Blessing by Apo Whang-od: The Pains and Pleasures of Kalinga Traditional Tattoo | Kalinga, Philippines

DSC00123I will be a hypocrite if I say I wasn’t scared. The surroundings were lyrical with the constant manual tapping of wood on wood, wood on thorn, thorn on skin. I was nervous. I was the last one among the group to get inked. It was my turn, it was painful. I waited. It was my turn again, it was even more painful, way more painful in the master’s wrinkled yet strong hands. The Kinilat (lightning) design just got permanent on the right side of my hip. It started pouring a few minutes after the tattoo was finished. I was protective of the open wound. I was scared it might get infected. We had no options but to head back so we braced ourselves for the rain and ran as fast as we could. We packed our bags and left our home for two days. I felt the sting and the sore, the aftershock of having just been tattooed by Apo Whang-od and Grace. Yet there is pleasure, there is pride in bearing this kind of pain.

We finally trekked down the steep trail of Buscalan village and headed home.

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The Solace of Painted Doors and Windows | Batanes, Philippines

Batanes is undeniably special in its mountainous landscape, genuinely honest and kind-hearted locals, and quiet and simple way of living. Located in the most northern part of the Philippines, it is easily one of the must-visit provinces. But maybe a thousand other destinations qualify in the list with the mentioned, sometimes abused, adjectives. I asked an Aussie guy which destination he considered to be the most fascinating. He has traveled 80 countries so far so he had a bit of difficulty answering as he said that all places are unique in their own flavors. But I insisted that if he could choose one, only one, what would it be? He responded with Israel. However this is not an elaboration nor a justification of how beautiful and captivating the country is. Because in a heartbeat, I will agree that all places offer its magic to everyone who is willing to see and appreciate. In the quantity of it all, we have to take a step back and meditate and let rawness shed its beauty before our unjudging eyes. Sometimes, or in our generation, probably most of the time, we take for granted the everyday. What appears repetitively may lose some of its charm. Yet when traveling comes to play, it instantly illuminates our sense of wonder and expands our presence. All explorations become adventurous without trying to be.

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