text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Carla Ocampo and Lester Valle
Kalinga‘s terrain is marked by vast agricultural plains framed by mountain ranges of igneous and sedimentary rock. On these ranges, extensive rice terraces have been carved out by human hands, a Filipino Cordilleran legacy admired the world over.
The inner part of the province, meanwhile, is carved by the force of Nature itself. The Chico River, meandering across Kalinga, sliced through the mountain sides for millions of years, gradually forming a picturesque river valley.
Today, tucked within this river valley is the tribal municipality of Tinglayan. Lower in elevation compared to Kalinga’s other municipalities, a visitor can expect warm, humid days here. Expect, as well, days full of memorable adventures amidst strikingly beautiful gray-and-green panoramas. Team KT proudly brings you the particulars.
HOW TO GET THERE
Tinglayan is accessible via two jump-off points: Tabuk (the provincial capital of Kalinga), from where the trip would last for about 3 hours; and Bontoc (the provincial capital of Mountain Province), from where the trip would last for about 2 hours.
Jeepneys and buses are deployed at set times, mostly mornings to a little later after lunchtime. Best bet for a scheduled trip is at 9AM. From the bus terminals of your chosen transport (Victory/ Florida/ Autobus, from Manila), it is wise— and completely harmless!— to ask the locals for directions to the nearest jeepney or bus stop, en route to Tinglayan.
From either of the two jump-off points, the transport fare to Tinglayan is PhP120 as of this writing.
REGISTRATION AND ACCOMMODATION
Be sure to register your name at the Municipal Tourism Center within Tinglayan’s poblacion. Here, it is highly-recommended to hire a local guide. Team KT was lucky to get the services of Manong Ruben Ganagan, a bashful but intelligent Kalinga gentleman with a ready smile.
There are homestay programs in the small, far-flung villages of Tinglayan, but within the town center, there are two well-known places to stay in:
1.) Riverside Inn, literally just beside the Chico River in the village of Luplupa. PhP150 per head-per night.
2.) Sleeping Beauty Inn, conveniently located right beside the highway. Also PhP150 per head-per night.
We found ourselves billeted at the Sleeping Beauty Inn. It is fitted like most budget inns in the Philippines, where you sleep on frugal beds and bathe with cold water. But the nice thing about this transient home is its mini-grocery where you can buy all your travel musts: from soaps to medicines, to quick snacks and souvenir items.
They also have a restaurant serving heaps of highland rice, and good igado and adobo. This eatery closes too early at times, though, so be sure to show up at the counter as early as 6PM for your supper.
“Sleeping Beauty” might be too gowny a name for a budget inn, but it can’t be helped. Tinglayan is actually known as the “Land of the Sleeping Beauty”… that is, Mt. Mating-oy.
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
Some years back, a team of mountaineers cleared a hiking trail along Mt. Mating-oy’s slopes… but the infrequency of treks have allowed flora to grow and cover this mountain pathway. As of today, the established mountain trail is nowhere to be seen.
While it is a mountain with forgotten trails, Mt. Mating-oy still enthralls every Tinglayan visitor with its silhouette: an unmistakable profile of a reclining woman, the “Sleeping Beauty”.
Mating-oy, in itself, means “tilting one’s head to one side”. The maiden’s face is believed to be tilted facing the village of Luplupa. We were drawn closer in somber reflection as we learned about the woman-mountain’s tragic legend.
The profile of Mating-oy is the face of Dinayao, the most beautiful and virtuous young lady of Kalinga in the olden times. Upon hearing about the death of her beloved Binsay, a warrior from Luplupa who was killed in battle, she asked the Supreme Being— Kaboniyan— to let her die as well; her further existence would be meaningless without the love of her life. On top of Mt. Mating-oy, where she and Binsay agreed to see each other again just before the fatal tribal war, Dinayao lied down on the grass— looking towards Luplupa, the land of her dearest Binsay— and fell into a deep sleep. Through the years, avalanches down the slope of the mountain buried Dinayao little by little, until the mountain was shaped into her very profile.
UNOY. NATIVE. GOOD.
The Kalinga have such high regard for their brethren with impeccable virtue that they have coined a term for these: UNOY.
Anything good that is natively Kalinga is unoy. To illustrate, a Kalinga man who is rich and generous is unoy, whereas a Kalinga man who is greedy and filthy is not unoy. A native maiden who is patient and obedient is unoy, a native girl who is bratty and obnoxious is not unoy.
Along this line of thinking, they have since called their native rice variety “unoy rice”, assuring only the best harvest worthy of being called such. Unoy, or, “the good native”.
Tinglayan forefronts the concept of the good native during their Unoy Festival, held annually around the third week of March. People from all over Tinglayan come to the town center in trucks and droves to participate in the celebration.
The most anticipated event of the festival is the Ab-afak, a series of competitions pitting skill against skill. Of all these, the Man-chi-ot or Wood-splitting Contest is surely the crowd-favorite. Shrieks and roars ring out of the town court as village representatives— bronzed Kalinga men possessing the firmest muscular built one could ever see— outdo each other in chopping a huge slab of wood to turn it into a thick bundle of firewood.
As axes swiftly swing back and forth, full force, whacking portioned tree trunks, the crowd roars louder. By this time, it would have become obvious that in Kalinga, especially in Tinglayan, brawn is virtue.
BROOM AS ART
Another unique competition in the Ab-afak series is the on-the-spot Broom-making Contest. See, in Tinglayan, broommaking is serious art.
The hands of Kalinga broommakers— mostly men— are calloused and strong: the kind of hands required to pull at the sturdy ribbed weave of the broom’s neck and handle.
The Tinglayan soft broom— made of mountain tiger grass and reinforced by thin strips of bamboo— is of such intricate design that one would rather hang it as an ornament than beat it up in floor sweeping sessions. It is the perfect pasalubong from Tinglayan.
TULGAO AND PALANG-AH FALLS
For Team KT, the best thing about Tinglayan is the trek to their most magnificent sight: the Palang-ah Falls hidden deep in the village of Tulgao.
You would ride on a small motorcycle— at PhP200 per head, back-and-forth trip— to get to the mountain village of Tulgao. The steep transport fare is well worth it; it is quite a long uphill crunch and the motorcycle pilots are absolutely skillful, negotiating the steepest climbs and sharp downhills with utmost care.
Along the way, rice terraces suspended from a cliff arrest the eyes of every passerby.
The trek to Palang-ah Falls is a long, tiresome hike from the village outskirts. You need a certain degree of fitness to get to it, crossing several levels of rice terraces, neighborhood footpaths and mud stairs. But one can always say never-you-mind, for Tulgao is a village of extremely hospitable people. And the rewards, once you get to the target point, are spectacular.
The Palang-ah Falls is a hundred-foot-high spellbinder, with its waters cascading in a singular flow, resembling a lacy bridal veil. Right beside it is a pool of hot spring water, balanced to a perfect temperature by Palang-ah’s colder flow.
This is one of Tinglayan’s best-kept secrets, and is a great way to cap your pilgrimage to this municipality.
In the name of responsible tourism, Team KT appeals to every future visitor: let us all give traveling a good name, and preserve the virginal beauty of Tinglayan’s treasures.
(for inquiries on accommodation and other concerns, you may call Tinglayan elder and municipal mayor Fernando Abay at +63 916 922 5233)
© 2011 The Kayumanggi Trails | All Rights Reserved
- KT in Kalinga: Tabuk Basics (thekayumanggitrails.org)
- KT in Kalinga: Outsider’s Guide to Kalinga Sensibilities (thekayumanggitrails.org)