Invade Kalinga….A Unique Culture So Popular Yet A Paradise Unknown To Many

Welcome to the Province of Kalinga

People of the lowland areas like the city of Tuguegarao usually associate Kalinga Province with a very unique culture of the North Philippines. It is inhabited by the locals called “kalingas”. It is a province located west of Tuguegarao City. It is a place rich in culture and traditions. The most popular place in the province is Tabuk, the capital and now a newly established city.

This is the signage between the Provinces of Isabela and Kalinga. It tells that you are finally entering Kalinga. On the signage says; “Lumnok Kayo”, a Kalinga term which means “Welcome” or “Dumanon Kayo” in Ilokano.


Me and hubby at the border of Kalinga and Isabela

As planned, we went to attend a traditional Kalinga wedding in a town called Lubuagan. Actually, it was a mix wedding style of Benguet and Kalinga. The groom, who’s a former classmate of my brother-in-law in Baguio Seminary, is from Benguet while the bride is a pure-blooded Kalinga. It was my first time to set foot on Lubuagan.

I’ve been to Kalinga before but only in Tabuk and some parts which aren’t too far from its capital. I remember pretty well the horrible stories of my oldies when they talk about Kalinga.  Kalinga is consists of many tribes and tribal war is well-known in this place. It’s a part of the Kalinga culture. According to stories passed to many generations by mouth, when a member of a certain tribe killed or hurt someone from another tribe, from there starts the bloody tribal war where each tribe will revenge the life of every tribe member they lose. Bloody tribal war means “a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye”.

In fact, in the city of Tuguegarao where many well-known universities are found, I’ve heard stories from friends and teachers that when tribal wars in Kalinga occur, all Kalinga students cannot be seen in school. They may get absent for a week or two or even a month for as long as the war has not come to an end yet, otherwise they may be killed anytime on the streets by any of their tribe-enemies.

All those mind-boggling stories about Kalinga were temporarily forgotten when I saw the wonders of Lubuagan. In Lubuagan, there lived natives of different tribes. When we were there for a wedding celebration, I’ve seen how peaceful they celebrated an occasion. People from different tribes went to celebrate with the groom and the bride. Today, the kind of celebration has been modernized although the local songs and dances are still the prime of attraction.

So for now, I would like to share to you the hidden wonders of Kalinga….its beautiful culture and people, its untouchable wonders, and the beauty of living simple in that place.

On The Way To Lubuagan

These are the photos I’ve taken from inside the car as we travel to Lubuagan. The roads are cemented, although some are still under construction. The mountains are carpeted in green.


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The heavens seem to be just a step away because of the clouds covering the mountains and hills. 

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The way to Lubuagan isn’t easy because of the endless zigzag roads going up and down from the mountains. Although the roads are already cemented, the ravines nearby are still deadly scary. 


A road under the rocky mountain


“Beware of the falling rocks”


On the road under a hard rocky mountain


Approaching a small mountain tunnel


Towering us in the car is a huge rocky mountain with some roots hanging. Water is also drifting through the roots that seemed to come from a spring up above the mountain.



It’s not obvious but that’s a very deep abyss

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Ped-Xing Equals Animal-Xing

Oh, pedestrians don’t just have the right to the roads. If you see animals crossing the streets, you have no choice but to stop and wait for them to cross. If you are brave enough, then you may get out of the car and drive the animals away. 20150418_075305

Sturdy Trees

The trees that are commonly seen in the mountains and near the roads are the acacia trees. The big acacia trees are stormed by wild ferns and orchids usually living on the barks of the trees. 

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Apostolic Vicariate of Tabuk

St. Peter’s Church in Lubuagan is said to be the very first church built in Kalinga. Near the church is an old 3-storey house which serves as the accommodation of the parish priest and those who are serving the church. 

20150418_090745      The 3-storey old house  20150418_090829 20150418_090616


The St. Peter’s Church of Lubuagan

Sagada of The North

I’m sure you know so well the Banaue Rice Terraces which is one of the eight wonders of the world. In the northern Philippines, we also have our own dose of Banaue. These beautiful man-made terraces in the north are found in Lubuagan and Tinglayan in the province of Kalinga. You see, people of Kalinga found a way to do farming despite living in mountainous province. Slowly, they built the so-called Kalinga Rice Terraces.

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Which way to go….up or down? The building there is the only drive inn available in Lubuagan

Tattooed Women of Kalinga

A lot of women, usually the oldies, are tattooed. It’s a part of their culture as “kalingas”. But don’t be scared. They just look intimidating because of their tattoos, but most of them are wonderful people. One of the problems though is communicating to some old people who don’t know how to speak in Tagalog. I experienced asking an old woman in a store near St. Peter’s Church about where a public toilet could be found. Earlier before we reached the town proper of Lubuagan, we passed by small communities with public toilets which were even marked “Public CR” so I was comfortable asking the old woman if they have one in Lubuagan. I got an answer, not yes or no, but something very alien to my ears. She spoke back in their dialect. I ended up saying “Thank you” and just smiled at the old woman. She was very intimidating. She has some tattoos on her arms, face and neck. She was even wearing some jewelries with pendants made up of animals’ teeth.


This is a sample photo of Kalinga women cleaning the coffee beans before roasting. See their tattoos? (credit to the photo owner)

The Pot Dance of the Lubuganos

Lubuagan is very rich in folk songs and dances. A school called St. Teresita’s School of Lubuagan has organized a dance troop depicting the pot dance of Lubuaganos. (photo credit to the owner)


Lubuagan’s Wedding Style With A Modern Touch

The wedding that we had attended was a traditional with a little touch of modern Kalinga style. Chris and Yvonne, the groom and bride, came from two different tribes. Chris is a native of Benguet while Yvonne is a pure Kalinga. Because they had lived most of their lives in the city, their taste for wedding celebrations had also changed. The reception was held in the town’s gymnasium to accommodate all the visitors. A part of the culture of Kalinga is to expect the whole barangay or a small town to attend your big day. And that’s it. I was a bit culture-shocked when I saw the gym’s bleachers almost filled up by guests, most of them were from different tribes. Wedding celebrations in Kalinga are often highlighted with “gangsa dance”. Men will dance in their own drum-beat music using their bronze gong, then they are followed by the women.

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The Fertility Spring

I guess you have heard about different versions of stories on conceiving a baby after years of waiting. In Lubuagan, there is a spring called fertility spring. According to the old people in the place, the spring was said to be the lucky charm of those women who wished to have a child but could not get pregnant. Stories about the spring had spread in the nearby communities. In fact, near the spring is a small community wherein 80% of the population had twins or triplets as a result of all the couples’ efforts to drink the spring’s water and to take a bath in the said spring for two days. At least that was what an old man told us. Maybe, they were just old school stories, but there’s no harm in trying. Unfortunately, my husband and I cannot try it because we can’t stay longer in the place.


This is a community which was said to have benefited from the fertility spring. Mot of the residents have twins and triplets.


The water in that small pool comes from the fertility spring which flows from the mountain down to the community.


Here is where the water from fertility spring flows

The Old Houses in Lubuagan

Lubuagan isn’t just rich in culture, but also in history. Ninety percent of the houses in Lubuagan are still spanish-styled houses and are there still standing even before the 2nd war. The old houses are made up of hard woods, most of which are narras. 20150418_082136 20150418_082233 20150418_090546 20150418_090758 20150418_115603 20150418_142026 20150418_142029 20150418_142032 20150418_142036 20150418_142039 20150418_142041 20150418_142051 20150418_142154 20150418_142156 Don’t be confused! You will see pigs roaming around. Most of the pigs are native ones. Pigs aren’t inside a pig pen. They are free like their masters. This photo wasn’t taken in Lubuagan. It’s in Lacneg. Pardon if I misspelled it.


Lubuagan’s Nostalgic Effect

To top it all, the experience of seeing Lubuagan Kalinga for the first time erased all the scary stories in my mind about the culture of Kalinga. It is indeed a wonderful place for vacation if you want to get out from the noise of the rumbling vehicles in the city. The cool wind is inviting. Even at noon, one cannot feel the heat of summer unlike in Tuguegarao city where one wishes every now and then for a cooler place to stay at. Lubuagan reminds every visitor the importance of preserving mother earth.

Oh, another thing that amazes me is the signage on our way to Lubuagan saying, “Shoot the thief!”. So every resident has the right to shoot anyone who harms him. According to hearsays from the lowland areas, each house in upper Kalinga may or may not have a gun. That looks scary, is it? But the thing is, you won’t be touched if you do right.

Leaving Lubuagan doesn’t not stop my longing to see it again next time, and that “next time” would mean staying there for longer time so that I may experience bathing at the fertility spring.


Wild ferns and orchids living on the barks


I don’t know the name of this flower but there are lots of them in the place


These are the native stargazer lilies