Tips for your trips: La Union

LA UNION TRAVEL GUIDE

La Union — We’ve been here, literally, since birth. We’ve stalled previous attempts at writing a guide (I am rolling my eyes as I write this) for so long because we really didn’t think there was enough around here to let anybody stay.. until of course recently, when, all of a sudden, we have a festival (what?!), a night market, and so many new restaurants mushrooming all over town. I mean, if people are eating here, there must be something going on.

We have to be frank: we haven’t been to all of the places we’re going to list here, nor have we eaten in all the restaurants; for purposes of being, ehem, comprehensive, we’re listing them anyway and will update this page as soon as we have tried some of them. Any additional recommendations, tips, updates, rants — you’re welcome to comment.

What to see and do in La Union

Where to eat / drink / have coffee in La Union
Where to stay in La Union
How to get to La Union

I think we have to credit San Juan for a lot of things: the mounting interest in La Union in recent years, most likely among the economically powerful young-adult demographic, is due to San Juan’s surfing. That’s not to say there’s nothing else to see or do elsewhere in the province — actually we thought so too, until we tried to do this list.

Surf in San Juan
You go to Urbiztondo to surf, period. Sometimes, to get drunk while watching others surf. Either way, the dedicated men and women surfers of this beach in San Juan who have made the sport continuously accessible to beginners have to be given credit for all the good it’s doing to tourism and local livelihood today. One-hour introductory lessons cost P400 (board rental + instructor fee). Board rental only costs P200 per hour. Rate is uniform across all surf schools/resorts.

San Juan's surfing scene

Try the zipline (and other outdoor activities) at Pugad Pugo Adventure in Pugo
The inland town of Pugo, at the foot of the Cordilleras, has this adventure park that’s been running for some time now. ATVs, ziplines, and rappelling are just some of the activities outdoorsy-types can try. Accommodations are also available.

Visit the Ma-Cho Temple in San Fernando
This temple is a rather impressive piece of Taoist architecture overlooking San Fernando’s coastline, making it an excellent vantage point for the sunset. It’s open for everyone (and for photography), but proper decorum befitting places of worship must be observed.

La Union

Visit the Minor Basilica of the Our Lady of Charity in Agoo
Located along the highway, the basilica is hard to miss since most buses stop in front of the Jollibee outlet beside it. It features Mexican-Baroque architecture and was completed in 1978.

Shop for everything clay in San Juan
Along the highway in San Juan, you will pass by an entire row of shops selling clay products — pots, stoves, even the miniature ones used as toys. You can also sometimes view an artisan at work.

Visit the Baluarte and Noble Stone House in Luna
This Spanish-era brick belfry is leaning on one side, supported by thick concrete slabs so its other half doesn’t fall over the blanket of pebbles on the beach. Experts say it’s close to giving in, so we hope they can get some permanent restorative work in order before the next big natural mayhem brings it to the ground.

Nearby is the Noble Stone House, rest-house-turned-tourist-site owned by a Baguio couple. The stone house features several stone sculptures by Korean artist Vong Kim.

Bike to Bacsil Ridge in San Fernando
This is not leisurely but a good exercise instead. The way to Bacsil Ridge is eight kilometers, a portion of which is uphill, from the San Fernando City Plaza.

We have never been to these waterfalls, but we intend to in the very near future. And apparently we have so many more of these in other towns.
Visit the Tangadan Falls in San Gabriel
Visit the Tuddingan Falls in Naguilian
Visit the Nangalisan Falls in Bagulin
Visit the Occalong Falls in Luna

See the Sillag Festival of Lights in March
This festival started as no more than a parade of lantern-lit thingamajigs a few years ago, which we didn’t watch. Last year, with an upscale resort as a venue, the festival had floats all lit up, as well as paragliding exhibitions. This year, the festival (thankfully) used LED lights for its lanterns. There also was a photo competition and a food market.

Photograph the sunset
Can we just say, La Union has really awesome sunsets. If you’re looking for high vantage points, publicly accessible are the Christ the Redeemer deck, the Chinese Pagoda, and the Ma-Cho Temple. All are within San Fernando City, providing views of the San Fernando Bay. Urbiztondo Beach, of course, is also good.

Acapulco Beach, La Union



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Where to eat / drink / have coffee in La Union

SAN JUAN
Flotsam and Jetsam
Cocktails, beer, pizza. Loved their pizza and laid-back vibe. Good place to hang out even if you don’t surf. Accepts walk-ins when the restaurant is open (which means except Tuesdays—last time we checked).

flotsam and jetsam san juan la union / © nikka corsino

Surf Shack
Fusion pizza (they have a gourmet tuyo variant!), pasta, tacos, burgers, beer

San Juan Surf Resort
Surf camp — as it’s usually called — still has the best beachfront location in all of Urbiztondo. Good food is good too, and with beer, of course.

Gefseis Greek Grill Restaurant
Whaaat, La Union has a Greek restaurant? Shut up and take our money!

El Union Coffee
Coffee, breakfast, etc

SAN FERNANDO
Parmisano’s Art Cafe
Coffee, cakes, pastries, and art. Holds regular art initiatives for local artists.

Kaw-Bins
They’re not on Facebook; not that they need to. This old-time favorite may serve the usual — fried chicken, pancit, chop suey — but these are always reliably good, the kind you’ll not think twice about going to if you’re already too hungry.

Taipan Garden Restaurant
Food is okay, not life-changing. Quite pricey (considering it’s not life-changing).

Midtown
The local (air-conditioned) fast-food. They always have leche flan.

Halo-Halo De iloko
Halo-halo several ways. Good with their chicharong bulaklak on the side. I know, we’re a bit weird.

Cafe Esperanza
This cafe is older than us, but we’d choose this over every other cafe in San Fernando. Cakes, cupcakes, jams, gourmet tuyo in jars, milk tea, flavored Yakult drinks and Pinoy merienda — it looks, tastes, and feels like your childhood in your grandmother’s house.

Cafe Esperanza, La Union  / © Nikka Corsino

Mandarin
Another old-timer, Mandarin serves Chinese home cooking. Food tastes as it has always done for as long as we can remember — good.

Sunset Bay
Poro, San Fernando City, La Union
Yummy pizza and beer by the beach. Probably the best beachfront restaurant along the Poro / Acapulco area. It’s also a resort.

nikka corsino

Jochen’s Euro Bread and Deli
Sabado’s Compound, San Fernando City (before Sunset Bay)
Freshly baked bread, pizza, and of course, sausages

ROSARIO

SOUL Cafe
Breakfast, Filipino, sandwiches, seafood
McArthur Highway, Camp One, Rosario


Where to stay in La Union

BAUANG
China Sea Beach Resort
National Highway, Bauang

Bali Hai Beach Resort
National Highway, Bauang

Hotel Ariana
National Highway, Bauang

Marand Resort and Spa
It has several pools with slides, if that’s your kind of fun.
National Highway, Bauang

SAN FERNANDO
Thunderbird Resorts
For those with deep pockets.
Poro Point, San Fernando

Oasis Country Resort
It has sushi nights.
National Highway, San Fernando

SAN JUAN
Flotsam and Jetsam Artist Beach Hostel
San Juan Surf Resort
Kahuna Beach Resort
Awesome Hotel
Yeah, that’s the name.

awesome hotel san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino

The Circle Hostel
The Little Surfmaid
Costa Villa Resort
Isla Bonita Beach Resort
P&M Final Option Beach Resort
With pool; well manicured, leafy surroundings. Right next to Awesome Hotel.

final option san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino

Urbiz Garden Plage
P2,500 for four in a cottage shown below. Cottages are open for rent to day-trippers.

urbiz garden plage san juan la union / ©Ênikka corsino


How to get to La Union

From Manila
Travel time: Five to seven hours
Fare: around P400

Take an air-conditioned bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag via:
Partas (Cubao, Pasay)
Fariñas (Cubao)
Dominion (Cubao)
Viron (Cubao, Sampaloc)
Philippine Rabnit (Oroquieta St., Manila; EDSA Balintawak)

From airports
If you are coming from the Manila airport, the Pasay terminal of Partas is nearest. If you take a metered taxi from airport to bus terminal, cost may range from P150 to P250. Airport taxis are pricier. Cubao is a world away so unless you absolutely have to board a bus in Cubao, Pasay is the most prudent choice.

If you are coming from Clark airport in Clark, Pampanga, take the jeep going to Dau Bus Terminal inside the airport. Fare is P100. Travel time is 15 to 20 minutes. From Dau Bus Terminal, board a bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag.

From Baguio
Travel time: 2 hours
Fare: P104

Take an air-conditioned bus bound for San Fernando, Vigan, Abra, or Laoag via:
Partas (Gov. Pack Road)
Fariñas (Gov. Pack Road)
Philippine Rabbit (Gov. Pack Road)

Expect to wait between zero to three hours for a bus (as is usually the case with Partas), depending on how sucky the service decides to be on that day. There are no bus schedules. We know, it’s already 2014.

Archive: Baguio City

Colorum vans depart from the same area and they tend to fill up faster, but note that insurance is nil when you board one of them. Most vans go only as far as San Fernando, La Union. We take the van if we think the big bus is insulting our time yet again.

From Ilocos Sur/Norte
Travel time:
Three to four hours (from Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
Five to Six hours (from Laoag, Ilocos Norte
Board airconditioned buses bound for San Fernando, Baguio, Cubao, or Pasay.

From Pangasinan
Travel time: Two to three hours
Board a mini bus bound for San Fernando from Dagupan.

Got anything to add or update? Join the discussion in the comments section below!

Baguio Resto Roundup: Canto

two2travel baguio resto roundup: canto

Baguio Resto Roundup: Canto

Welcome to our Resto Roundup features! We love good food and we’re always on the lookout for great places to have them. But we are not gourmands, so we’ll keep things here nice and simple. Enjoy!

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank God for ketchup.

It wasn’t until a year after Ketchup Food Community opened that we got to dine in one of its restaurants. And just like everyone who’s been here will tell you, we absolutely adore it (except maybe for one of the restaurant’s kabayo dishes? which were really in-your-face).

Our all-time favorite restaurant inside the Ketchup compound is Canto—the first one to your right when you enter the premises—because of one thing: lomo ribs.

Lomo Ribs / DSC_8543

Half a slab of lomo ribs, with really good salad and rice or mashed potato = P200. PERFECT. Whole slab (that’s two pieces) is at P300.

The lomo ribs are cooked spot-on and tender every single time (even for takeout orders, the meat is always perfect). Together with the salad and mash, it’s probably the best P200 you will ever spend on a single plate.

Whenever we are here, we never order two servings of this one because it is way too much. We order a different dish from another restaurant instead (usually it’s the yummy laksa from Rumah Sate, but that would be for another day).

Dining at Canto could be a bit difficult when it’s a long weekend (particularly in December!). It opens at noon, and unless you are there minutes before, seats will most likely fill up within the first five minutes. During the Christmas holidays it’s almost always impossible to arrive to an empty table waiting for you.

Service has also been consistently efficient, which is saying something since it is almost always packed, and their waiters still have to facilitate cross orders.

Their menu is also a bit lean (smart move). We’ve tried other items on their menu as well, and they did not disappoint either. But lomo ribs all the way!

These photos were the very first ones we’ve taken from 2012. We were most likely too hungry to take pictures on our subsequent visits.

Canto Burger / DSC_8549

Pizza / DSC_8546

Fries / DSC_8537

Canto
Ketchup Food Community
Romulo Drive, Baguio City (across Wright Park. Nope, you nearly cannot smell the horses)

Expect to spend: P500-P600 for two
Do not miss: Lomo Ribs

Check out the rest of our Resto Roundup features here


Basco Port, Basco, Batanes

Basco Port, Basco, Batanes © Owen Ballesteros

The port of Basco in Batanes is not just any other docking area. For the northernmost province of the Philippines, this means supplies—eggs, cement, rice—from mainland Luzon, traveling days along turbulent seas to get there. This means a whole lot more to Itbayat, a community of 3,000 living three more hours from the port, the northernmost habitation in the country: it is their only reliable and affordable channel to the rest of the world.

Photo by Owen Ballesteros

Baguio Resto Roundup: Chaya

baguio restaurant chaya / nikka corsino

Welcome to our Resto Roundup features! We love good food and we’re always on the lookout for great places to have them. But we are not gourmands, so we’ll keep things here nice and simple. Enjoy!

Baguio Resto Roundup: Chaya

Chaya, Baguio

There are only a handful of restaurants serving Asian food in Baguio, and Chaya is one of them. It’s rather pricey by Baguio standards, so it’s not something we can go to on a whim, but the food has always been good each time we did. We didn’t get to try a lot of their dishes since we tend to order whatever’s good the last time (because it’s so pricey and we didn’t want to risk spending for something we wouldn’t like).

We’d say it’s perfect for special days. If you live in Manila and are in Baguio only once in a while, dining here each time is a good idea.

It is actually a house converted to a dining area, adding to the cozy Baguio ambience. It can get full fast on weekends, so making a reservation may be a good idea (the place is not exactly near other restaurants to save grumbling stomachs from too much trouble if it’s full-house). It’s not a big place, so it’s perfect for couples and small groups.

Some of our picks from the menu:

Cream Anmitsu (P130)
Sweetened red mongo and ice cream on top of cherry fruits
One of our favorite desserts ever. The homemade green tea ice cream is divine. Whoever said you cannot enjoy ice cream at such cold weather?

Chaya, Baguio City

By the way, the tiny scoop of green tea ice cream on the right (of both photos) come in complimentary at the end of each meal. But you have to try the anmitsu. Really.

Agedashi Tofu (P120)
Fried Japanese silk tofu served in Dashi Soup base
We’ve had better agedashi tofu elsewhere, but this one is not bad.

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Left: Beef Yakiniku (P250) – Thinly sliced sauteed beef served with salad and Ponzu sauce
Right: Gyoza (P160)

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio City

Chaya, Baguio

Chaya, Baguio

Mixed Tempura (P300)
tempura variety of shrimp, seafood and vegetables with green tea salt or Dashi sauce
The mixed tempura was definitely one of the best dishes we’ve tried at the restaurant. It looks a bit pathetic in photo but it is actually bigger and a lot more filling than it looks here.

Chaya, Baguio
Beef Sukiyaki (P300) – generous serving. We were able to share in this one, but if you’re hungry it wouldn’t stand.

CHAYA
72 Legarda Road, Baguio City
074 424 4726

Expect to spend: ~P1,000 for 2
Do not miss: Homemade Green Tea Ice Cream
Reservations: You can call if you absolutely have to dine on that day and it’s a weekend. Necessary if it’s a long weekend. Accompany with a prayer if it’s a weekend in December, because it’s almost always full.

You add P50 for rice and soup if you order from their a la carte menu;
Beers at P60;
San Miguel Draft Beer at P70;
Pot of hot tea at P100 (lemongrass, mint, lady gray, green);
Juices at P65, shakes at P90.

Sashimi starts at P250, variety good for 3-4 at P480;
Sushi good for 3-4 at P550;
Salads at ~P250, appetizers at ~P120, a la carte dishes at ~P250;

RESTO ROUNDUP SERIES


Postcards from Vigan

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping on cobblestone streets past Spanish-era houses called bahay na bato — there are only a few places in the Philippines as nostalgic as Vigan. The city, a World Heritage Site, is “an exceptionally intact and well preserved example of a European trading town in East and Southeast Asia,” according to UNESCO.

Vigan’s most touristy spot is its heritage village—a network of cobblestone streets dispersing from its main calle, Calle Crisologo, site of mestizo dwellings during the Spanish colonial period. We love Vigan any time of the day, but it is at its prettiest at dusk. And we also love the dap-ayan nearby, where the sinanglao and empanada never, ever fail to satisfy. Vigan really never gets old.

Vigan, Philippines / © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines / © Nikka Corsino

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

SGB_5890 copy

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

SGB_5963 copy

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros

Vigan, Philippines. © Owen Ballesteros


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Alcoves: Comfortable apartments at the heart of Makati

Alcoves Makati / © Nikka Corsino - Two2Travel

As my bus wound its way down Marcos Highway, I began to worry about how many errands I still had to do when I would arrive in Makati, including an embassy appointment that same afternoon. I was especially not looking forward to commuting since the weather didn’t look too cooperative, and because I just really hate having to commute around that place.

I was booked for the night in one of the units of Alcoves, which offers serviced apartments all over Makati. What I didn’t know was just how perfect the arrangement was, especially for this particular trip.

I could not have asked for a better location: the unit is at Greenbelt Radissons in Legaspi Village, which meant only one thing: I only needed to walk to all the places I needed to go to before my flight the following day. Ha! Suddenly I wasn’t feeling too resentful anymore at being here!

Alcoves is also right behind AIM and just a block away from Greenbelt 1, so it’s fairly easy to get to from anywhere. I was met by one of the three siblings running the place, Rafael, who has kindly waited for me to arrive even though I showed up a full hour later than he expected (I blame the rain and the ensuing traffic for this).

The Premiere Studio unit where I was booked is spacious at 36 square meters, tastefully decorated, and clean. The unit has a queen-sized bed, a living area, and a fully equipped kitchen (fridge, stove, water heater, microwave, and utensils) — everything anyone will ever need on a long stay, actually. It’s a pity I was there only a night. It was so comfortable it seemed I was staying at the place of a friend generous enough to vacate his entire apartment for a night. :P I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely take this one over a hotel room any day.

Alcoves Makati / © Nikka Corsino - Two2Travel

Alcoves Makati / © Nikka Corsino - Two2Travel

Alcoves Makati / © Nikka Corsino - Two2Travel

Alcoves Makati / © Nikka Corsino - Two2Travel

Before I forget — there’s also a balcony that opens up to a view of the city (and a rather good place for breakfast as well). There’s also WiFi and it is free and fast, just the way we all like it.

And because it’s centrally located, finding food and other establishments isn’t difficult at all. For the extremely lazy, there’s a MiniStop right across; Greenbelt 1 is a three-minute walk from here as well.

The airport was mercifully just 20 minutes away, and I didn’t have to wait for a cab at all because there was one right in front of the building when I stepped out.

Can’t tell you enough how staying in this place had saved me from a potential anxiety attack. It’s also great to have helpful hosts like Rafael around, who had helped me find a place in which to print documents at the last minute even after I have checked out. So if you ever find yourself in the city and would like to be near everything else (in a not-too-shabby neighborhood, if I may add!), please drop them a line. You won’t regret it!

Alcoves offers studio and two-bedroom units, as well as a four-bedroom penthouse suite. All rooms come with AC, flat-screen TV, fully equipped kitchen, and private toilet and bath. To know more about their rooms, rates, location, etc., you may reach them at:
Alcoves.ph
alcovesph(at)gmail(dot)com
0939-246-4747
0917-506-3312

Twinning tours at the Philippine Travel Mart 2014

SHROFF TRAVEL

This year’s Philippine Travel Mart—its 25th—is introducing the concept of twinning, in which travelers can book a combination of local and international tours from exhibitors.

Here are sample deals to expect from one of the exhibitors and one of our travel partners, Shroff Travel:

Shroff Travel - Philippine Travel Mart 2014

LOCAL DESTINATIONS FOR AS LOW AS 2,307 PHP for a 3D2N stay, inclusive of accommodation, roundtrip air transfers, and daily breakfast.

Ilocos, Dumaguete, Batanes, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, Boracay, Coron, Baler, El Nido, Bohol

INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS FOR AS LOW AS 55 USD, inclusive of 3D2N accommodation (twin sharing), roundtrip airport transfers, daily breakfast, and travel insurance:

Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Saigon, Singapore, Siem Reap, Hanoi, Seoul

Look for the Shroff Travel booths:
B1013, B1014, C1017, & C1018

They also offer 0% interest for three-month installments for Citibank card holders.

For more info:
Shroff Travel website
Facebook

The Philippine Travel Mart is presented by the Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA). It’s happening 5-7 September 2014 (Friday-Sunday) at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

How to have crazy fun in Thailand

thailand

Most travelers worth their complementary in-flight headphones have read The Beach, a seminal work of fiction about a late 20th century pilgrimage to Thailand. Showing the need to escape as both a blessing and a curse, the book describes a somewhat paradoxical paradise, a place to which so many people have traveled seeking solitude that is has become destroyed by a collective wanderlust.

It’s true that there are some schoolboy errors to be made on a first trip to Thailand, but this extraordinary country remains a popular first choice with travelers for good reason: as a destination it is exceptional. Travel agents, like First Choice, create great packages to give you the best possible chance to have crazy fun in Thailand.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your stay.

Chatuchak Market. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org

Chatuchak Market

Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org
Bangkok at night. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org

Bangkok at night.

Wat Klang Wiang. Photo courtesy of tourismthailand.org

Avoid the Bangkok tourist traps

By all means, enjoy the heady neon commercialism of Khao San Road, but with the understanding that the novelty will soon wear off. Then, carve out a more serene path through Bangkok. Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn and Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha will astonish Westerners with the grandeur of their execution, while the Floating Market will justify often being referred to as ‘the Venice of the East.’

Beginner’s tip: On a temple visit, show respect by dressing with modesty, in clean, ironed clothes and shoes that are easily removed.

Have a howling good time at a full moon party on Ko Pha Ngan

Every month, on the night of the full moon, hedonists flock like neon moths to the beach at Haad Rin for dance music, body paint and alcohol by the bucket. One of the world’s biggest parties, they attract tens of thousands of revelers.

Beginner’s tip: The penalties for drug use in Thailand are rigorous; never risk eating, drinking or carrying anything from someone you don’t know.

Explore the north from Chiang Mai

More chilled and cultural than its rowdy southern brother Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the perfect base from which to head for the hills and experience the bright culture of the Thai hill tribes. First, enjoy the Northern Thai cuisine with a dish of khao soi, indulge in a spa day, and visit the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep.

Beginner’s tip: Attend a Monk’s Chat, where young monks meet with visitors to improve their English for some unique cultural insight.

Thailand is nothing short of enchanting for a first time traveler, but its extraordinary range of experiences will test even the worldliest visitor to its shores. For its winning combination of natural beauty, exotic culture, and the warmth of its people, Thailand is, as a destination, unrivaled.

- All photos courtesy of tourismthailand.org –

Life Extraordinary: The Butbut of Kalinga

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

The village of Buscalan is 17 hours from Manila. Although our journey was considerably shorter — 10 hours in all from Baguio via Bontoc, Mountain Province — this did not make the last leg of the ascent, which we trod by foot, any less difficult. On our first trip, this climb took two hours. Subsequent trips cut the travel time by at least half, but we still found ourselves out of breath by the end of it. That is what visiting the village means.

But imagine sacks of rice — two 25-kilogram pieces, to be exact — being hoisted up the same unforgiving slope on a person’s back. Or an LPG tank. Or hollow blocks and sacks of cement.

That is what living in the village means for the members of the Butbut tribe.

Buscalan’s isolation — it is two mountains from the nearest concrete road — means supplies have to be either produced right there or procured manually from the lower-lying areas of the town of Tinglayan, to which Buscalan belongs, and manually carried, piece by piece, up to the village. And just like so many people in communities we have visited in the Philippines, the Butbuts’ adaptability was such that even women could carry an LPG tank on their heads, up the mountain, and into their respective homes.

For them, this walk seems negligible.

Without any cellular reception, Buscalan has little in the way of instant communication with the outside. Post is claimed once a week from the Post Office downhill by a villager, who takes the mail up and distributes them to recipients. Cable TV seems available, but in the numerous times we have stayed in the village, we have yet to see a single TV turned on. Even with the kids, TV didn’t seem too appealing, although we noticed that they do like their candies.

Life is unhurried but not idle; in fact, we would always marvel at how long a single day here can last, how much everybody else seemed to accomplish while having more than enough time for siesta.

Buscalan also has some of the oldest – and most agile — people we have ever met. Some of them are so old nobody—even their family members—seemed to know the exact age anymore. And this is not surprising. The Butbut people grow their own food; there is no pollution to grapple with everyday; their daily activities allow them ample exercise. What else, really, do you need to enjoy a good long life?

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
A Butbut woman walks to her home in Buscalan, Kalinga. Buscalan is surrounded by the Cordillera mountains and rice terraces.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Whang-od, the tribe’s 95-year-old tattoo artist, wields a scythe as she weeds out a portion of her farm land to plant beans. It is common for old people like Whang-od to still attend to their farms, located a good distance from their huts.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman tends to her rice crops just before the harvest season.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Bundles of rice are dried outside following the harvest in July.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman sifts through rice before cooking.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Whang-od cooks rice over wood fire on a crude stove in her kitchen. Although the kitchen is equipped with a gas stove, Whang-od prefers cooking this way.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman manually weeds out bad beans for the day’s lunch.

Hands of Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Whang-od bundles corn from this season’s harvest. An agricultural community, Buscalan is surrounded by farm lands terraced from mountain slopes, where villagers plant rice, root crops, and vegetables.

Buscalan, Kalinga
Whang-od peels yam for boiling. Unable to chew because all her teeth have fallen off, she resorts to soft, boiled food instead.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
Butbut kids in elementary level slice vegetables for a school competition to end the Nutrition Month. Diet in the village usually comprises vegetables and rice, and kids are taught from a young age how to cook.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
A family shares a meal on the floor of their kitchen.

Kids of Buscalan munch on sugar cane, their equivalent of candy.
Local kids nibble on strips of sugar cane, their equivalent of candy.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Whang-od feeds her pigs outside her home in Buscalan. Pigs play a central role in village life. Families grow and then sell them to other villagers, who may need it for special ceremonies or gatherings.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
A Butbut woman starts the ascent to her village while balancing her load on top of her head. Local people can get to the village in as little as 15 minutes.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Apo Baydon, foreground, is believed to be over a century old and is Buscalan’s oldest living person. He still makes brooms and small scythes, and does not look over 80.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino
A Butbut tribeswoman carries newly laundered clothes from downstream — where she did her laundry — all the way up to the village, which takes about 20 minutes along very steep slopes.

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Photos by Owen and Nikka

Coffee and Community: Photos from Buscalan, Kalinga

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Nikka Corsino

Coffee is free in Buscalan.

It is served about three times a day, sometimes more. When there’s nothing else to do, when there’s just too much going on, when there are visitors to welcome, early in the morning, before going to bed — there are never too many excuses to have a steaming vat of Kalinga brew, served black and piping hot.

And if its coffee is any indication, Buscalan is a place for strangers to feel right at home.

Kalinga Coffee
Kalinga is a coffee producer. Ground to a talcum consistency, coffee is cooked with brown sugar and is served black.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Kids gather around a man playing a local song on the guitar. There is only one guitar in the entire village, and its sound usually draws children to wherever it is played.

Buscalan, Kalinga /
Locals simply call this game chess, although it is played with dice.

Village children wash dishes at communal washing areas placed in between houses. Households do not have individual water systems.
Kids wash dirty dishes at communal water sources scattered throughout the village. Households in Buscalan do not have individual water pipe lines, but supply is plentiful as it comes from a nearby waterfall.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino / Two2Travel

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Villagers haul food and cooking implements along rice terraces for a picnic.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Men butcher a small pig by the river. In so-called picnics such as this, everyone who participates makes a contribution, either in kind or through labor.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Men cleave the pig’s body for cooking. Some parts are grilled, others boiled. The head was especially reserved for Whang-od, the tribe’s tattoo artist many tourists come to Buscalan for.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Portions of the cooked pig are evenly distributed to everyone who is present.

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /
Students line up for a prayer at the start of a school program. The village has school buildings for elementary kids, but these are in dire need of instructional materials.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
Small kids race to the top of a small wall in the village. Playtime often looks like this in Buscalan.

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com

Buscalan, Kalinga / © Owen Ballesteros / Two2Travel.com
Kids play the flute in front of a guest house while other kids look on. Impromptu performances like this draw the attention of villagers.

Buscalan, Kalinga - Nikka Corsino Photography / Two2Travel
Villagers gather around after dinner, like they usually do with or without electricity.

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Buscalan, Kalinga /

Photos by Owen and Nikka