Apparel firm defends Kalinga branding

A HEADWEAR company said it was granted permission to use the tattoo designs by Apo Whang-od as they pay tribute to the oldest Kalinga tattoo artist.

In a statement, international clothing line New Era said: "With our most current collection, we are paying tribute to the oldest, world renowned, legendary mambabatok member of the Butbut tribe, Maria Oggay popularly known as Apo Whang-od."

Last October, stakeholders in the province of Kalinga moved to investigate the use of traditional designs by the international brand.

Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Lorraine Alunday Ngao-i in an interview said a team from the province has concluded an internal investigation on the use of tattoo designs by Buscalan elder, Maria Oggay or Whang-od.

"We have always triumphed Filipino artistry and culture in many of its past and current collections. This collection is a result of close collaboration with Apo Whang-Od and a few members of her family," added the statement.

The statement sent through Agatep PR firm defended the use of the traditional designs, saying "every piece and design had their written and verbal approval. Apo Whang-Od was also given gratuity for her contributions to this collection."

"Aside from this, a portion of the sale will be given to the family and will also benefit the Butbut community with a series of community development programs to be rolled out in the coming months," the statement added.

A fact-finding team composed of members of the local government unit, Buscalan barangay leaders, the Provincial Government, as well as the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples was formed earlier to conduct a seven-day investigation on the matter.

However, New Era said it is now in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples "to ensure that we are compliant with all pertinent laws regarding this matter. The goal of this collection is to bring the culture of Kalinga Province and its people to the forefront of public consciousness and we continue to be committed to do so in close coordination with all relevant stakeholders."

Results of the investigation were already submitted to the Provincial Board and is awaiting its action.

The team initially said a meeting with Whang-od and her family confirmed no consent was taken from the family nor the community.


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