Revered Kalinga tattoo artist Whang-od to receive cultural heritage award from NCCA

Apo Whang-od. Photo via ABS-CBN News.

The Philippines’ National  Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) is set to award the celebrated tattoo artist Apo Whang-od of Buscalan, Kalinga this month.

The revered manwhatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) will receive the 2018 Dangal ng Haraya (Achievement Award) Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage for celebrating the traditional art of tattooing at Tabuk City in Kalinga on June 25.

A press release from the NCCA meeting in Davao City last month says: “Apo Whang Od has long been recognized and respected in her community as a master tattooist. Her practice started in her early adolescence and has since tattooed elders, women, and warriors from her community in the traditional Kalinga practice – using charcoal as ink and calamansi thorns to puncture the skin.”

The NCCA recognized Whang-od “as a living vessel of a traditional practice, [who] deserves honor and acknowledgment for her contributions, particularly by bringing to greater attention the indigenous practice of tattooing and Filipino culture in general.”

“Apo Whang Od’s continuing work as a manwhatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) and her influence on the Filipino traditional arts scene leading to a heightened awareness about the culture of the Kalinga community — their worldview, traditions, and expressions — earned her the Dangal ng Haraya for Intangible Cultural Heritage,” the statement reads.

NCCA’s site states that the Dangal ng Haraya (Achievement Award) Award is “given to living Filipino artists, cultural workers and historians; artistic or cultural groups, historical societies, institutions, foundations and councils, to recognize their outstanding achievements in relevant fields that have made an impact and significant contribution to Philippine culture and arts.”

Whang-od was 15 years old when she first practiced her craft. Today, she is the last surviving original hand-tap tattoo artist from the Philippine highland village of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga.

People from all over the country and the globe trek to Kalinga, which is about 400 kilometers north of Manila, just to get a tattoo from Whang-od.

The 100-year-old tattoo artist made a rare appearance in Metro Manila last October for the 66th Manila Fame local design and trade show.

Her visit became controversial after some alleged that she was exploited by the organizers. However, Whang-od’s niece Grace Palicas, who accompanied her during the trip, said this was not the case and that the artist was willing to participate in the event.

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