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.

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.

The province is composed of 7 towns and a city, Tabuk, which is the capital. Tabuk is about 53kms from Tuguegarao if you take the trip via the town of Solana and Rizal. Vans plying the Tuguegarao-Tabuk route are available near Brickstone Mall (across Robinsons Place Tuguegarao) and the trip takes about an hour (P120).

At the van terminal across Robinsons Place Tuguegarao

Traveling to Tabuk from Tugue offers several views. The van would pass by the Buntun Bridge, crossing the Cagayan River then it turns south for Enrile and Rizal. Rolling hills open up in the town of Rizal. The foothills are mostly barren but some are open grassland. From Rizal to Tabuk, the terrain changes from sloping hills to flatland of rice fields.

Kalinga’s capital has yet to fully develop its tourism structure but the local government is keen on promoting the province for agri and eco-tourism. Tabuk may serve as the get-off point for the highland villages of Buscalan or the rice terraces of Tinglayan and Tanudan. It can also be the base for the whitewater rafting on Chico River. There is a handful of things that you can do in Tabuk City.

Tabuk City Hall in Dagupan District

Tabuk has 2 major districts: Bulanao and Dagupan. The city hall, central school, a state university and a public market are located in Dagupan. Bulanao is at the national highway where St. William’s Church, KSU and the provincial capitol and the provincial hospital are.

St. William’s Cathedral in Bulanao, Tabuk City

Things to do / Places to visit in Kalinga

  1. Visit Tinglayan and Tanudan for their rice terraces. Kalinga currently has 4 rice terraces which are on the shortlist for inclusion to the extended world heritage sites. In Tinglayan, one can visit the Buscalan, Dananao and Bugnay Rice Terraces. Lubo Rice Terraces are located in the town of Tanudan.
  2. White Water Rafting on Chico River – one of the most recommended things to experience in Kalinga is the white water rafting. The Chico River snakes through most part of central Kalinga and it offers wild water portions with rafting difficulty that ranges from 3-5.
  3. Visit Buscalan Village and meet the famous mambabatok, Whang Od. This village in Tinglayan has experienced a drastic influx of travelers and visitors in the last couple of years because of the traditional tattoo obtained from the mambabatok like Apo Whang Od.
  4. Try the Kalinga Brew. The province used to be known for its vast coffee plantations during 1960s. The production of coffee started to dip in the 1980s when the price of goods have started to rise. Coffee is then replaced by corn crop. But lately, efforts to revive the coffee industry has already been made and the province has become the 7th top producer of coffee.
  5. Tabuk City spots: Pallikan Falls, Guilom Canyon Falls and Banga-banga Falls. Naneng Heritage Village. Berry picking at Ryan’s Farm. Visit St. William’s Cathedral.

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