December 4, 2022

Constant monitoring of the tourists coming in and out of the Cordillera is being implemented especially in Tinglayan, Kalinga where reports on the arrests of marijuana couriers have increased in recent years.

Baguio City Police Office Acting Chief Col. Francisco Bulwayan, Jr., during the recent press conference of the Department of Tourism-Cordillera, said law enforcers and anti-narcotics agents have strengthened their surveillance and intelligence gathering especially at the exit points of tourists visiting Tinglayan. 

Bulwayan, who hails from Tanudan, Kalinga, said PRO-Cor has conducted a series of arrests against visiting drug couriers coming from Tinglayan, who use the Bontoc-Kalinga Road or via Tabuk City as their exit routes.

“There is a consistent monitoring on the tourists. But of course, we have to make reservations on innocent tourists coming in that is why the strict monitoring is done upon their exit,” said Bulwayan, who was also the former chief of Kalinga police. 

DOT-CAR Director Jovy Ganongan said the agency leaves it up to the police to investigate the drug couriers who are blending in with the tourists in Tinglayan.

“We do not know the real purpose of each tourist. Of course, there’s the offer of tattooing and the immersion activity is also available for everyone,” Ganongan said.

Barangay Buscalan in Tinglayan rose to fame as a tourist destination primarily due to indigenous tattoo artist Maria Oggay, popularly known as Whang-od.

Tourists flock the area to get tattooed by Whang-od and her protegees.

The nearby Barangay Loccong, meanwhile, is also visited for its rice terraces and ethnic houses.

The growing tattoo tourism in Buscalan has since become a cover for marijuana cultivators and smugglers to continue their trade according to the police.

In the early morning of Sept. 13, police arrested two suspects in their early 20s from Quezon City at a checkpoint in Ampawilen, Poblacion, Sadanga, Mountain Province for transporting 67 marijuana bricks contained in three sacks worth P7.7 million.  On Sept. 24, two individuals from Caloocan City were also arrested by the Kalinga police at a checkpoint in Lubuagan for transporting 138 bricks and six marijuana in tubular form worth P17.2 million. – Ofelia C. Empian