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Tulgao Tribe of KalingaJun 17-18, 2011

Tulgao Tribe of Kalinga

On Board the Jeep For Tulgao
As the jeep rolled off, it was already 3:15 pm. We've already lost a lot of time. It was unclear if there was remaining time to go to the hot springs and the falls. From Tinglayan Proper, the jeep took what appeared to be a side-road that went straight up...unrelentingly up...and up, gaining an elevation of 700 meters in just 5 kms (as the crow flies). At 1190 meters, we arrived in Tulgao. I was thinking, if I climbed this on a mountain bike, I'd have a full-body cramp like what happened to me when the La Treo crew took me to the Asin Hot Spring.

Walking It
There was a section of rough road...make that very rough road that steeply went down. I was on top of the jeep feeling scared shitless. But I held on thinking that this is how things are, in this part of the country. That thinking was shattered when even the locals yelled for the driver to stop so they can all go down and walk it! Whoa! If this shit scares even the locals, then I'm definitely walking this part too!

2 Strikes!
As Francis, my guide, and I were walking, he candidly told me that this same jeep had already turned and landed on its side twice! Whoa! I was just thinking, it's a good thing it didn't fall into the ravine. After about a 100-meter walk, we all went back on the jeep as it headed towards Tulgao. The road narrowed down into a foot trail. That's when we got off and started out hike to the village.

No Keys
Upon arriving at the village, Francis couldn't find the key to the house we were supposed to lodge. We were forced to wait for the old lady to arrive from the fields. It took hours. By the time she arrived, it was nearly getting dark and the option to go to the hot spring was no longer available. We just chilled out at the house.

Conversation with Locals
Later in the night, some young villagers (late 20s) visited the house, curious perhaps of who I might be. We talked as gin was being passed around. When their guard was down, they became candid and shared some of their thoughts.

Integration into the Mainstream
What they wanted was to be integrated back into the mainstream and likewise profit from the bustling tourism that was already sweeping the Cordillera mountain range. They even explained themselves claiming that there was only one head taken in their history and the rest was blown out of proportion. I'm sure a lot of people will disagree about only one head, but I was not the one to question them.

It's Not About Development
They further talked about improving the hot spring...providing a dressing room, shelter, hand rails, etc. I had to bite my tongue instead of saying tourists don't want that kind of development - that they should leave it the way it is. What I wanted to tell them was that no amount of infrastructure improvement would make the tourists come until they address the head-hunting issue, the tribal wars, the distrust to outsiders, etc. But of course, I'm not the one to them them that again.

They shared a few other interesting things. That if a Kalinga offers you to eat at their house, even to drink just water, it's a very good idea to comply. Doing so means they now take responsibility for your well-being. By cultural convention, they would be duty-bound to protect you. If you decide to refuse, they see you as someone who cannot be trusted. After hearing that, I didn't wait for my turn on the gin....I asked for a drink with some water!

Geothermal Project
The touchy issue now in Kalinga is the proposed geothermal project. I can understand their ambivalence about it. It was only a generation ago when fierce fighting between the combined forces of the Kalingas and the leftist New People's Army (NPA), against the Marcos military, when Marcos decreed that the Chico River would be damned, consequently submerging the Kalinga valley. This would have wiped away their culture, tradition and way of life. Many lives were lost, most of them unreported in the press.

Who Wants a Tribal War?
According to my guide, not too long ago, the Tulgaos were engaged in a 2-year tribal war against their neighboring tribe, the Ngibat. For the duration of the conflict, no one could plant in the rice terraces within sniping distance from the other side. No one could go to the common grounds - the hot spring, the waterfall, etc. The kids could not go to school either for fear of retaliatory attacks. Altogether, the 2 tribes nearly starved. Simply put, nobody wants a tribal war.

Peace Pact Chief
As a measure, every tribe now has 2 chiefs, one of them being the peace-pact chief. It is his responsibility to ensure there is peace between the neighboring tribes. He is also tasked to self-police members of his tribe and levy punishment to his tribal offenders.

Hot Spring and the Waterfall
One of the natural highlights of the Tulgao trip is a hike down the river for some dipping into the hot spring and a plunge on the waterfall. With limited time, I only got the chance to dip on the hot spring. The waterfall will have to be for next time. It was another climb back up to Tulgao before we could start off to our next destination - the tribes of Butbut, Buscalan and Bugnay.

--- TheLoneRider

How to Get to Tulgao from Tinglayan Proper:
  • There is a jeep that leaves Tinglayan around 1:00 pm. It usually waits for passengers on the main road across from the church. Travel time: 1 hour 45 mins including hike from road to village; Cost: Php 100.00
Travel Tips:
  • bring lots of matches. That'll be your currency. Give matches to those who offer you food, to those whose pictures you took, etc.
  • when offered food or water, take it! It tells them you can be trusted.

01topload 02tinglayan 03ridgeride 04terraces
05rough_road 06passengers 07toploading 08tulgao
09mountain_rice 10oldman 11tulgao_house 12tattooed_women
13tulgao_women 14tulgao_elders 15dapay 16madonna_child
17tulgao_house 18terraces 19footpath 20butbut
21mudfish_trap 22rice_terraces 23hotspring_dip 24drinking_water
25hotspring 26waterfall 27tulgao_house 28mudfish_breakfast

These guys like this story:




"Do they still practise tattooing in Kalinga?" -- Gail Vicente
(Aug 9, 2011) Yes, Gail. Fang-od from Buscalan is still doing it. It's on my next blog, "Continuing to Buscalan, Kalinga"

Gail VicenteGail Vicente
(Aug 8, 2011) ...hey thanks for sharing their side. Been wanting to explore the north of Luzon. Do they still practise tattooing in Kalinga? Are they passing on this tradition to the younger ones? Keep the posts coming, interesting stuff you have. will share too w/ Paolo who is working with IPs in the Philippines, cheers!

Bryan BocadoBryan Bocado
(Aug 7, 2011) nice one git!

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