Kalinga is a landlocked province of the Philippines located in the Cordillera Administrative region in Luzon. It is bounded by the provinces of Cagayan and Apayao in the north, Mt. Province in the south, and Abra in the West. The greater sections of Cagayan and Isabela are found on its eastern part. The province consists of 1 city and 7 municipalities. Tabuk is the provincial capital which was proclaimed as a component city in 2007. But in November 2008, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that its cityhood was unconstitutional. However, Tabuk had its city status reinstated by the Supreme Court on December 22, 2009.
The topography of the province is mountainous, rugged with its highest mountain peak rising 6,000 ft above sea level– Mt. Sapocoy which towers over the province of Abra and Kalinga. Its lowland plains called the Laya Valley is a fertile alluvial land covered by the municipality of Tabuk, Pinukpuk and Rizal. Mountain peaks ranging from 1,500 to 2,500 meters. Average temperature ranging from 17 to 22 degrees Celcius and Type III weather patterns. Dry season extends from November to April. The rest of the year is wet and the heaviest rainfall were recorded in the months of July and October.
Sharp-crested interlinking mountain peaks, steep slopes, isolated flat lands, plateau’s and valley characterize the western side while the eastern section is generally rolling with gradually sloping foothills, interlocking wide track of flat lands and floodplains along its main rivers. Among land and waterforms which constitute potential tourism sights are its waterfalls, hot springs, rice terraces and subterranean rivers.
Composed of seven municipalities and one component city, the province’s land area as of 2010 is 3,164.3 square kilometers occupying 17% of the Cordillera Administrative Region’s land area.
A sizeable 85.96% of the total land area has been declared under the Revised Forestry Code inalienable and disposable or public land leaving only 14.04% as alienable disposable. This can be counted as a major issue aside from the inaccessibilty attributed by the terrain of the province.
There are no pronounced seasons in Kalinga although rain falls heaviest in the months from July to November. The climate differs north and south of the province. The northeastern part experiences an abundance of rain and has a well marked wet and dry season. The southwestern is open to the westerly winds so that it receives much greater rainfall.
Under the national population count conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), as of May 2010, Kalinga registered a total population of 201,613 and a growth rate of 1.95 from 1990 to 2010. The City of Tabuk has the highest population count 103,912 persons. This is because Tabuk City is the capital of the province and is the center of commerce, trade and industry making the city an immigration area. The least populated town is Tanudan with only 8,119 population count.
The Kalingas form the largest ethnoliguistic group in the province. The name Kalinga is believed derived from the Ibanag and Gaddang words, which mean ‘headhunter’. This name was, no doubt, a product of the time when headhunting was a prevalent practice that was considered necessary to prove bravery and prowess. The Kalingas speak the same language but are divided into different tribal groupings along the Chico River. The Kalingas are generally divided into southern and northern cultural groups. The northern Kalingas are considered the most colorful and gaudily attired, as well as the most heavily ornamented, of the peoples of northern Philippines. Aside from differences in culture, there are 36 tribes into which these people are divided.
The Kalinga identify strongly with his or her tribe and this strong tribal identification has led to frequent bloody conflicts in the past. The “bodong” or peace pact is an indigenous socio-political system used to define inter-tribal relationship and to avoid conflict. The bodong minimizes traditional warfare and headhunting and serves as a mechanism for the initiation, renewal, maintenance and reinforcement of social ties. In recent years, the concept of the “bodong” was expanded into a multi-lateral peace pact, providing a means of strengthening unity in the Cordilleras.
The people of Kalinga are the most extensive rice farmers of the Cordillera peoples, having been blessed with some of the most suitable land for both wet and dry rice farming. Except for the Ifugaos, the Kalingas are the most extensive terrace builders in the country. The Kalingas are also skilled potters with pot-making concentrated in the lower Chico River Valley. They are also excellent basket weavers and metal workers.
The province is richly endowed with mineral resources, both metallic and non-metallic which are said to be mostly found in the municipalities of Balbalan and Pasil. There are also evidences on the presence of non-metallic reserves such as sulphur, gravel and sand.
The Kalinga, with their 31 sub-groups, have practiced the art of batok or tattoo design for the last thousand years. Saved for the fiercest men and women warriors, tattoos are honed with a siit (an orange thorn) and a bamboo stick. Today you will see elderly women and men with these ferocious tattoos on their chests and arms. Many of their tattoo artists have passed away. The last woman mambabatok (tattoo artist), Whang Od, lives in Buscalan.
Artistry is in the Kalingas’ blood. Visit their weaving villages, like Mabilong Weavers Village. You’ll also find pottery in the town of Pasil.
Much like the rest of the Cordillera region, the area is filled with hills, valleys, ridges, and rice terraces. And best of all, it’s un-touristy. Unbeknownst to even local Filipinos, Kalinga has its fair share of intact rice terraces such as Buscalan. And not only are they pristine, they produce the most delectable rice. The Philippines has 6,000 species of rice, and Kalinga produces several dozens of these. Their Red Unoy Rice is so flavorful, it is already being exported to stores such as Dean and Deluca in the United States.
Kalinga is also a great venue for trekking. Many of the trails are used by the locals to get to one village from the other, so it brings you closer to a more immersive cultural experience. Ask your guide about a trek through Ngibat, Butbut and Buscalan.
Wild for water? Experience the Chico River in all its glory. The white water rapids here range from the easy Class III to the treacherous Class V.
With Kalinga’s elevation of 300 to 5,000 feet above sea level and a north-south span of mountain ranges within the Cordillera Central, Kalinga is dubbed as the “Prince of the Highlands.” The best time for tourists to visit the province is during November to April. This is a good time to experience the Chico River whitewater rafting, a 4-hour exasperating challenge on the Chico rapids. There are many rice farms in Kalinga Province, including some rice terraces built on the mountains. Trekking tours are offered through the terraces and provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape.