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

Darryl Esguerra
PUBLISHED June 14, 2018 11:47 am

(Inside Manila) Finally, somebody will recognize the contribution of Whang-od Oggay of Buscalan in preserving the old-fashioned, traditional way of tattooing.



Photo: Travel Trilogy


This is after the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) announced it will honor the Kalinga manwhatok (hand-tap tattoo artist) this month with the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage. The award will be formally conferred to Apo Whang-od at the Kalinga Capitol Plaza, Tabuk, Kalinga, on June 25.


The local government of Kalinga also has formally expressed its support of the conferment of the 2018 Dangal ng Haraya on Apo Whang Od.


The NCCA board, chaired by National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, recognized Apo Whang-od as one of the oldest living traditional whatok (hand-tap tattoo) practitioners of the Kalinga community. It also said that Apo Whang-od, “as a living vessel of a traditional practice, deserves honor and acknowledgement 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 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,” NCCA said in a resolution.


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.



Grace Palica, one of Apo Whang-od's grandnieces. Photo: Travel Trilogy


Apo Whang-od was just 15 years old when she first practiced the traditional craft. To date, she is among the last living original hand-tap tattoo artist from the highland village of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga. Local and foreign tourists brave the steep topography of Kalinga, which is about 400 kilometers north of Manila, just to get a tattoo from Apo Whang-od. Since becoming a trend, Apo Whang-od would only allow no more than 30 customers to be inked; with her typically initiating the design and her two grandnieces finishing the pattern for her.


READ: Manila FAME denies Apo Whang-Od ‘exploitation’ allegations

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