I have read about this certain “mambabatok” somewhere in Northern Luzon a while back. With several blogs written by local and international tourists circulating online, information about this traditional tattoo maker has been more and more available. Her name is Whang-od, a 98-year-old woman, the last original Kalinga tattoo artist. She already has two trained nieces who can accommodate visiting tourists that aim to get traditionally inked. 

We left Manila at around 8:30pm, arriving at Tabuk at 7 in the morning (Victory Liner – Kamias; Php810.00). We had breakfast at this carenderia just a few blocks from the unloading area. It was a sumptuous 40-peso meal. 

We proceeded at their terminal and rode on top of the bus. The ride wasn’t fully packed but a trip to Kalinga is definitely worth it with an adrenaline rush topload experience. We cannot complain at all because the view was breathtaking with an amazing weather on the side. 

Another 3-4-hour travel (Php150.00) and we arrived at Tinglayan, where we met with our  guide, Kuya Richard “Weber”. Seriously, he has unlimited jokes. It definitely made our visit a lot more memorable. Before heading to the Tattoo Village, we were handed this sheet of paper with rules and reminders for tourists to take note. A list of expenses was enumerated in there, as well. 

  • Guide – 1,000/day (4-5 pax) 
  • Entrance fee before the trek – 75/person 
  • Accommodation – 300/person (per night) 
  • Tattoos – starts from 500, depending on the designs ( They have a book for the designs, complete with their meanings and history, which was given by a tourist who documented Whang-od, her history and the designs.)
  • Motorcycle fare – 100/person (motor: 2 pax) 

An hour on the motorcycle and another hour of trek and we finally arrived in Buscalan Village, Kalinga. It was 2pm and the scorching heat and our sweaters was not a good combo. That level of exhaustion was greeted with this beauty, welcome to Kalinga! I have finally seen this view personally, and not just on our Araling Panlipunan textbooks from second grade. 

There are no hotels nor pension houses available in the village. You stay in their homes, which was way more amazing. They offer their houses for 300 per person each night. You get to have this home away from home all by yourself. The very accommodating locals sleep at their neighbors temporarily. 

After that energy draining trip, we had our late lunch. We brought groceries beforehand such as canned goods and noodles. The rice was provided. They cook your meals for you, free of charge. Their must-try local Robusta coffee was always available, for free. They sell their coffee, if you want to take some home with you, for only 100/pack, along with instructions: 2 cups of hot water, 2 tsp. of sugar, 1 tsp. of coffee. 

One of my favorite parts of the trip was their water – it was so cold and refreshing! After getting dressed, we went to visit Whang-od, hoping we could get our tattoes done on that day. But since there were tourists who arrived before us and the service was on a first come first serve basis, we decided to have ourselves inked the next day. 

We spent the rest of the day appreciating the surrounding view. 

From left to right: X, Niccole, Clinton and me 

Fun fact about Kalinga: Ganjas or marijuana everywhere! They use it for medicinal purposes. They have extracts made from these. 

Early the next day, there was already a long line waiting. Good thing they have priority numbers. Our group was second in line. Clinton, X and I got our first tatts while Niccole got her second. We got our tattooes made by Grace and of course we got Whang-od’s famous three-dot signature. Yes it hurt a little bit. For people with high tolerance level for pain, go get your tattoo done by Whang-od. Her 20-year-old neice, Grace was good too. 

Don’t worry about getting blood transmitted diseases since they use thorns as needles and they give you the thorn used on you after. 

The last trip back to Tabuk was at 12pm. We were able to go down at around 5pm so we decided to hire a jeep for Bontoc, Mountain Province. The last trip bound for Baguio already left so we spent the night in Bontoc and headed for Baguio early in the morning. We stopped by Baguio for a quick lunch then back to Manila. 


For those people who wants to see the finished tattoo, here it is. That perfect circle with those amazing details, who wouldn’t want to take that 18-hour trip from Manila? It is more than worth it. 

Published by Wella Dawn Lim