TABUK CITY, KALINGA – The mambabatok (tattooist) Maria “Whang-od” Oggay, famously known as “Apo Whang-od”, received the prestigious Dangal ng Haraya award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in a formal ceremony here on Monday, June 25.
The Dangal ng Haraya is given to living Filipino artists, cultural workers, and historians, artistic or cultural groups, historical societies, institutions, foundations and councils, for their outstanding achievements in relevant fields that have made an impact and significant contribution to Philippine culture and arts.
A practitioner of the Kalinga tattoo art for over 80 years, Apo Whang-od was conferred the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage by NCCA Chair and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario.
“Whang-od is hereby conferred the Dangal ng Haraya for Intangible Cultural Heritage, the highest honor of the NCCA for her lifetime achievement and noteworthy contribution in the preservation and promotion of the Kalinga traditional art which intensifies pride not only in the local community but in the nation as well,” the citation reads.
“Starting very young in her life, Apo Whang-od stood witness to the changing landscape of Kalinga, both in actual topography as influences are pouring in from the cities as well as in terms of newer international practices. Yet despite all of these changes brought by the times, she remained and still remains resilient, strong, and dedicated to preserving what has been taught to her by her elders,” said Almario of the tattoo artist in his speech.
Governor Jocel Baac, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude to Apo Whang-od for bringing honor to Kalinga. “Ina Whang-od, thank you for bringing glory to the province of Kalinga. Sapay kuma ta umat-atiddug pay ti biyag mo tapnu tuloy-tuloy ti blessing dituy probinsya,” Baac said.
(Ina Whang-od, thank you for bringing glory to the province of Kalinga. I hope that you will live many more years so that you will bring more blessing to the province.)
“She is very much overwhelmed, she is very much happy, and she thanks everybody,” Natividad Sugguiyao said. She translated for Apo Whang-od who chanted an ullalim as a response to receiving the award.
Apo Whang-od was born in the village of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga in 1917. A member of the Butbut tribe, she began tattooing at the age of fifteen using the traditional method of hand-tapping charcoal ink into skin. She quickly rose to fame after being featured by anthropologist Lars Krutak in Discovery Channel’s Tattoo Hunter. She has been featured in multiple international media outfits since and her village of Buscalan is now second to Baguio City as the most popular tourist destination in the Cordillera.
Apo Whang-od is also eyed for the prestigious Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) or the National Living Treasures Award with nominations from the Senate and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Kalinga.
By Iryll Sicnao
Banner photo: National Commission on Culture and Arts Chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario (l) Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito and Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac awards a medallion for the Dangal ng Haraya for Intangible Heritage to Maria Whang-od” Oggay during a ceremony in Tabuk City, Kalinga last week. RMC PIA-CAR