Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kalinga Tattoo Artist Fang-od Featured On The Cover Of A Travel Magazine

Fang-od, or Wang-od as some spell her name, is a living treasure. The 93-year-old woman from Buscalan in the sleepy town of Tinglayan in Kalinga has built a name for herself as a traditional tattoo artist. She is often described in the media as the last tribal tattoo artist in Kalinga but I greatly oppose such a distinction. She's not the last. We need to stop romanticizing indigenous culture by hurling apocalyptic ideas.

Culture is something that evolves. It shouldn't be treated like it's something that needs to remain stagnant. The tools and techniques of Fang-od's beautiful art have been widely documented. Surely, there are people among the Kalinga tribes who can pick up the trade should Fang-od move on to other things.

Fang-od is an attraction herself. Her skin covered by tribal tattoos and her face always ready to smile, she regularly welcomes visitors in her home in Buscalan. She has been the subject of documentaries, articles, and photo shoots. Just recently, an online campaign was launched with the aim of having her declared as a national artist in the Philippines.

Fang-od's latest foray into popular media is her recent appearance in the cover of a travel magazine. The tattoo artist graced the cover of the 10th issue of GRID, a bi-monthly publication that describes itself as a "Philippine magazine for travelers by travelers". Fang-od is among the personalities that the magazine discussed in an article titled "People Who Are Changing the Way We Travel".
Image source: GRID Magazine via their Facebook page.
When GRID posted the cover on their Facebook account, it attracted a lot of criticisms directed towards what she was wearing. A lot of people are questioning why Fang-od was wearing a Kankana-ey garment. Fang-od belongs to a Kalinga tribe. Personally, I don't see any problem with the mixing of the attires. She wore it with good intentions and with pride. And I say it again, cultures and traditions mix. That's the way it has always been.