Flip Floppin’ Traveler goes to Siem Reap


November 4 to 13, 2014. The flip floppin’s traveler was able to answer the strong call of wanderlust that he had been hearing for almost a year now.

Yes, I had 9 days to travel! And how my soul was doing cartwheels the sooner it arrived. And now, I’m going to write about it.

Now 9 days seems fairly short but for me it was actually long already. This trip was intended to be one week only but since I absent-mindedly booked additional two days since there were no more flight seats on sale for the 1 week trip. I just said “go with it!”. The call for wanderlust was just that strong.

What is different with this trip is that I will be doing it SOLO for the first time ever. Well, I have travelled locally to prepare for this but hey, it is still a daunting thing to face. But then again, you will never know when you are ready unless you do it. So I packed by backpack with clothes and soaked up on the online information and was ecstatic to go.

My destination: The Kingdom of Cambodia through the city famous for their ancient temples, Siem Reap.

I arrived in Siem Reap, instead of November 4, but on the 5th already because of some delays. I was sort of bummed out for it but just thought otherwise as I am now on explorer mode. My initial stay in Siem Reap was with The Siem Reap Hostel, the highly recommended one based on online resources. I met two Filipinas also heading for Siem Reap in the airport in Manila and they were also going to stay in the same hostel. So we were picked up by our tuktuk driver, and arrived at the hostel past 12 mn. We checked in and called it a night, or rather a morning.

This is the first part of my stay in Siem Reap.  I spent two days then decided to take the bus and head for Bangkok and spent another two days there then headed back through train to the border then bus back to Siem Reap and Stay in Jasmine Family Hostel and stayed three more days before heading back home.

Did I mentioned that I had no planned itinerary for the entire 9 day stay? Yup! I figured I would just wing it each day passes confirming this trip as a #YOLO (you only live once).

Now these are the things that I did in the small town of Siem Reap in the days that I was there:

1. Angkor National Museum

Soak up on Cambodian culture and on history of the temples. This was recommended by my good friend, the footloosefoodie, who did this travel a year back. Solo as well. He mentioned that this museum will help you understand the temples, why it was created and the stories that are inscribed in its walls.

I spent a total of 4 hours here skipping lunch an emerging from the museum at almost 5PM. And you guessed it correctly, I am a museum junkie.

They have a number of exhibits that show their religion Buddhism, Hinduism, and King worship, as well as how and why the temples were built.

Museum entrance cost USD 12. But if you would like to have an audio guide with you, you need to pay additional USD 3. The audio sections of the museum are a bit limited but the additional information are just OK. No need also to take the tuktuk, you can easily walk it from where ever your hostel is located. Or better yet, take a bike with you to get there.

2. Temple hopping at the Angkor Archaeological Park Cambodia

Entrance to the Angkor grounds costs you per day:

  1. 1 day pass = USD 20
  2. 3 day pass = USD 40
  3. 7 day pass = USD 60

They may appear costly, but believe me they are worth it! I only took the one day pass and hired a tuktuk to take me to the temples. Your local hostel will most probably have packages available for you depending on the temples you would like to visit. They have the small circuit (consisting of about 5 to 8 temples) and the big circuit (consisting of 8 to 12 temples). Apart from that they also have sun rise and sun set packages where you can see the rise and fall of the sun on selected temples.

I opted to visit Bantay Srei, Pre Rup, Ta Phrom, Angkor Throm (Bayon), and Angkor Wat . The trip cost me USD 25 which I think was worth it because Bantay Srei was really FAR. I took us almost 2 hours to get there but it was worth it! Bring a bottle of water to quench your thirst. It can really get hot

TIP: the tuktuk drivers will tell you that biking to the temples is really far. But in reality it is doable! I’ve met a number of tourist who did it. So I decided to do it. I made it to the place where you buy tickets but was stopped mid cycle by police (afraid!). Apparently, anyone can pass through the road 5:30 pm onwards. But since my bicycle didn’t have lights for night travel, I had to turn back. So if you bought the 3 or 7 day pass, you can go biking and you will save up on your tuktuk fare.

TIP: Share the tuktuk to be more cost effective. If you meet people in your hostel that would also like to visit the same temples you would like to visit, it is worth it to share.

TIP: as you might have read on other blogs, if you purchase your tickets at about 5:00 to 5:30 PM, you can have get in the temples for free to view the sunset and come back the following day for a full day of temple exploration!

3. Bike around the town

Siem Reap is a really quaint town and very picturesque at that. Especially, the park along the river with several benches along its banks. I was there during the Loy Kratong festival but was not able to witness the festivities that happened along the river mainly because it was a bit crowded with tourist and locals alike. A big mistake on my part as it was by chance that my travel period coincides with the festival. Well, maybe I’ll just come back next year for it.

There are also a number of Wats or Buddhist temples that you can visit around town. Some of the Wats are really old and you can see monks within the compounds doing their daily routines of praying, cleaning the temple grounds or tinkering with their smart phones and tablets (yes, they also live in the 21st century).

All the Wats are right next to schools and had a chance to get to see Cambodian students in school. Make sure to ask permission first and check if you can walk around. Be mindful also not to distract children and the teachers in their class. You might get lucky and a class might take a break during your visit.

I actually took a bike and just rode around town. I followed the river and got to see how everyday life for the locals are. I highly recommend doing it also. The town is a bit small and I am sure your can find your way back into the city and your hostel.

Bike rentals at your hostel can either come for free or would range from USD 1 – 2 per day. Yes. That is per day. So this is the cheapest mode of transport there is.

TIP: as always, double check the tires and breaks of the bike that you are renting. Some bike rentals may offer cheap rates but will charge you USD 1 for any damage.

TIP: bring your own bike locks. I read somewhere that there are cases that the bike locks provided have duplicates and are stolen by people and returned to their rentals while you are hassled looking for it and would have to pay for it. Better sure than sorry.

4. Go on a shopping bonanza at the Old Market

The Old Market is the place to buy souvenirs, live produce, exotic food, silver ware and antiques. Yes! You can find them there as well as fried crickets or fried black beetles while you shop.

You have the tank tops and t-shirts that have different designs of either “I love Cambodia” or elephant designs or cultural designs. There was even a tank top that I bought that reads “SAME SAM” in the front and reads “BUT DIFFERENT” at the back. Apparently, this design is popular with tourist. I bought two tank tops actually. Well, I think I got what the wordings meant. Now the tank tops and shirts costs about USD 5 to 8 per piece.

There are also wallets sold of different designs where you can buy USD 3 to 5 for 5 pieces (these comes in packs); while there are ones that costs USD 1 each.

There are also pajama like pants (I don’t know what they are called but you will get it when you see them) that comes in thin fabrics that you can use to sleep in or walk around in. these items are generally unisex (well, it depends on your preference). BUT the absolute things to get here are the pajamas that are triangular when spread out. It looks like a skirt when you wear it but it is actually a pajama too. It is kinda hard to explain but again you will get it when you see it. These stuff also costs about USD 8 to 10 per piece

There are also silver trinkets that you would might want to take home with you. I believe that Siem Reap have amazing artisans around the city who make these stuff. You can get bangles and figurines of elephants or apsaras or little silver boxes where you can put stuff in. Really pretty. I was not able to ask how much they cost.

TIP: HAGGLE! Yes! As with any market place you can haggle for prices specially if you are planning to buy more than 3 pieces of the items. Now, call me cheap (by all means, I accept this comment well), but I haggled my best here to get stuff for people back home. The tank tops I was able to get USD 3 a piece for two pieces; the shirts, I was able to get USD 24 for 5 pieces; the triangular pants I was able to get USD 5 per piece for 3 pieces.

TIP: If the seller would not budge on what you want, the ultimate technique is to slowly walk away. Then count to about 3, and the seller will call out to you and give you another offer or your desired price.

5. Party at Pub Street

There is a fairly decent party scene in Siem Reap by the Pub Street. Don’t worry about not locating it. You will find it. Just follow the neon lights. You won’t miss it promise.

Like in every city, the Pub Street is where you can let loose and party the night away. The hippest place seems to be Temple Bar and Angkor What? which are situated in front of each other.

A new found friend went out with me to the pub street and we checked out Angkor What? The place just stood out for me because of all the graffiti that you can see from the outside. While Temple Bar was just a bit the same as a sort of posh bar. For me Angkor What? had   more character.

Now a glass of draft beer cost USD 1.50 for Angkor Beer and Anchor Beer. Don’t be confused with the spelling now! But either way, they are both local beers and it would not matter anymore when you get drunk now would it? Eh? Now cocktails are also available. But if you want a bucket of beer or cocktails, you will be literally be given a bucket with the alcoholic concoction with straws to sip. Seems hygienic enough plus the bucket contains alcoholic beverages some of which are known to be disinfectants too so I would not worry about it too much. Again, all of this would not matter if you are drunk.

There are other bars and pubs along the street, but the Temple Bar and Angkor What are the, let’s say, happiest and there is a time that the crowds pour out on the Pub Street and the party pics up from there.

CAUTION: there would be locals offering you marijuana. I was SO tempted to try it but the image of me being locked up abroad in a foreign country didn’t appeal to me as much so I begged off the drugs.

6. EAT

Yes eat! There are a number of restaurants lining up and down the city. Cafes, restaurants, pizza joints, ice cream parlors litter the town. Everything is just walking distance from the Old Market. There are actually Thai, Mexican, Western, Indian food joints also. Meals range from USD 5 to 18. A bit pricey indeed.

Now since I am on a budget, I only ate at USD 1 to 3 places. But I would recommend this joint run by Wan and she specializes in stir fried noodles Cambodian style. Each order is only USD 1. You have an option of using Cambodian noodles (short stubby ones that kinda looks like bean sprouts) and Vietnamese ones (these comes in pack). Each order also comes with a sunny-side up egg. Wan’s Cambodian Noodle joint is located at almost the end of the airport road. It is this small food cart next to a school on the left side of the temple. You won’t miss it. And Wan is just an amazing person to talk to. Please give her place a visit and eat her noodles and you will be coming back for more.

If you are into the exotic, you may chance upon a person who would sell fried crickets and fried beetles. I personally tried the fried crickets and it surprisingly tastes like small deep fried shrimps. It is was surprisingly good. The beetles were a bit daunting for me so I skipped it. But I would have tried deep fried tarantulas and scorpions though.

7. Learn to cook Khmer food or make pottery.

Some restaurants offer Khmer food cooking classes. These are located in the alleyways within Pub Street. It is not dingy as you might think. These one are legit though I forgot that name of the restaurant. But for sure, you can check with you hostel.

Pottery classes are also offered.


Based on history, we know that Cambodia went through a lot. And they need all the help that they can get.

You can research the best possible way that you can give back but I recommend visiting Life and Hope Organization online or go to Wat Damak in Siem Reap and ask the monks to volunteer. They would be able to assign you.

The monks of Wat Damak together with Life and Hope Organization are working hand in hand to teach English to their students, build houses, provide food to remote communities, teach livelihood programs to locals. Robert Pattinson (yes, the hot vampire LOL) donated shelter for female students who were taught how to sew.

There are other organizations definitely but please do select carefully.


Siem Reap has definitely a lot to offer same as with any other country. Because of the locals that I met, the small town grew close to my heart honesty. I would have stayed longer if I had the time. But alas, everyone has to go back to reality right?

Do proper research and plan accordingly to make any trip organized. Or you can just wing it like I did.

flippin’ out!


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Mascardo Boys

InstagramCapture_cb64f388-5c95-4bd8-badc-1df19a701a08[1]January 2012. i have gained my quasi independence! yey me! and i am finally am renting.

nope, i am not that rich to get a place by myself. well, yet, that is. so i ended up joing two of my friends from college. we knew each other since our third year and we have been co officers in our college’s student council for two years and have been friends ever since. and despite pursuing diffent careers, we’ve kept in touch.

they were already rooming for two months before i came in after discovering that their place was walking distance from a previous employment. i asked themif i can join in and they said yes! there was the matter of convincing my folks but i eventually got their approval after a lengthy discussion might i add. i moved in January of 2012.

we called ourselves the mascardo boys after the street of our rented place although they were the boys and i was otherwise.

the 1st few days consisted of adjusting to each other. who would wake up first to take a bath. who would do the chores what time they’d arrive and what time we all would turn for the night. since they already had a double deck, i had to bring my matress and set it up every night which was ok by me.

i actually tookthe reaponsibility if cleaning. well youknow how boys are: unless it is really dirty or if there would be guests coming over, that’s the only tine to clean. i was more than willing to do the cleaning and tidying up. i even bought an apron to feel the part (LOL). then if the schedule permits, we would wait up for each other and have dinner together.

it was like were a family looking out foreach other and sometimes it would seem like i was in a relationship with them. yeah, a good brotherly one at that.

it was awesome!

it went one for almost 2 years for me and a full two years for them.

alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end. two months ago, we decided to give up the place due to some changes in life and career.

i am sad in all honesty. it feels like in breaking up with this two people whom i’ve had an amazing run with for almost two years. call me clingy but in reality, it is what i feel right now.

but instead of being sad about it, i’d rather share how happy i was to room with them as well as the things that i would miss about them. here are the list:

1. Ma-Ling nights
what the heck is Ma-Ling you might ask? it is chinese luncheon meat best fried to a crisp and enjoyed with rice and ketchup plus soup. this was one of our bonding nights. i would normally cook it, somebody would buy rice and somebody would do the dishes after we’ve eaten. we used to do this every week but due to changes in work, we haven’t done it in a while

2. Movie nights
this would normally coincide with ma-ling nights. so we have this contraption what allows us to watch movies on the tv so long as the file is saved in a USB. we’d watch one or two movies sometimes during midweek and sleep late. the genre normally is horror, suspense or action

3. Biglaang Dine-out
when ever we find ourselves together and have cravings, we would satisfy it by eating out. it could be as simple as twister fries, jolly spaghetti, savory tapsilog or awesome burgers, we’d do it. provided if we had budget that is.

4. Talking ’til when ever
this is what i’ll miss the most. all the talking about future plans, what happened in the past, what’s happening at work, the cartoons we uaed to watch, some funny memes we cames across on facebook, what’s in the news. well i think it already establishes what type of relationship we had. sometimes we’d forget the time and realize that it’s two in the morning then we would turn in for the night or rather the morning

5. The Best in ______
we had this thing about awarding what we are best at. no rewards just the title. we still have an on going battle for the best in workaholic (im not in the running for this) but normally grab the best in science and best in conyo all the time. LOL

6. Playing hookie/ staying at the dorm
we only did the hookie thing on our 1st year. there was a sudden attack of tamaditis and we just thought to skip work and just hit the mall. we had to choose one far from makati where we all worked that time. it was good. though there were also a couple of times we were stuck in the dorm during typhoons. so we spent those days either sleepibg, talking or staying at a nearby mall.

7. Let’s VOLT IN
no, we are not robots that converge to form a bigger robot to save the world. but, when somebody needs help in work, we would putour heads together and help each other out. three heads are better than one right? where it is a marketing plan or an promotional essay, you name it, we can do it.

admittedly coming home after work was something to look forward too. need less to say, we were stress buster for each other.

but again, the reality is kicking in.

before getting to the dorm was a delight. it was like my space that was i share with two other guys despite the clutter of all the stuff. now, it’s tidier. some items are already packed for pick up. not like what it was before.

i honestly cried a bit when i noticed it. it really feels like i’m breaking up with two people whom i was with for a two year fun filled smooth ride to somewhere that didn’t matter because of all the fun that we were having.

things will never be the same

to the mascardo boys, you know who you are. I WILL MISS YOU by this MMMMMMUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH! i understand that this has to happen and i’ll come into terms with myself in time. we’ve gotten to know each other better in those two years. i wish you all the best in everything.

i love you guys, seriously

Things to do to combat “Petsa de Peligro”

What does “petsa de peligro” mean?

Well, this is a term that I have heard in the course of my professional life. Literally, it translates to “day of danger”. But it is not like danger as in danger in life that will eventually lead to pain, injury or death.

This phrase is commonly used during a period wherein your wallet or ATM or cash on hand is running low and payday seems so SO far away and it gets you wondering “how will get through?’. So you got it? I hope so.

I think almost every young professional at one point experienced petsa de peligro. Heck, I am still experiencing this even now that I’ve been working for more than 6 years now. I know what your thinking, I should have had some sort of savings from all those 6 years but unfortunately, I have nothing. I even have to make “katok sa ginintuan puso (knock on the golden hearts)” of my parents at times when all else fail. In short, I borrow money from them to be paid off or to be compensated by doing errands or helping them out for something they need. I know, I should be self sufficient by now. But like i said, I have nothing. Well, I think I’m richer in other aspects.

So what are the causes of petsa de peligro?

1. Spending beyond your means – Yup. You might have not budgeted your cash on hand well to a point that you over spend and leave nothing for your day to day spending.

2. Emergency cases – Well, there are things that happen unexpectedly that will mess with ones budget plan.

3. You got less than what you were expecting – What I mean by this is that what you saw in your pay slip was less than the usual you got for that cut off. Reasons may include deductions from tardiness, increase in taxes or monthly deductions.

4. Absence of Budget plan – Let’s face it, majority of us have no budget plan. Or rather, the discipline to stick to that plan. Am I right or am I right?

It is really not sure if I covered it all but am sure that I got the major ones.

So, can you relate?

You might be asking, how can we prevent entering petsa de peligro.

1. Be in the KNOW – Simply put you need to know the following things:

  • What you EARN – know what is your income and how often it comes
  • What you SPEND – daily, weekly and monthly spending is crucial. What I mean is daily is as in every thing you spend on a day: from a transpo expense, a pack of cigarettes, your snack. EVERYTHING. Tally everything up so you know where your money goes
  • WANT or NEED – from your list of expenses, identify what is a necessity or luxury

2. PLAN – given the data that you have, you need to determine expense that you can afford to cut off or at the least, trim down.

3. Put SAVE in your equation – you can put money from the trimmed down or cut off expense into savings. I know finance people say that the proper equation is INCOME less SAVINGS is EXPENSE. But I think this only applies to people who have enough income to cover their expenses. Don’t you agree?

4. Stick to the PLAN – this is the difficult part honestly. Sticking to it. I have problems on this area. I always say ” Stick to the PLAN or the world will STICK you up”. I wouldn’t want that believe me.

But if you are already in the “petsa de peligro” phase, then here are the things that I recommend doing:

1. COUNT your pennies – I know it sucks but you got to know what you have remaining. So take a look at your last withdrawal slip. I would also recommend scouring your bags for spare change. It will help believe me.

2. PAY DAY – Oh yes! The much awaited day! One needs to know how may days left you have till your cup will be full again. Divide it with what you have to know how much you have to spend each day.

3. Know your OPTIONS – More often than not, the resulting everyday budget is a big STRETCH! So adjust your spending particularly on your necessities like food and transportation cigarettes (they’re one of mine). Go for the cheaper ones For example, food from a carinderia/ food stall/ jolly jeep (if you work in Makati) are cheap! Convenience store like 7-11 and Ministop have options too. Oh, and eat slowly. It will make you feel full longer. As for transportation, go public or if you can walk to your office, the better Just remember to adjust your time though to factor in.

4. Make and stick to the PLAN – this is really crucial. It is hard to do it but it is not impossible.

And if all else fail…

5. Borrow with the INTENTION to PAY – borrowing entails a responsibility. Make sure that you also plan for this and commit to settling it.

I’ve been through a number of petsa de peligro days myself and have no sufficient fingers to count for it. And to be honest. I’ve learned the hard way with the help of some of my friends’ and parents advice.

Yes, I acknowledge that it is a reality but it can be over come and ultimately preventable. I am still fighting to be debt free at the moment.

Now, I do take these steps to heart but have lapses of my own due to lack of discipline and that “bahala na si Batman” attitude. But at the end of the day, I always say to my self, Batman won’t pay for my dues as he is a fictional character. Plus I don’t want to live by the pay check.

I hope this was of help somehow.

flippin’ out!

Talastasan ni Andrew at Aya

This started out as a conversation in our Facebook Chat among friends. The rhyme was good so I am sharing it. It is in Tagalog though so if you have any Filipino friends, ask them to translate for you. Special thanks to Andrew for agreeing to post this. Some of there words were from him.

Si Aya at si Andrew, parehong sinisinta ang isa’t isa

Ngunit sa pag-iisip, sila ay magkaiba.

Mula sa tuksuhan sa loob ng barkadahan

Ang ating dalawang bida’y nagkapalagayan.

Ang binata, masipag sa pag suyo

Sa dalagang sinisinta na ng kanyang puso

Ang dalaga nama’y tuluyan na din nahulog

Dahil sa pagkapursigido nang kanya nang irog

Isang misyon mayroon ang ating binata

At ito ay ang maglapat ng ngiti sa kanyang sinta

Subalit ang kanyang mga pambatong banat

Sa ating dilag minsan ay hindi sapat

Tunghayan ang kanilang talastasan

Nang sila na ay nagkalabuan:


Pag ako nakabawi di na ako hihirit pang muli

Mahirap na magsimula sa umpisa

Baka di na abutan sa dulo

kapag nagumpisang muli

Patawarin na ang pusong minsan nawawala

sa pagtibok dahil napapagod din sa paghihintay


Kung ang nararamdaman ng puso ay totoo,

hahamakin ang lahat masunod ka lamang,

ngunit sa aking wari’y wala na ang apoy


Kung ganon man ay walang magagawa

kundi pabayaan kang lumaya.

Hindi na rin ako sasaya

kung pipilitin ang pagsinta


Ngunit kung buo na ang iyong desisyon,

ano pa ba ang magagawa kundi sumangayon

Mula sa malayo ikaw ay tatanawin

at mapapabuntong hininga na lang sa hangin


Oo. Ngunit wala nang magagawa.

Ang apoy sa iyong dibdib ay nawala na

Siguro balang araw kapag nagtagpo,

ang pagtitinginan ay muling mabubuo

Ngunit di ba ang sabi nila

ay dapat napapatawa mo ang sinisinta.

Pakiramdam ko ba’y

hindi na talaga mapapasaakin pa


Sa iyong unang sinabi ako ay umaasa

Sana maging ganun sa ating susunod na pagkikita

Ako din ay umaasa

Na tayo ay magkakabalikan pa

Ang pag ngiti sa labi ay isang indikasyon

na ikaw at iyong sinisinta’y sa pagiisip iisa ang hubog

Subalit ako’y naniniwalang

ang pag iisa ng isip ay napapatindi ng panahon.

Paano tayo uusad kung susuko ka na ngayon?

Kung ako ay iyong bibitawan,

Hindi lang ikaw ang mawawalan.

Maari ding maglaho

Ang ating mga pangako




Ang kanilang mga kamay ay naghawakan

Ngunit sila ay nakatingin sa magkaibang daan

Journey to Meet the Last MASTER Mambabatok of Buscalan, Kalinga

Apo Whang-od, the last master mambabatok, in action

for the last 3 yrs, i have celebrated my birthday by traveling solo to a local destination. and all two of my previous birthday were a surfing trips. yes, my affinity for the sea was strong. i am actually considering that i came from the ocean as a dolphin in my past life. LOL

for my 4th solo trip for my birthday, i was supposed to embark on another solo trip to Real, Quezon, but plans were changed.

wondering why?

it was because of the last master mambabatok or traditional tattoo artist of Buscalan, Kalinga.

for some weird chance, i came across Ms. Kara David’s documentary in YouTube of Whang-od, the last mambabatok of the Butbut tribe in Buscalan, Kalinga. She was, at that time, about 92 yrs old and the only traditional tattoo artist still living. To tattoo, she mixes water and soot from under a cooking pan and uses the mixture as her ink. She then stencils the design using a blade of grass on to your skin. To embed ink in skin, she makes use of two bamboo sticks, one with a thorn and the other used to tap the thorn through the skin. it looked painful as hell with some accounts of people fainting from the pain.

when i finished watching the video, i knew i had to scratch my surfing trip to Real. and i was hell bound on meeting Whang-od and getting my first ever tattoo the “batok” way. it was in my bucket list to do so and i just had to make it happen. and come on, who would want to be tattooed the traditional way and by a LEGEND at that? Huh?

so after reading what i can gather from the internet which was really few might i add, i decided to embark on a journey, a pilgrimage if you may, to see Whang-od, the last master mambabatok.

 since there are few references on the net, am writing this blog post about my experience so that if you would like to embark on the same journey, you would be able to do so, even solo.

the first thing that you would need to do is to get a guide. i was able to research Francis Pa-in’s (he is the most famous guide) number online and get him to be my guide but at the last minute, he referred me to his brother in law, Kuya Romy. You can contact him through the following means:

mobile: 09164031208

email: romievaldevaron@yahoo.com

it is best to reach him through mobile phone so that you can communicate instantaneously. if in case he does not reply, he might be in Buscalan guiding guests (there are no mobile reception in the village). but if he is available he will reply automatically. just text him about your expected day or arrival in Tabuk or in Tinglayan or in Bugnay junction. He will be able to help you out. The advantage of having a guide is he can arrange for your accommodation. plus he knows the trail and can interpret for you. If you are traveling solo, you can ask your guide a lot of information about anything you would like to know about the tribe.

second thing that you need to bring are food to be shared with your host family for the duration of your stay. two canned goods would be ok for a meal. the woman who owned the homestay where i stayed liked Century Tuna over corned beef. also opt to bring candies for kids. they will be asking for it as other visitors before gave them. if you decide to bring, give them out individually. if you ask them to share, they would fight over the goodies. matches can also be shared to the elders. they won’t ask but you can offer them.

on the day of my trip, i went under time on May 12 and left our office in Makati City at around 4:00 pm and hailed a taxi to take me to Victory Liner in Earnshaw, Sampaloc. It was a bit early but i factored in traffic. The first bus bound to Tabuk, is set to leave by 7:00 pm followed by an 8:00 pm one then a 10:00 pm. i took the earliest and i was targeting to arrive in Buscalan at around lunch time. I got to the terminal at about 5:45-ish and the 7pm bus was almost full. I got a seat and waited for bus departure.

If you are kind of religious, you can walk on over to two churches a few meters from the terminal and pray for a safe journey. they say that if it is your first time in a church, you get 1 wish. luckily for you, these are two churches side by side. LOL.

once on the bus, it was an 11 to 12 hrs bus ride to Tabuk. There are about three stopovers during the entire trip so you have plenty of time to stretch your legs unless you have already dozed off for the entire duration. Prepare about php 5 for toilet use for each stop over

we arrived in Tabuk, Kalinga at around 7:00 in the morning. You know when you are there then you see the White Carabao landmark and the Cathedral (I forgot the name). You can actually get off the bus there as it is just a short distance away from where you can ride jeeps which they call the “paradahan” (literally means area where public transport are parked while waiting for passengers). There are no land marks to identify it but you will know it because the jeeps and buses will be there.

based on the blogs i read, from you can take the jeepney going to BONTOC but alight at the BUGNAY JUNCTION where you can begin the 2 hour trek to get to the Turning Point. After the Turning Point, it would be an hour more to get to Buscalan.

Kuya Romy, being the awesome guide that he is, told me that there is a van from Tabuk that can take me to the Turning Point and spare me the 2 hours walking in the sun. He gave me the number of the driver called Dal-oy so i can contact him when i get to Tabuk. I found Dal-oy a few minutes after arriving in Tabuk but found out that we had to wait for the van to fill before we left. The fare costs PHP 150.00/person. I said yes that i can wait but it took us about 2 hours to fill up the van. I almost decided to get on a jeep to get to Bugnay Junction instead but the thought of walking under the sun in the middle of the day was just too much daunting so, i decided to wait. And it spelled SKIN CANCER! Duh?

Majority of the people in the van are from Tinglayan, a nearby town and Buscalan. And they have with them supplies for their family or the town. I was riding at the front of the van with Moises, from the neighboring village and was chatting with him about things here and there.

I learned from chatting with them that they all belonged to the Butbut tribe and that they were the most wide spread tribe in the province of Kalinga. From our driver, Dal-oy, i learned that the van that we were riding actually belong to Whang-od. I guess her artform had help her and her village a lot. I couldn’t help but ask the men whom i was speaking with this question: why they were not tattooed? Moises answered, that for them getting a tattoo would mean they would not be hired for work because of an unfair misconception of people who have tattoos. Moises explained that he was studying to become a teacher and he would not be hired if he had tattoos, I blame media for this really, because tattooed men and women are depicted as drug addicts or ex-convicts. I found this really sad as I was more than willing to travel 12 hrs just to get tattooed but they, who just live nearby choose not to. Well, to each their own.

The road to Buscalan was really a long and winding one but the views are nice. The trees are all green. Rice terraces here and there. The view were stunning! Plus you get to hear the forest sing. Yep, sing because of the insects that make this high pitched buzzing sound. But landslides sites are also present. Primarily because a storm passed by the area a week before my trip. Fortunately, the local goverment acts fast to clear them up. what i am trying to say is, it was such a nice difference to seeing tall buildings, polluted air and traffic jams. I believe, I was entering paradise.

We arrived in Tinglayan, the last major town, at past 12 nn. This is the last place where you will get mobile phone reception so would recommend, letting people from back home know you are almost there. We got dropped off a small restaurant that served local food. I was famished and got lunch together with the other passengers. I had a soup dish called “tinola” with a helping of rice for about php 60 which is really cheap already. This is where i met Kuya Romy in person.

Kuya Romy turned out to be cool. He was originally from Pangasinan and was a former police officer who got assigned in Tinglayan decades ago. He found the love of his life there and he never left. Hi started guiding guests to Buscalan some years ago. His brother in law Francis, got him into the business to help him financially. Now, I asked Kuya Romy if he had a tattoo from Whang-od also. Then he showed me his centipede tattoo on his arm. Based on what I read online, the centipede is considered a mythical guide for the Butbut tribe. He also had some tattoo with fern design. The tattoo was sponsored by one of his guests who wanted to see how batok was done but didn’t want to get one. I knew right then and there, I was with good company.

I got excited as we boarded the van again for the final stretch of the journey. We reached Bugnay Junction then we had turn to a rough road. Based from Dal-oy, there is a plan to have the road to the Turning Point paved but they are having difficulties getting the equipments as the road is narrow and the have to start from the top.

When we got to the Turning Point, at about 2:30pm, we got off the van and had to go on foot not after smoking a few stick (yes, a quick nicotine fix is a must!). I just had to prepare a bit as it is my first time to trek. I was excited but was a bit anxious of the things that i read about the trail being difficult and that one miss step would end up in disaster. I had to see it for myself and just thought that i was already so near that I couldn’t bail now, eh?

In reality, the trail had two parts, one through and down one part of the mountain and the other is an uphill climb to the village. The 1st part of the trek is easy. There are walkways about a foot and a half wide that are cemented. You won’t be able to notice that you are walking alongside a cliff because of the plant life on the edge. Just focus on where you are walking and it is not bad to hold on to the wall face. The trail ends at the foot of the mountain which has a bridge as there is a waterfalls nearby. If you do want to take a bath at the falls you could do so. Just tell your guide. The second part is the tough part for me. Being a smoker I easily to get winded and out of breath. It is about 200 to 300 steps to get to the village and thank fully, majority of it was cemented. But did I mention it was uphill? There are no big trees to block out the sun but there are portions of the uphill climb where there is shade. Remember that you walk in your own pace. It would be OK to take a break. Did I mention it was uphill? Yes, I had to repeat that for emphasis! LOL. Now your enemies here would be definitely be the sun as it can really scorch. Fortunately, the “ready” traveler that I am, I have my trusty umbrella with me. So for this part of the trail, I opened my umbrella. No shame here as the shade made the climb a wee tad more bearable!

So after what about almost 2 hours of walking, Kuya Romy and I reached the town of Buscalan. Fronting the town is the school for primary education. Then comes the houses. You would be greeted by two friendly dogs who will sniff. Also you would be eyed by the people since it is obvious that you are a visitor. I was directed by Kuya Romy to Grace’s house. Grace is the grand niece of Apo Whang-od and she has been her apprentice for years. She has actually made a name for herself already as a batok practitioner. When I arrived at her house, I actually saw Apo Whang-od sleeping on their couch made of bamboo. I was awestruck and resisted the urge to take a picture of her! Her fragile frame was sleeping peacefully but the aura around her was just indescribable! You will know what I mean when you meet her in person.

I was taken to the tattooing hut which was specifically made so to be the area for tattoing. I was presented with a cup of coffee. I was never a fan of coffee and prefer tea actually but I could not refuse. I took a sip and it was SO good that I finished the cup! The coffee was made in the village from the trees along the edge of the hut. It was really nice that they produce their own and with my unexperienced coffee palate, I believe their coffee can rival that of Starbucks (heck ye! LOL)! The hut was a nice place to stay as it was a good vantage point to the trail and the mountains and the terraces. I was greeted by Grace’s parents and was asked where I was from and other pleasantries. They actually told me that they already saw me walking down the trail but they thought that Kuya Romy’s guest was female because of the umbrella. I just smiled and kept my thoughts to myself together with my giggles. I was then shown the room above the house where I will be staying the night. So I dumped my backpack and stuff. I haven’t bathed yet since I travelled directly from the office so I took a bath first. That long travel plus the heat plus sweat from all the walking made me really smelly already.

After the bath and a change of clothers, I went to the hut again to find Apo Whang-od awake and tattooing another person. They were a group of 3 from Laguna. Two have been finished with their tattoos already and the friend had to wait a bit as Apo Whang-od needed to rest. It was initially discussed that I would be tattoo the following morning but Kuya Romy said that I can have the tattoo done after. They told me that for the day, I would be the eight person to get inked. There is a queue actually depending on your arrival in the village. The longest one was a 4 day waiting period. I was shocked that it was that long! But may be because of the documentaries done about traditional tattooing, the village became famous but still pretty much off the beaten path. Which was fine by me as the actual charm of the village was that it was not part of normal tourist trade. I hope it would be kept that way for cultural preservation.

The guy before me was getting the scorpion on his thigh. He mentioned that the pain was managable. I was actually nervous at this point as this was going my first tattoo. I had no idea how it would hurt but I didn’t want the travel to go to waste of just me taking pictures of people being tatttoed. I was like, screw it! Even if it would be an issue with my parent, I didn’t care. I had to do it for myself. I was chatting up with Che, a friend of the person being tattooed on the pain levels. She also said it was managable. She actually got an eagle design tattoo below her collar bones and it was bad ass! They showed me two books of traditional tattoo designs and asked me to pick what I wanted.

I already knew that I wanted to get: the malu, or crab design. It was a symbol for a traveler. But looking through the book, the interesting designs were the hawk, meaning overseer, lightning, centipede. You can also read up on placements as it had meanings also. I wanted to get the malu on the left chest or rather boob (I’m kinda chubby LOL) as traveling is a passion for me. I know it is a common passion for almost everyone but by placing it on my left side would mean an increase for travels based on what I read from the book. I actually made a budget of PHP 1000 and was considering to get two tattoos done (I was debating to also get the hawk and another circular design) but thought that I would just go back and get one from Grace some other time.

The scorpion tattoo was finished in about an hour. Then, it was my turn.

I told Apo Whang-od what I wanted through Kuya Romy and she immediately set to work. She already had a new thorn ready and have mixed soot and water to be her ink. She used a blade of grass that was pre folded already so that she can make a stencil of the design. Mine was like a diamond shape so she started with the outer diamond. Then she took the thorn and applied more ink to it, then place the thorn over the stencil then started tapping. The first few taps sent shivers down my spine and had my nervous system on alert because of the shot stabbing pain caused by the process. For those who were wondering, on a scale of 1 to 10, the pain level for me was at 4. Just imagine getting your blood drawn but in rapid succession. That was what it was like. However, the rhythmic tapping actually helps on managing the pain. I imagined it being like a drum beating. So the process had to be repeated countless of times to get the ink in. I kinda bled a bit but nothing to worry about.

She was quite the whole time entirely focused on what she was doing. Each of the lines were passed on twice I guess to get the ink deeper into my skin. I could not help but look at her while she was tattooing her. Her focused eyes, her delicate hands and her arms adorned by tattoos also. I was in awe of this 96yr old tattooing legend, a cultural emblem of the art of tattoo, the last master mambabatok. I could come up with more title but these three pretty much sums it all up.

She then dropped her tools and looked at her work. The tattoo was already done. I was too busy observing her to notice that she was done. She wiped it with water and put some coconut oil over it. I thanked her and asked how much does it cost. She made a 5 with her hand and I paid her 500. After the session, I had to get a photo me and her as a remembrance and Apo Whang-od went to rest.

In a span of an hour, I became a “pintado” meaning tattooed person.

it was about 5pm when we finished so i had a bit of time to explore around the village. The houses were built close to each other with pathways located in between. There were kids playing on the free spaces as pigs and some dogs walked around in their own pace. Yes, the pigs roam free here. The old houses were made of wood while the new ones were made of concrete and galvanized aluminum. Some were adorned by dream catchers others has water buffalo horns. I walked around together with Che and we found her friends drinking beer with their guide. We joined them but i skipped the alcohol. i didn’t think it would go well with my new tattoo wounds so i just smoked near small satellite dishes for their cable t.v. Yes, i was surprised also! how come there’s no mobile reception in the entire village but they have cable tv?? LOL. But from that area, we have a clear view of the surrounding mountains. Our group was asking the local if it is possible for an outsider to buy property in the area. They said that we would have to get approval from the elders first then we have to go with the legalities of owning a land. I would have been nice to buy land there and build up a hut. The place is really gorgeous. We chatted a little bit more but when I noticed it was getting dark already, I bid everyone good bye and when back to my host family’s house.

When I got back in the house, they were watching a movie on the cable TV and preparing our dinner from the canned goods that I shared with the family. I hanged out at the hut again and was joined by Kuya Romy as well as three other men from the Butbut tribe and we began a discussion on what it mean to be part of the tribe. Based on customs, once you have been welcomed in the house of the your host, you are already considered as a member of the tribe. So I guess that makes me an honorary member. They also discussed how to government has reached them and how they would like to stick to their own tribal rules. We also discussed about the head hunting and inter tribe peace pact and the peace makers (particularly on how expensive it is and how hard of a job it is). They also discussed how they celebrate birthdays (since they were expecting me to stay for my actual birthday). They also answered my questions as to why there were carabao horns on the walls of some houses. It meant that there is an old person who is living or who lived there. I learned that the oldest person who lived in the village lived to be 126 yrs old. In all honesty, I really appreciate their points of views and ideas. I am honestly in awe of how they have managed to marry their customs with the government legalities. I hope they would be able to keep their traditions despite the outside pressure.

We burned a lot of topics as well as cigarettes. Although it would have been nice to have beer but we haven’t had dinner yet.

We were called by our hosts that dinner was ready. We all shared the meal (corned beef and Century Tuna) while watching The Wolverine on Star World (remember satellite dishes for cable TV? Yah?). After eating, I decided to turn in for the night as I have had a LONG day and it was already 8:30pm. It was actually my plan to wake up early to see the sun rise in the mountains and see the rice terraces. I have seen the sunrise from the sea but I think the sun rising between the mountains would also be breathtaking!

The room was a big one that was separated with two cabinets in a line to make two rooms. They had banig or hand-woven mats and insulations (about half an inch of styro with silver coating) as beddings. Pillows and blankets are also available. You have to make your own bed and pack it up afterwards.

Kuya Romy and I were up at around 5:45 am and the sun is already up but the moon is still visible in the sky. And it was even cold enough that you breath condenses when you speak! Westerners would be like, it’s nothing special but for people from the tropics, it’s a WOW moment! From the tattooing hut it was quite a sight already but I asked Kuya Romy if we can go up see the nearby terraces. He said yes and led the way. We went through the entire village and ended up on a basketball court at the very top of the village. Then went to the end to get to the rice terraces. At this point, the light has shown the terraces but the sun has not quite peaked from the mountains. I was breadth taking! And when the sun did rose, it was magical! I cannot describe it in words really but I can say this: I thought I was a “beach” person, now I know I am not.

After taking pictures and videos, we decided to head back for breakfast, and to pack our bags. I decided to just stay the night and travel to Sagada. When we got back, Apo Whang-od was already awake and approached me. Smiling this time and was motioning at my chest and spoke something to Kuya Romy. He said that she wanted to see my tattoo so I showed her and then she smiled. It was a beautiful moment but I was not quick enough to snap it. I was in awe and was just smiling back at her. Kuya Romy then mentioned that she was pleased that the tattoo was healing already and that I need to take care of it as I would any wound to avoid infection. I promised to take of it and said, “Manjamanak, Apo” meaning Thank you Apo in local dialect. She just smiled again and went her way. Talk about #honored #respect #awestrucked!

I went up my room to pack my stuff. I gave the candies that I bought for the kids and the matches for the elders to Grace’s mother so that she can distribute it when I arrived. When I was ready, I went downstairs with my backpack to find breakfast ready which is chicken noodles and rice. After finishing the meal, I bid goodbye to the my host family and thanked them for welcoming me to their home. After a last thank you with Apo Whang-od, Kuya Romy and made our way out of the village back to the Turning Point to wait for a jeep that Kuya Romy arranged for me to get to Bontoc.

It was a short stay but believe it or not, I think I made the most out of it.

Having narrated my entire experience. I have the following tips:

  • Get a guide. Kuya Romy is a really good one so I recommend giving him a call or text. There was a blog that I read where he made it to Buscalan on his own but I would not recommend it. It is better to have a local correspondent.
  • Say no to skin cancer and bring SUN BLOCK! Yes, there are trees but the sun is unforgiving. Your older self will thank you, definitely.
  • Bring canned goods. It is not necessary but your host family would appreciate it. Their rice is actually really REALLY good. Don’t bring food just for yourself. Share.
  • Don’t ask for the cost of the tattoo before getting it done. Wait after the session is finished before asking. Just budget PHP 500 to 2000 I think.
  • Perhaps the most important tip I can share are some of the local dialect that I was able to ask Kuya Romy and some of the men of Buscalan. Here they are:
  • Manjamanak – thank you (singular speaker)
  • Manjaman ami – thank you (group)
  • Fayu – maganda or beautiful
  • Fayu fikfikat – good morning
  • Fayu erkaw – good afternoon
  • Fayu lafi – good night
  • Sidga – yes
  • Faun – no
  • Piya – good food
  • Lamnaw – sweet
  • Managkulinak – I will be back

I am including these two words so as you are familiar with them:

  • Chaker utin – big dick
  • Chaker ufoy – wide vagina

There is a guide that teaches the last two phrases as a greeting. You have been forewarned. LOL!

Now, fortunately for us, the “batok” style of tattooing will not end when Apo Whang-od passes. Her grandniece and apprentice, Grace is now a full “mambabatok”. But I still believe it is a privilege to be tattooed by the master.

I was planning to make a glorious gallery of pictures that I took during my trip but unfortunately, technologiy is not working with me at the moment. So please enjoy below thumbnails!

flippin’ out!

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Please help me find this guy, Tho


I should come up with better titles for my blog posts right?

Thailand is one of the countries that is in my bucket list (that is ever growing might i add) and it being about 6 hours away by land from Siem Reap plus 9 days of approved vacation , i just had to go!

After spending two days in the Siem Reap I decided to travel to Bangkok by bus. Fortunately, the hostel I stayed in was able to book me a seat in the direct bus to Bangkok (i will post another entry separately) that leaves Siem Reap at 8 am.

I arrived in Bangkok at around 7pm because of heavy traffic! The traffic was almost like what we have in Manila. The only good thing was I was comfy inside the bus. Plus it was the Loi Krathong festival

Now, a tip for travelers, don’t go to Thailand without Thai Baht in your wallet like I did. Yeah yeah, silly me wanting to travel to Bangkok with USD in my pocket. Must have been too excited to go and just thought that there would be 24 hrs money changers in the bus station. There were no money changer but there were banks which were unfortunately closed. TOINKS! So there i was in the bus terminal in a foreign country with no legal tender and i have to get to my hostel! imagine the PANIC!

As Tim Gunn would say, “make it work!”, i just tried to talk to locals and ask then if they can at least give me a ride to Khampang Phet MRT station fortunately a motorcycle driver agreed agreed but i had to pay them USD 2 which was really expensive for me but i had no choice. At Khampang Phet station, there are still no money changers so i tried to talk again to locals and ask them to give me BHT 30 in exchange of my USD 1 (conversion is normally at BHT 32 for a dollar). After talking to the 3rd person, I was feeling a bit desperate already. Finally, somebody saw me talking to the guard haggling. He approached us and asked what was the problem. I told him my predicament and he said ok and told me to follow him. He went to the ticket booth purchased his ticket and gave me TBH 30. And when i was about to give my dollar, he said that i should keep it. I had to insist but he still refused.

At this point, I realized that there are still good people out there in the world contrary to what we perceive it to be. I honestly felt blessed. Imagine being on your own in a country where you know no one and you will find a stranger who are just willing to help you. And if it would have not been awkward, I would have hugged and kissed him right there and then <wink wink> just to show my gratitude. So he said goodluck to me and went inside the train station.

I looked at the fare and found out that I only needed TBH 25 to get me to Suthisan. I just thought I’ll keep the TBH 5 coin as remembrance of the guy who helped me out. So I purchased the ticket or rather the tap-up coin and went inside the train station again.

Fortunately, the guy was still there and I approached him and thanked him again. He mentioned that his name was Tho and he worked around the area and is taking the trains two stations forward to get home. He was 31 years old and can speak a little English. He asked me where I was from and I told him from the Philippines and he mentioned that he thought I was Chinese (I had to laugh a little bit there because I was so dark from traveling to be considered Chinese). I told him that I was my first time in Bangkok and I was travelling solo for the first time. Again I insisted to give him my dollar but he again refused saying that it was his help to me with a very heart-warming smile that can melt me.

I still wanted to ask him some questions but the train arrived. And we both got in. I was supposed to stand next to him but it was a bit cramped and he might have had enough of my inquisitiveness and would like to take a rest already. So distanced myself and decided to stand by the door although I was trying to glance at him from time to time and he would be looking at me also (OK, ok.. He is definitely my kind of knight in shining armor!). Two stations forward, I glanced at him again and he was smiling and waving me good bye. I said good bye back before he exited the train. I was just looking at his sort of buffed body with tattoo on the back side of his arm as he blended in to the crowd of commuters. Then I panicked a bit because I have neglected to ask for his Facebook or email address that I can contact him with (FACE-PALM motion!). Must have slipped out of my mind since I on panic mode earlier and was not mentally present to think properly because this dreamy knight in shining armor (with tattoos) just rescued me from having to spend the night on God knows where.

Since I do not have Tho’s contact number and am not actually sure if I got his name correctly, I am writing this post on my blog to search for him. I just want to repay his kindness by sending him over some of my knitted stuff. It would be my way of thanking him.

So if you do know this guy, Tho or if you are from Bangkok, please share this blog post among your friends and help me find him. I just want to extend my thanks again to him. If you do know him, please comment on this post so that I can coordinate with you.

I really appreciate it already