Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kalinga: Weekend with Whang-Od

On the weekend of December 5, 2014, my friends and I traveled to Buscalan for roughly 19 hours to get inked by Whang-Od (native: Fang-Od), Kalinga's last mambabatok. We spent a good deal of time admiring the view on top of the jeepney.

The place was beyond what I expected. I have seen photos of it online but finally seeing it in person, I often find myself asking if it's real. That's how astonishing this place is.

How fitting to see this at a house that sits high up in the mountains. We didn't speak their dialect but the people in the village welcomed us warmly. At 96, Apo Fang-od remains strong and surprisingly unassuming. We had the privilege to spend the night at her very own house. Her mere presence is home.

She tattooed us the same afternoon we arrived. By the time we were all finished, she began doing household chores like feeding the pigs, cleaning the floor, and cooking rice. It was pretty cold that month and at one point, I shared a silent moment beside her in her makeshift kitchen, looking at glowing embers where she cooks.

Payak ang pamumuhay sa bundok. I found peace in the mountains and comfort, strangely, from the people I barely knew. A week after returning to Manila, I've begun questioning city life and the routine I've come back to. I felt restless and distracted somehow. The trip was over but the memories are with me forever.

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