buscalan tattoo designs and meanings

2023 Buscalan Travel Guide: (Itinerary + Expenses)

Updated expenses as of February 2023. Changes made (1) Apo’s signature tattoo now costs PhP 300.00 and (2) homestay now costs PhP 500.00/person.

It wasn’t my first time in the village, I’ve been to Buscalan before the pandemic back in 2018. Looking back to the first time I visited, so much has changed. Of course the atmosphere and the vibe is still the same. The local kids playing in the village, the simple life, the native food “etag” and katutubo accent, the bed weather and the serene atmosphere. Yes, I am definitely back in Buscalan — home of the famous 104 year old mambabatok.

Read my first DIY Buscalan Travel Guide here.

buscalan travel guide

Buscalan Village 2022: What To Expect & Travel Requirements

It has been 4 years since I first visited Buscalan village. Some of the changes I noticed includes the houses and homestays. The houses before were very simple and typical, you can feel that you are in a secluded village. But now most houses were reconstructed and built to modern generation houses. The trail going to the village also changed which is good because the trail is now easier than before.

Time flies so fast and of course, time changed the expenses too. The guide fee, environmental fees and overnight homestays went up as expected.

buscalan travel guide
The Turning Point View From Buscalan Village

Travel Requirements To Buscalan, Kalinga

“Is Buscalan open to tourists?” YES. Buscalan is now open to the public after it was closed due to the pandemic. (Updated as of June 2022)

The current requirement to enter Buscalan is a complete vaccination card. No need to acquire for a negative antigen result. And that’s it! Super easy right? But please don’t forget to use alcohol or wear face masks for the protection of the locals in the village.

buscalan travel guide
I Conquered Buscalan With Chinchin!

Important Things You Need To Know: Buscalan Travel Guide

Here are the things you need to know and prepare before your trip.

How To Go To Buscalan, Kalinga?

To start of, since Buscalan is now open I think the real question would be the transportation. “How am I gonna get there?” or “Are public transportations open?

Good news is DIY transportation is available. Bad news is, it’s pricey and inconvenient. Most transportations are limited in a day due to the pandemic situation. From Baguio City, the buses going to Bontoc are now operating. Same with the jeepney from Bontoc going to Bugnay. But then again, keep in mind that the schedules and fares vary from the availability. It will not be smart for you to commute if you are trying to save money.

How To Go To Buscalan DIY Way?

Alternatively, if you have a private vehicle might as well go on a road trip with your friends or join a tour. There are lots of joiner tours available in Manila.

Upon arriving at the turning point, pay the necessary fees like eco cultural fee and environmental fee. Hire a guide and start the 30 minutes trek to the village.

buscalan travel guide
Registration Area
buscalan travel guide
Hiking Up To The Village!

Contact Your Tour Guide

It’s very important to contact your guide 1 week prior your plan to get there. I highly recommend Kuya Mindo Wigan. He is a relative of Apo Whang Od and he is also very thoughtful and welcoming to us. If you want to get a photo with Apo Whang Od, arrange a tattoo session with Grace or Elyang, he can assist you! You can also ask him for homestays in the village.

Kuya Mindo Wigan 09485815554

Food & Homestays in Buscalan

For your food, you have a choice to either (1) pack canned goods or (2) eat in local karenderyas. You can cook food in your homestay, most homestays offer unlimited rice and brewed coffee. But if you want to skip the dilemma, there are karenderyas available for approximately 100-150 pesos which includes 1 viand and unlimited rice and brewed coffee.

Homestays are everywhere! No problem with this. There are no hotels or inns here, all accommodations are owned by the locals. The new price for an overnight homestay is PhP500.00 per person. Our guide Kuya Mindo also offers a homestay just below the house of Apo Whang Od.

buscalan travel guide
Unlimited Brewed Coffee
buscalan coffee

Signal & Reception

This is one of the best thing about Buscalan. There’s no signal or internet connection. My favorite way to disconnect is to go to places where the signal is weak or where there is absolutely no signal at all. Buscalan remains free from binge watching on Youtube and social media addiction. This is where you can spend the whole day socializing with people.

Updated Expenses (2022)

As mentioned earlier, prices changed and went up too. Check out the list of expenses to expect in 20222.

Guide FeePhP 1,000.00 Day Tour (5 pax)
PhP 1,500.00 Overnight (5 pax)
HomestayPhP 350.00 per pax/night
Environmental FeePhP 50.00 per pax
Eco Cultural Tourism FeePhP 50.00 per pax

Tattoo Meanings & Prices

I got the chance to have a small chitchat with Grace while she’s working. We talked about things like the issue with the infamous foreign blogger, oops! And some additional changes in the village compared to the previous days.

Below are the available designs you can choose from. Grace and Elyang can also do customized tattoo designs as long as the details are still traditionally inspired. Expect additional charges for customized designs too.

buscalan tattoo designs

The price range of the tattoo vary from the size and design. It ranges from PhP 300.00 – 50,000.00. According to Grace said, a full sleeve tattoo will take her 1 week to finish it and it costs around PhP 50,000.00.

Apo Whang-Od’s signature tattoo (3 dot tattoo) now costs PhP 300.00 and to take a picture with her is PhP 100.00.

buscalan travel guide
106-year Old Mambabatok
grace daughter buscalan
Grace’s Adorable Daughter

Materials Used

The materials used for batok is still the same. Pomelo thorn is still used for the needle and charcoal is still used for the ink. Before, tourists gets the chance to take home the thorn used to them. Nowadays, tourists will each buy the bamboo stick used for the batok and gets to take it home together with the needle used. The bamboo stick cost PhP 100.00 each and is great for a souvenir too!

“It’s an idea made by the young generation in Buscalan” Grace said.

buscalan travel guide

Important Tattoo Care

  1. Coconut Oil – bring your coconut oil or buy one once you get back in Manila. This is the best oil to put in your tattoo to speed up the healing process.
  2. Petroleum jelly can be an alternative.
  3. Clean it with soap and water in the morning and before you go to bed.
  4. DON’T SCRATCH OR PEEL IT OFF! Let time heal it. It can be really itchy on its first week, but you have to prevent from scratching it if you don’t want to get tattoo keloids.

Helpful link: Clink here for more tattoo care suggestions and why it’s important to take care of it.

Things To Do In Buscalan Village, Kalinga

Aside from getting a tattoo the traditional way and meeting Apo Whang-Od, there are a few things you can do in the village. (Buscalan Travel Guide)

  • Explore the village – visit the rice terraces, basketball court, wall paintings and the nearby small waterfalls
  • Try eating the native food called “etag”
  • Check out the souvenirs like ref magnets crafted by the local teens in Buscalan
  • Try the brewed coffee in Buscalan

Additional Info: Drones not allowed! 🙂

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Help me improve my Buscalan travel guide! By commenting suggestions in the comment section below, I am very open to new ideas. All photo credits to Milo Quinantoto.
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4 thoughts on “2023 Buscalan Travel Guide: (Itinerary + Expenses)

  1. Thank you for the tips when traveling Buscalan. Looking at the pictures I’m sure the travel is totally worth it. The place is so relaxing. Will surely visit Buscalan soon and will follow your tips.

  2. Hi Joana,

    Thank you for taking the time to write this guide quite eloquently and concisely. I’ve been researching the proper way to reach Apo Whang Ohd and so far your guide fits the bill.

    I’m planning on visiting Apo around the second week within the month of October with my wife and I would like your guidance in attaining this goal. How would I be able to reach Kuya Mindo Wigan and hoiw do I go about secure a home stay ahead of time? What would be the best times to work with Apo and her nieces and what would you say the average time and cost that it would take to do a half sleeve tattoo?

    I currently reside out of the Philippines and would like to organize this visit properly, so quite frankly, your guide has given out the most up-to-date information while being user friendly. I’d like to keep in contact with you in mind as a mediary while I plan out the trip if that would be appropriate with you.

    Thank you very much for you time Ms. Joana. Cheers!!!

    1. Hello Jonas! Thank you for showing interest to visit Buscalan. As for your guide’s contact, I indicated the phone number which you can message via SMS.

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