Senator Sonny Angara has reiterated his nomination of legendary tattoo artist Whang-od Oggay for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), or the National Living Treasures Award, for her “exceptional embodiment of the Filipino’s rich heritage.”
“Whang-od, who reportedly turned 99 on February 17, deserves the GAMABA award given her valuable contribution to fostering and preserving the traditional indigenous tattoo art of Kalinga province,” Angara said.
The veteran legislator noted that Whang-od, who hails from Buscalan village, is the only surviving Kalinga traditional tattoo artist with the distinguished title of mambabatok or master tattooist of batek or the folk skin inscriptions of the province.
“Whang-od is renowned for her batek that she started practicing since her childhood years where she tattooed countless warriors and headhunters of her tribe that has now garnered both local and international recognition and reverence,” the seasoned lawmaker said in Senate Resolution No. 538 that he filed in November last year.
The resolution calls for the nomination of Whang-od for GAMABA, which is equal in rank with the National Artist.
The indigenous tattoo art of batek is distinctly known for its symmetric and intricate designs that detail valor and bravery of ancient tribal warriors.
The indigenous tattoo art of batek is distinctly known for its symmetric and intricate designs that detail valor and bravery of ancient tribal warriors, and is customarily applied through a hand-tapped pricking method using intrinsic instruments, such as Carabao horns and fruit thorns.
Having survived centuries of foreign influences, the youthful senator said this traditional Filipino tattoo art “must not disappear and turn instinct due to mere negligence to preserve a significant feature of Philippine culture and identity.”
“The continuity of the batek is anchored on the well-being of Whang-od being the last living mambabatok, which therefore necessitates immediate action to preserve the folk art, considering Whang-od’s advanced age,” Angara pointed out in his resolution.
GAMABA is conferred by the National Center for Culture and the Arts, the country’s highest policy-making and coordinating body for culture and the arts, on Filipinos who are at the forefront of the practice, preservation and promotion of the nation’s traditional folk arts. It was institutionalized in 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355.
“These awards, grants and recognitions are proper not only to honor Whang-od and similar individuals who contribute and enrich the Filipino cultural identify and history, but also to preserve and to further promote traditional folk arts for the benefit of future generations,” Angara said.