Kalinga: Tales of Head Hunters

A sleepy province, Kalinga is cradled by the mountains of the Cordilleras. The relatively cool climate blankets the province most of the time while the Chico River meanders through its core. It is a landlocked province defined by the rugged highlands of the west and the gradually sloping grassland of the east. And in between are flat lands that produce rice from the skillful hands of the tribe.

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Street corner spot showcasing the agricultural aspect of Kalinga

Several tribes in the Cordilleras used to practice headhunting. There were several reasons and purpose why it was practiced before, and they vary from one tribe to another. The Ifugaos, Bontocs, Ilongots, Sagada Igorots, Apayaos and Kalingas dwell in the Cordilleras and traditionally somewhat hostile to each other.

According to factsanddetails.com, heads taken from headhunting brought glory to the warrior who collected them. It gives good luck to their village as well. The heads were preserved and worshiped in special rituals.

Most heads are taken out as an act of revenge, often for breaking the traditional law. Other reasons for headhunting include tribal beliefs that beheading the enemy is a way of killing off for good the spirit of the person beheaded. Headhunting is also believed to help the soil become fertile and it provides strength to the people.

Back in the days, the people of Kalinga were feared by neighbors and invaders because of their reputation as headhunters. Kalinga in Gaddang and Ibanag tongue means headhunter. The Kalinga people live in the highlands and were able to preserve their warrior-culture. Their strong sense of belonging to a tribe and their loyalty resulted to frequent tribal unrest and sometimes resulted to tribal wars.

In the present day Kalinga, headhunting may be a vanishing act but tribal wars may still exist in remote places in the highlands. This should not deter travelers and tourists though from visiting Kalinga. People are generally warm and hospitable to visitors.

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Abra Abra Kadabra

It’s a landlocked province tucked in the highlands of the Cordilleras. The province of Abra is often skipped by weekend warriors as they pick other places to visit. The weekend traffic often leads to popular places like Vigan, Baguio or La Union. When you ask people if they can give you tips about places to visit in Abra, expect that they could not say as much. For most of the people, Abra is still a mystery.

I was happy enough to get the chance to visit Abra. On my road towards goal 81, Abra is my 64th province. The easiest way to plan for a weekend visit to this place is to focus on its capital town, Bangued. How to get there?

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Ifugao and its Stairways to Heaven

A few minutes after breakfast, I found myself standing in awe, in front of the rice terraces, those fields carved from the mountain sides, perhaps made by bare hands of the Ifugao tribe. A massive work that covers the slopes of some of the mountains in Banaue and the nearby towns. They seem like stairways to heaven, revealing their beauty as the rising sun began to cast its morning light on the ancient rice terraces.

Ifugao, my 55th province.

A landlocked province, Ifugao belongs to the Cordillera Administrative Region, sharing its borders with Mountain Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet. Ifugao means ‘people from the hill’. It is located high in the mountains of the Cordillera with river valleys and forest cover.

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Sagada: Brewing on my Mind

I am one of the many who loves to go to cooler places every chance that I get. Being born and raised in the Visayas, we do not have much of such places where the temp is below 20˚C. Sometimes I consider my place as having only one season: Sizzling Summer.

Sometimes my mind drifts off to places in the Cordilleras. Baguio may just be a perfect option to escape the summer sting, but the place is just too crowded and so much covered with urban development and commercialism.
Instead I pushed my mind to wander beyond the city of pines and imagine a cool summer place deep into the arms of the Cordilleras. And Sagada just popped into mind.

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A Baguio Night Food Experience

Baguio City is, for most of us, the City of Pines or the Summer Capital of Philippines. Baguio is also the gateway to the Cordilleras primarily because most travelers opt to start their adventure to the highlands by spending a night (or day) in this urban mountain city.

Baguio is about 247km north of Manila or a 6-8hrs trip depending on your chosen mode of transport. There are plenty of options on how to get there. There are several bus lines that ply the Manila-Baguio route. Victory Liner is one of the most popular bus companies.

I am from the South and I usually take a flight to Manila first and start my Luzon adventure from there. If you start from Manila, it is recommended that you take the bus trip from Pasay. Traffic in Manila is notorious and oftentimes unpredictable. Most travelers would rather take the late evening or early morning trip to Baguio City to avoid being stuck in EDSA or NLEX.

Victory Liner

Travelling from NAIA to the Victory Liner Bus Terminal in Pasay was a challenge in itself. But after a few hours, I got into an air-conditioned bus and slept for almost the entire duration of the travel.
I never quite remembered well where the bus stopped for either a pee break or a quick meal. I think the bus stopped at Urdaneta and Sison in Pangasinan and Rosario in La Union. The bus then took the Marcos Highway. For a few hours more, I set foot in Baguio once again.

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