the society dictates but only a few of us have the courage to deviate.

    Liked by 2 people

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