Kalinga

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Kalinga is a landlocked province within the Cordillera region. Prior to 1995, it was part of Kalinga Apayao. Apayao, now a separate province is north of Kalinga.

Kalinga has rugged and sloping terrain.  with mountain peaks ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 meters high. Its western side, towards the province of Abra, has sharp, crested, interlinking peaks of steep slopes, isolated flatlands, plateaus and valleys. Mount Balbalasang, a national park within the town of Balbalan is on this side.

Cordillera

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Mt. Balbalasang in Balbalan

Typically one goes to Kalinga and hike to the town of Buscalan to witness Wang Od, most popular for her art of tattoos. Even local and international celebrity have come to be tattooed by this now legendary woman.

But I choose to write about Kalinga and how it has been so blessed by mother nature.

RICE TERRACES

Kalinga boasts of majestic rice terraces. All over the province. In every town. Huge ones and rather small patches.

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CHICO RIVER

Chico River dominates Kalinga. It is a source of water, and a source of pride.

The most extensive river in the Cordillera region, it covers the provinces of Mountain ProvinceKalinga and Cagayan. It is referred to as a “river of life” for the Kalinga people who live on its banks, and is well known among development workers because of the Cico River Dam Project, an electric power generation project which local residents resisted for three decades before it was finally shelved in the 1980s – a landmark case study concerning ancestral domain issues in the Philippines.

It is also the most famous river for whitewater rafting. I have a set of friends who would set out for their annual whitewater adventure every year, on New Year’s day.

TABUK, the only other city in the Cordilleras after Baguio City

The capital of Kalinga is Tabuk City. It does look like any provincial city, with many hotels, restaurants and malls.

 

Tabuk City Hall

Within Tabuk is an interesting bridge that contrasts the old and the new.

My hotel of choice in Kalinga is Grand Zion.

Grand Zion Hotel

LUBUAGAN

A most interesting town to visit is historic Lubuagan, once the capital of Kalinga and also once the seat of the Third Philippine Republic when then president General Emilio Aguinaldo based himself in this small town for several days.  It laso had the first educational institutions in the region, and naturally had wealthier homes as it was then the trading center.

BALBALAN

Balbalan is a hard-to-reach town towards the west of Kalinga. It is famous for its rice terraces and the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park at Mt. Balbalasang

 

The towns of Pasil and Tanudan are also interesting destinations for their rice terraces. However access to most towns is difficult as most roads are eroded and, therefore, muddy for the most part.

 

 

My Route to Kalinga
Most people go to Kalinga via Tuguegarao. Admittedly, this is the easiest way. But the more adventurous can also approach Kalinga from Apayao, or from Abra. The roads to and from Abra or Apayao are not recommended for those who want to take it easy. But that will be another story, and I shall be writing about my travels thru these routes less-traveled.

This welcome sign greeted me when I came from Apayao

Pasil in Kalinga

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Pasil is a 5th class municipality in Kalinga.

My journey to Pasil started when I chanced upon a beautiful, quaint cafe by the provincial road on the way to Lubuagan, Tinglayan and Bontoc. This is Bangyan 88, a cafe/resto I am writing separately about. Found out that that spot in Pasil is practically the only point in this town that is easy to reach.

 

Turning right from Bangyan 88 leads to another provincial road that actually goes to Abra. The road starts as one beautiful concrete road with beautiful sceneries. 

And then the roads quickly changed. It felt like a different place.

I arrived in the barangay called Ableg where I saw a truck with locals as hitch hikers. The truck passed thru muddy dirt roads with cascading water from the mountains in certain sections.

Had t do a u-turn within a community to get to the other side of the mountain, to continue my journey. Until I got to 2 kms to the town proper.

There are stretches of concreted roads. But any traveler will have more vivid memories of how difficult the unpaved, muddy roads are to negotiate. In most parts, one wonders whether or not to go on, or just turn back.

I also saw the barangay called Balinciagao.

And maybe other barangays the signboards of which I chose to not mind, with myself concentrated on how to negotiate this extreme adventure on muddy roads.

While difficult, one is rewarded with sights of clouds covered mountains and rice terraces here and there.

The next town after Pasil, on the same road, is Balbalan. And that will be another story.

Balbalan, Kalinga

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I first saw the sign “To Balbalan” from Pinukpuk, the first town in Kalinga from Apayao. But I was so tired I decided to skip this town I had earlier planned to see, thinking I can do it another day. Or maybe even skip it for other places in Kalinga.

But then Balbalan cropped up again in my conversations with the owners and managers of Gran Zion, the hotel I checked into. It was supposed to be the best route to Abra which I wanted as my exit point from Kalinga.

So off to Balbalan I went. Via the provincial road thru Pasil.

 

 

After the long, almost torturous ride thru unpaved and muddy roads in Pasil, even with some stretches of concreted roads, I was at that point where I would have turned if I took the way from Pinukpuk to Balbalan. Now I am imagining – – could the roads have been better? or even more difficult? Oh well.

Balbalan is famous for its rice terraces. And also for Mt. Balbalasang which is where the Balbalasang Balbalan National Park sits. I have a separate story about Balbalasang.

Balbalan is a 3rd class municipality and, according to Wikipedia, “draws its name from an ancient practice. It was said that war parties coming from certain areas in northern Kalinga (probably, the ancient place of Salegseg) used to meet by a creek when mapping out their plan of attack against or when regrouping after attacking a certain village. Since they would always wash (balbal, in the local dialect) their blood-stained bodies and weapons in the creek, the place and its adjacent areas came to be known as Balbalan. Since its tribal war days, Balbalan has become one of the most peaceful place in Kalinga as dramatized by the selection of one of its ethnic sub-groups, the Salegseg.”

The town has 14 barangays, the farthest of which borders Abra province.

 

At the other end of Balbalan , one finds this signage in Abra.

This town in the mountains of Kalinga is very sparsely populated. In the 2015 census, the population of Balbalan was 12,195 people, with a density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre. Truly an adventure traveling thru its mountain rods and hardly seeing anyone on long stretches.

Lubuagan, Kalinga’s Most Historic Town

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Most stories about Kalinga revolve around the tribes, the tattooed women, about Wang-od, and inevitably about the rice terraces that compare well, and some claim better, than Banaue and Battad.

Not many visitors to Kalinga look at the town of Lubuagan, mostly bypassing this town en route to Tinglayan. Or onward to Bontoc. They do not know what they are missing.

Not many know that this 4th class municipality was once upon a time the capital of Kalinga. And, in fact, was the seat of the First Philippine Republic when then president General Emilio Aguinaldo based himself here for 73 days from March 6 to May 17, 1900, before his escape and eventual capture in Palanan, Isabela in 1901. He actually celebrated his 31st birthday in Lubuagan, his then seat of government. Consider, too, that Spanish rule was never established in Lubuagan in the 300 years that the Philippines was ruled by Spain. Very impressive history this town has.

Today, a monument of General Aguinaldo is found facing the municipal grounds. It is due for fixing up in preparation for the installation of the marker from the National Historical Institute, scheduled next year.

General Aguinaldo faces what is now the town’s plaza

On my visit to Lubuagan, I was regaled with stories from the town’s very young but also very knowledgeable, and charming tourism officer, Ms Ansharina Odiem. Most of the information I am sharing came from her.

Also referencing from wikipedia:

“The colonial Civil Government notably beginning with the administration of Lt. Governor Franklin Walter Hale (1907) up to the Commonwealth government is considered the golden years of Lubuagan, the capital town of the sub-province of Kalinga.

Lubuagan at that time was the center of education, culture, commerce and trade. The founding of the Kalinga Academy in 1927, a secondary school run by American Missionaries and the St. Teresita’s School, founded even earlier in 1924, a Catholic Primary and High School managed by the CICM Belgian Missionaries bolstered the luster of Lubuagan.

The Japanese Imperial army occupation came to Lubuagan in May 1942.

In 1945 during the war of liberation, Lubuagan was bombed by American planes resulting in the destruction of the Lubuagan Central School which was then occupied by the enemy. The big and beautiful St. Peter’s church of Lubuagan which resembles the Saint Peter’s Basicila of Rome with its high dome, the father’s convent and two more buildings within the compound were all burned to the ground. Lubuagan was once the capital of Kalinga sub-province before Tabuk rose to its present status as the center of learning and government activities. It is also in Lubuagan where the first instruction of higher learning (College) in the old Mt. Province was established.”

old, but repainted

If one is not into history, Lubuagan would still be a good visit for tourists and photography enthusiasts. The town has extensive and scenic rice terraces (Pon-e Rice Terraces and Gapis Rice Terraces) cut into the mountains, rising 2,000 feet (610 m) from the Chico River bed.

The Linas Heritage Homes
Lubuagan is also famous for its heritage homes. No small wonder – –  it was once the province’s center of commerce and, therefore, a showcase of affluence in its time.

Laga Festival

Lubuagan is famous for the Mabilong Weaver’s Village where backstrap weaving is the method, as opposed to loom weaving. Thus, Lubuagan celebrates the excellence of their weaving industry every year, on March 6, coinciding with the day gen Emilio Aguinaldo came. “Laga” means weaving.

Mabilong Weaver’s Village, located along the road, is the center of the ethnic weaving industry in the province. It showcases colorful ethnic backstrap weaving. Here, one can see how the intricate ethnic designs are made and how the colors are mixed. Souvenirs can be bought from the weavers.

I bought a lady’s belt from a store in Pasil, sourced from the Mabilong weavers. The other items are also on display in this souvenir shop in neighboring Pasil.

I did not then realize that one can spend a day or two in this small town, so on my next visit, I have listed down the following, from wikipedia (Other Attractions)

  • Awichon Mesa, a plateau situated at Brgy. Upper Uma, 2 km from the town proper and between Pasil and Lubuagan, is an archaeological site where bones of a prehistoric elephant were found. It was also the landing site of American forces during World War II.
  • Cadamayan Falls, at Brgy. Western Uma, serves as the natural boundary of Pasil, Lubuagan and Tinglayan and can be viewed from the road.
  • Tiwod Spring, the “Fertility Twin Spring”, is believed to be a God-given gift for couples who have not yet had children. Couples who take a bath every morning here and drink its waters will soon bear children.
  • Unexplored Tongango Caves, located just above the poblacion, consists of several chambers connecting the mountains of Lubuagan, Sumadel and Tulgao.

Accommodations

Had I known there were places for me to stay, I would have stayed in Lubuagan. So for prospective visitors, here are the options:

Homestays: JBC Inn, Henrich Homestay – both located at Barangay Poblacion. MA-K Homestay located at the Mabilong Weavers Village. And at Awichon Cultural Village, one of the  attractions on the top list, visitors can sleep in the Kalinga authentic houses.

Average rates range from 200-300/head . Awichon Cultural Village is probably P500 per head. These can be verified with the town’s tourism office.

How to get there

Lubuagan is 50 kilometres fromTabuk, and 460 kilometers north of Manila.

 

 Contact the Lubuagan Tourism Office :

http://www.lubuagan.gov.ph

email: lubuagen@yahoo.com (this was not misspelled, the locals pronounce Lubuagan as Lubuagen, thus this email address)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 23, 1901.