Senate nominates Whang-ud as National Living Treasure

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2018 07:45 PM | Updated as of Oct 15 2018 05:28 PM

Whang-ud tattooes day by day in a makeshift tattoo shop. Her customers comprise foreign and local tattoo enthusiasts. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The Senate on Tuesday adopted a resolution nominating traditional tattoo artist Whang-ud Oggay for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA) or the National Living Treasures Award for fostering and preserving the traditional tattoo art of Kalinga.

The Senate passed the consolidated resolutions No. 2 by Senator Nancy Binay, and Resolution No. 538 by Senator Sonny Angara.

"Bestowing Whang-ud the GAMABA or the National Living Treasures award does not only recognize the beauty and grace of the ancient art of tattooing, but also ensures that such Filipino heritage will survive and continue to exist," Binay said.

"Her (Whang-ud's) contribution to her native craft, as well as the rarity of her situation, should not go unrecognized, and warrants nomination from this august body," she added. 

The resolution said Whang-ud was the only surviving Kalinga traditional tattoo artist with the distinguished title of "mambabatok" or a master tattooist of "batek," or the folk skin inscriptions of Kalinga.

"Whang-ud Oggay was renowned for her batek which she started practicing since her childhood years. She tattooed countless warriors and head-hunters of her tribe that has now garnered both local and international recognition and reverence," Angara said.

"The continuity of the batek is anchored on the well-being of Whang-ud being the last living mambabatok, which necessitates immediate action to preserve the folk art considering Whang-ud's advanced age," the resolution said.

The resolution described batek as traditional body art "distinctively known for its symmetric and intricate designs that detail the 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." 

"The batek survived centuries of foreign influences. The traditional Filipino tattoo art must not disappear and turn extinct due to mere negligence to preserve a significant feature of Philippine culture and identity," the resolution said.

"It is only proper to nominate Whang-ud for the GAMABA or the National Living Treasures Award for her exceptional embodiment of the Filipino's rich heritage, not only to honor her and similar individuals who contribute and enrich the Filipino cultural identity and history, but also to preserve and to further promote traditional folk arts for the benefit of future generations," Angara said.

The GAMABA or the National Living Treasures Award was institutionalized in April 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355. The award recognizes Filipinos, particularly traditional folk artists, "for their contribution to the national heritage through awards, grants, and other forms of recognition."