How it was done, how long it took, how it looks like... Are questions I will answer some other day. For today, I try to answer the question: How the heck to get there?
Here's how we did it.
Getting To Buscalan From Manila
Boarded the Victory Liner bus bound for Tabuk, Kalinga Province in Kamias station (we also took a Tarlac-Kamias bus prior). I'd say the ideal trip is 7:00 PM (via Dau), but if you're feeling fancy schmancy you may also take the deluxe bus at 7:25 PM (via SCTEX). At the time of our travel there was, fortunately, a 7:45 PM schedule which we took.
Two more buses depart much later. But you ride one of these, you might miss the last jeep heading to Bugnay in Tinglayan.
Bus ride takes 10-11 hours. Regular bus fare is P569, and P680 for the deluxe. Ask the conductor to drop you off in Bulanao (a barangay in Tabuk) near St. William's Cathedral. Walk northward, across the street and past the police station until you see a line of jeeps. Yep, that's the station.
Hiring A GuideAlthough it is possible to visit the Butbut tribe without a guide (you will be welcomed by its people one way or another), hiring a local one with years of experience is highly recommended. Especially if you're pressed with time. You would not want to spend forever on the highway figuring out which overloaded jeep/pick-up/bus will take you back to Tinglayan after your Buscalan visit. Also, you'd want a translator who can perfectly describe your desired tattoo pattern to Fang-Od. We highly recommend Francis Pa-in +639157690843 (we paid P1,000 for a party of 2 and a half). If he's not available, you may also contact Charlie Pan-oy +639981888697.
Jeep ride from Tinglayan to Bugnay takes about an hour. Longer if there's a landslide being cleared up. Fare is P30 per head. Two hour hike begins at the main road. Consider yourself lucky if the jeep goes all the way up to what they call the "waiting shed". This will cut the hiking time in half.
But the hike was still a challenge and a fright for us who did it with our three year-old toddler. On some parts of the trail, you make one wrong step and you could fall off the cliff. It's cemented, but could still be very slippery when wet. Flip-flops could survive such terrain but wearing the proper shoes will make the task easier.
Homestay is your only option for accommodation. Expect to pay around P150-175 per head, higher if you're a foreigner. Meals are included. You may bring your own food, and it would be cool if you could share some.
Bringing small presents like biscuits or candies for the kids and matches for the matriarchs is not mandatory but will be greatly appreciated (the moms looked a bit upset though that we forgot to bring matches). Medicines, I reckon, would make better gifts. The Butbut tribe needs paracetamol for adults and children. Also, medicines that could provide short-term relief for pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis (as requested by the tribespeople themselves).
Getting To Manila From Buscalan
Start hiking back to the main road in Bugnay early morning to catch a Tinglayan-bound bus/jeep. Our party was fortunate to have hitched a ride on a pick-up. We were dropped off in front of our guide's house, which sits along the main road, and we caught the bus (that came from Bontoc) to Tabuk from there.
Ask the conductor of Tabuk-bound bus/jeep to drop you off at the Victory Liner station in Bulanao, which is also near St. William's Cathedral. At the time of our travel, Pasay/Cubao buses depart at 4:30 PM (regular) and 5:00 PM (deluxe). There's a small supermarket and fastfood place near the station where you could grab snacks for the trip back home.
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