Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-od Likely To Receive National Living Treasures Award

Maria "Whang-od" Oggay, the 97-year-old traditional tattoo artist from Kalinga is just a hair's breadth away from receiving the National Living Treasures Award (Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan) from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Whang-od is one of the few people who still practices traditional tattooing in the Cordillera region. She is now teaching her unique craft to two of her young granddaughters.

According to Ferdinand Isleta, the head of the Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts section of the NCCA, they are now in the process of completing the documents and records necessary for Whang-od's recognition as a national artist. It can be recalled that a week or so ago, representatives from the NCCA visited Whang-od in Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga as part of the validation process. The final step in the process would be the forwarding of the documents to President Rodrigo Duterte. If signed by Duterte, only then will the award be conferred to the recipient. The awarding ceremony is usually held at the Malacanang Palace.

If given the award, Whang-od will be the second artist from the province of Kalinga to receive such a recognition. Alonzo Saclag, a dancer and musician from Lubuagan, Kalinga was conferred the award back in 2000. So far, only thirteen people have been given the award. The most recent one was awarded in 2012 to Magdalena Gamayo, a weaver from Ilocos Norte.

A larger than life photo of Whang-od displayed during an art exhibit at the Royal Ontatio Museum in Toronto. Canada last April. Photo courtesy of Kayleen Kwet.
If given the award, Whang-od will receive a customized golden medallion, an initial grant of 100,000 pesos, and a monthly stipend of 10,000 pesos for the rest of her life. She will also receive medical and hospitalization benefits.