The colorful and lush scenery found in Kalinga. Photo by Jake Versoza courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Fresh air, luscious greeneries, and colorful traditions and customs–these are just some of the things that attract people to visit Kalinga even though it is about 10 hours away from the National Capital Region (NCR). 

When it comes to traditions, the people of Kalinga have deep respect for their roots that it even affects their political system and core values to this day. Perhaps one of the most remarkable of these is their traditional way of courting.

Scenic view in Kalinga. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – CAR.

In a world where the value of courtship seems to deteriorate, the Kalingas cherish love and family to the point that they are still practicing the tedious way of traditional panliligaw or courtship. 

The art of Kalinga’s courtship

Tribal Huts Found in Kalinga. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – CAR.

The first step is the Bilin or the courtship period where the man expresses his intent to marry and is usually done at night where the lady sleeps. The man tells his intent to the lady through an offer to chew betel nut or to have a conversation.

As soon as they find love and have agreed to spend their lives together as a married couple, it would be formally announced to the community where they would invite friends and relatives to partake of a meal. A pig or carabao is butchered during this celebration called Ngilin or Paranus. 

Just like the Filipino marriage customs, the blessing of the elders are being asked. In a ritual called Donop, an elder woman chants prayers so the couple can sleep well and produce healthy children. A pair of a rooster and hen is always present during this ritual. 

If some may think that arranged marriages no longer exist today, they should visit the Kalinga province to witness Ab-aboryan Kabkabi-in. It is a betrothal practiced by well-to-do families where they arrange the marriage of their children. A token, usually heirloom beads, is given to the girl called the Atod or Banat to mark the engagement.

Welcoming a child

The community’s role in the couple’s life doesn’t end after the marriage ceremony. 

As the couple welcomes their child, they will enter a new chapter in their lives and will observe another set of deeply rooted traditions. 

The moment they have their first born, the baby will be welcomed by butchering a chicken to sustain the mother’s breastfeeding. A pig will also be butchered, and only the immediate family members can partake of the meal—this is called Kontad.

After celebrating with the immediate family, a community gathering or the Gabbok will follow. A pig will be butchered and served, paired with rice cakes. Friends and relatives of the couple are expected to attend. 

Lastly, there’s Gammid or Umapo. This ritual is observed for the first grandchild, where the mother brings to the grandparents baskets of rice cakes and the grandparents will butcher a pig or carabao. The grandchild is given a token and gifts to symbolize strength, bravery, and prosperity.

Honoring the dead

Death is an inevitable part of the life cycle. No one can escape it. The people of Kalinga value life as much as they respect death, and this is seen in the traditions they uphold.

A Kalinga wake or Bagungon is held for a number of days. An animal is butchered depending on the stature of the deceased: When a parent dies, the children are often obliged to butcher a carabao, and the meat is usually distributed to the community. The number of carabao butchered denotes the stature of the family. 

To pay tribute to the deceased Dan-Dan Nag /Chan-chan nag/ is practiced wherein two groups exchange chants. If someone lost her/his other half, the widow/widower is required to sing Ibil. This is a mourning chant that is sung at dawn with the belief that it will awaken the dead. 

Breathtaking scenery found in Kalinga. Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism – CAR.

Aside from offering breathtaking sceneries away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the Kalinga province also gives opportunities to tourists to be exposed to the values and culture of  others. You can learn from the deeply rooted traditions here that are proven to build lasting love and relationships. 

For those who wish to visit this enchanting place, there are few options to choose from. One is by taking a flight from NAIA to Tuguegarao City. From the City, it is recommended to hire a private vehicle to reach Tabok, Kalinga in about an hour. 

Another option is via bus. One can take a bus from Manila to Kalinga. Travel time will take at least 10 hours and ticket fare starts at P650. 

For those who plan to use a private vehicle, travel time is approximately seven hours. 

Travel safely! 

All tourist destinations in Kalinga have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Kalinga’s official Facebook page maintains up-to-date travel advice that travelers may access, or contact Kalinga tourism office at [email protected]

Visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app on app.philippines.travel or on Google Playstore for the most up-to-date information about re-opened local destinations as well as the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location.