TABUK CITY, Kalinga – With Apo Whang-od continually garnering global attention – most recently with her cover photo on Vogue Philippines – it is no wonder that she continues to inspire many works of art from local and foreign and artists alike.
Recently, a couple of artists decided to go the extra mile and donate their works to the mambabatok’s home province.
Among them is Italian artist Luca Vezzaro, creator of the ‘The Ink Queen’, an exquisite mosaic of Apo Whang-od made from more than 7,000 tiny wooden tiles painstakingly carved and painted by hand.
Vezzaro said he had been wanting to create something to symbolize his love for the Philippines, his home for almost three decades, when he heard of the tattoo artist in Buscalan.
“I got fascinated by this young lady at heart. And I said my next project would be developing a unique pixelated handmade, hand carved, and hand painted mosaic made of wood dedicated to her,” he said.
Vezzaro formally turned over the ‘The Ink Queen’ to the provincial government of Kalinga with a signing of the deed of donation at the Provincial Capitol on Monday.
“In the way [that Apo Whang-od] leaves permanently a sign of her heart on our skin, I would love today to leave beauty and my love into your eyes and in your heart,” Vezzaro said of the donation.
Meanwhile, from neighboring Cagayan, a young photographer came to hand over one of his prized images – that of a tattooed Buscalan woman toothily grinning from ear to ear.
When John Leonardo Dimain IV arrived in Buscalan on a pilgrimage to have Apo tattoo him, he was drawn to the other tattooed men and women in the community and thought they should also be given attention.
“Gusto kong maipakita ang buong community niya para may kasama din si Whang-od, para maipakita din sa buong Pilipinas na meron pa palang mga nabubuhay pa na [tattooed men and women],” he said.
When UNESCO announced a photography contest, Dimain took the chance to showcase his work. He chose to submit his portrait of the ‘Woman of Buscalan’ because he said it perfectly represented the beauty of the Kalinga culture.
“Unang kita ko dun sa photo, parang wow, parang ito ‘yung representation mismo ng culture ng Kalinga sabi ko – the emotion, ‘yung tattoo, ‘yung beauty noong babae na kinuhanan ko,” he said.
The photo ended up in the top 60 from the 6,625 photos submitted worldwide to the Youth Eyes on the Silk Road International Photography Contest and went on to be exhibited in different countries.
Dimain said he had since wanted to give a copy of the photo to the community of Buscalan but was hampered by the pandemic.
On Monday, he was finally able to make good on his intention. “Gusto ko ring ibigay dahil nakilala siya sa ibang bansa, na-exhibit na rin siya sa ibang bansa, para sa community talaga, para sa Kalinga talaga, para ipakita kung gaano kaganda yung culture para may remembrance din,” he said.
To thank Vezzaro and Dimain for their donation, Governor James Edubba awarded them with a plaque of appreciation and gifted them with community tokens.
“Thank you for giving us these special treasures and I know that the next generation of Kalingas will be very thankful to you,” the governor said.
“Dakkel nga yaman tayu dituy province tayu because talaga nga inted da met. Ma-recognize da diay importansya na daytuy kanyatayu,” he added.
The governor revealed a plan to build a museum, with the help of Representative Allen Jesse Mangaoang, where the artworks will eventually be displayed.
In the meantime, ‘The Ink Queen’ and ‘Woman of Buscalan’ can be viewed at the Kalinga Provincial Tourism Office.