- Page 1 – Morning in Tabuk City
- Page 2 – Top Loading Kalinga Style
- Page 3 – The Hike to Buscalan Village and its Utter Danger
- Page 4 – The Butbut Tribe and the last Mambabatok of Kalinga
- Page 5 – A New Morning, A New Life
Top Load Jeep
Around 0630H, we saw a number of vans parked near the police station. One driver, a short dark man in his mid 30s, approached us and asked if we are heading to Buscalan. “Opo” I replied, a formal form of the word ‘yes’ in Filipino.
The driver told us that their vans will leave around 0830H, because they were waiting for incoming passengers. Randy and I were a little bit adventurous that morning. We assessed their vans and it wasn’t equipped for top loading. Their time of departure were also unfit for our itinerary. We refused his offer politely and waited for a top load jeep to arrive.
At 0700H, we saw a huge jeep arriving. This jeep is larger than in any jeeps in Manila. It was monstrous and we saw a group of men sitting on top of the jeep. They call this “top loading” and it is a common form of transportation in the North. Although this type of transportation seemed to be normal for them, it will be a one-of-a-kind adventure for us. The passengers who stay inside the vehicle are designated only for the women and the elders, it is also a form of respect.
With our adrenaline rushing, we climbed on the steel bar of the jeep, secured our bags, and positioned ourselves with hands firmly gripped on any available handle. I was anxious at first, but since I have this desire to know the people of Kalinga and immerse in their way of life even for a day, I would do it. When everyone was settled, the jeep started to accelerate.
The wind was cold, and the morning sun painted the whole city of Tabuk. The view was simply majestic. I felt more alive than ever. I can’t even describe the emotions I felt. It was my first time to ride a top load jeep and the experience was overwhelming.
The view was breathtaking on top while traversing the whole Mount Province-Tabuk-Enrile-Cagayan Road. I saw nothing but endless mountains, green forests, clear rivers, and blue skies extending in the horizon. The sound of birds resonating was heartfelt, and the silence of each towns visited from Bolanao, Lubuagan, and Bangad reflects their simplistic lifestyle.
The top load ride was a mixture of both fear and excitement but in this beautiful moment I felt infinite.
We saw a number of rice terraces; carved and engineered diligently for thousand of years. There were also trees swaying with the wind, and the Chico river on the side flowing oppositely in peace. The top load ride was a mixture of both fear and excitement; but in this beautiful moment, I felt infinite. Overwhelmed by the scenic view, I didn’t realize that I was in tears. Sounds dramatic, but this is how I appreciate things. I closed my eyes, expressed gratitude, and prayed on how great, how wide and how wonderful His creations.
The people of Kalinga are also welcoming and accommodating. One passenger, seated beside me, asked about the who and why I am in Kalinga. We shared stories together while braving the whole ride and enjoying the incredible mountain range of Cordillera. “Grabe kuya, ang ganda dito sa inyo.” (Your place is so beautiful here, kuya), I said. “Oo nga eh!” (Yes it is!) He replied with a grin.
On the Other Hand
The top load ride from Tabuk City going to Tinglayan was an arduous 5-hour ride. The experience were both amazing and painstaking. The sit was uncomfortable, and the heat of the sun was scorching.
I kept on shifting the weight of my hips to ease pressure, and I felt my hands were becoming weak and numb due to the prolonged grip. I kept on distracting myself from discomfort with the spectacular views and towering mountains. On the other hand, the locals were silent, they were already accustomed to this kind of transportation. Some were even sleeping peacefully on top of the jeep, not minding the danger of the path we were taking.
The Mount Province-Tabuk-Enrile-Cagayan Road is a perilous highway unfit for the faint of heart. It traces the mountain edges of Cordillera parallel to the long Chico River. The highway is tortuous and placed on a cliff, and most areas are prone to landslides. Concrete guard rails are present; but, there are sections of the road wherein the path is unpaved and without any guard rails. One wrong move and your vehicle will dive into the ravine causing a terrible accident.
With danger looming around, it seems like the locals were brushing it off. After almost 5 long hours of top load ride, we finally arrived in Barangay Bugnay in Tinglayan.