THINGS TO DO IN KALINGA: Meeting the Tattooed Women of Tinglayan

Going to Tinglayan, all I wanted is to see a tattooed woman; those that I only read on text books during my school days. History tells us that these women have their tattoos as ornaments which signifies beauty and makes them more attractive to their suitors. Some have it like a necklaces and full sleeves on their arms. While for the men, it is a sign of bravery as warriors who have killed their enemies.

They were done by a "mambabatok" or the traditional tattoo artists in their community. They use charcoal that was made into a paste and then thorns were used as needles pounded on their skin.

While exploring the villages in Tinglayan, we met Chummangyag in the village of Ambato-Liglig. She greeted us with a smile when she saw us. Our guide talked to her and explained our intention to see her tattoos. It is important that you ask permission first before taking photos as a sign of respect.

At first, we thought she will just show us her arms full of tattoos, but to our surprise, she took off her blouse for us to fully see her tattoos.

She said that she got her tattoos when she was very young, maybe around 16 years old. Then we asked her about her age, she doesn't remember anymore. She was telling us stories about her life, but since it was on her native tongue, we really wasn't able to fully understand what she was saying. Nonetheless, it was an awesome experience talking to her.

We gave her some boxes of matches as a sign of gratitude for letting us see her tattoos. She was so happy receiving it.

In the village of Luplupa, we met Gumpayaw. She lives near Riverside Inn, were we are staying. She was enjoying her late afternoon outside her home when we arrived.

We asked permission first if we could take photos of her tattoos, she agreed.

Maybe she's about 75 years old. She's already weak, perhaps because of old age. We didn't stay long so as not to disturb her too much. We gave her a kilo of sugar as our way of saying "thank you" for accommodating us.

It is just sad to know that the younger generation do not intend in keeping this tattoo tradition alive. Most of the tattooed women of Tinglayan are already getting old. Someday, the tradition will eventually vanish, I hope not.

This is one of the highlights of our trip to Tinglayan. To see and interact with Kalinga women with traditional tattoos is a great experience. I suggest that you experience it before it's gone.


Option 1: Via Banaue and Bontoc
From Manila, take a bus bound for Banaue. Travel time is 8-9 hours, fare is 450 pesos. Ohayami bus offers daily trips to Banaue, their terminal is located in Lacson Avenue, corner Fajardo St., Sampaloc Manila (near University of Sto. Tomas). From Banaue, take a jeepney bound for Bontoc, travel time is about 3 hours and fare is around 200 pesos. At Bontoc, take a bus bound for Tabuk that passes by the town of Tinglayan. The bus leaves at 9:00 AM and their terminal is found near Mountain Province State Polytechnic College. Travel time is around 2.5 to 3 hours, fare is 110 pesos.

Option 2: Via Tabuk
From Manila, take a bus bound for Tabuk via Victory Liner in Kamias. Fare is around 570 pesos and travel time is 12 hours. Alternatively, you can take a Tuguegarao bound bus and then take a van bound for Tabuk. In Tabuk, take a jeepney or an ordinary bus bound for Bontoc which passes by the town of Tinglayan. Terminal can be found in front of the police station across St. William’s Cathedral. Travel time is about 2.5 to 3 hours and fare is around 110 pesos.

This is part of my Holy Week and Araw ng Kagitingan long weekend holiday trip in Ifugao, Mt. Province and Kalinga last April 5-9, 2012. Kalinga, a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region is the 60th province on my list. Join me as I continue my journey to visit all 80 provinces in the Philippines!
Map By: Wikipedia


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  1. homaygawd! napatakip ako ng beautiful eyes ko! chos

    proud na proud sila sa tattoos nila galing!

  2. talagang pinanood ko yung video- na curious aq dun ha at may close-up shots pa hehehe (hayst naughty me)

  3. I will prioritize Kalinga! I'm astonished kuya mervs. These women are living treasures. Salamat, I'm soo inspired with this post!

  4. hanggang henna tattoo lang ako...heheh. but you are right, they are beautiful and should be seen as heritage treasures.

  5. ang astig ng tattoo ni lola polynesian ang style ng tattoo nya. nice story merv at astig na experince

  6. Gusto ko rin ma meet si manang... \m/ -gino

  7. We are planning to go to kalinga and pwede rin ba isali sa itinerary yung magpatatto mismo sa last "mambabatok" n si Apo Whang Od?


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