Oldest tattoo artist bet for National Treasures Award

KALINGA’S famous tattoo artist may be up for a national award soon.

National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Cultural Communities & Traditional Arts Section head Ferdinand Isleta confirmed the Kalinga artist has been nominated for the "Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan" (Gamaba) known as the National Living Treasures Award.

The Gamaba was institutionalized through Republic Act 7355, and is conferred for citizens engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generation in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.

The NCCA, through the Gamaba Committee and an Ad Hoc Panel of Experts, conducts the search for the finest traditional artists of the land, adopts a program that will ensure the transfer of their skills to others and undertakes measures to promote a genuine appreciation of and instill pride among our people about the genius of the Manlilikha ng Bayan.

Isleta said Whang–od is now under the process of validation under the NCCA.

After the NCCA validation, and deliberation, pertinent documents will then be submitted to the President for approval.

Whang-od is said to be the last "mambabatok" or traditional tattoo artist from Kalinga and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines at 97 and uses purely traditional means for her tattoos, in her home village of Buscalan, now flocked by tourists.

Only two GAMABA awardees have been bestowed the award in the Cordillera region that includes Alonzo Saclag and Teofilo Garcia.

Saclag is from Lubugan town also in Kalinga and is recognized for his expertise in music and dance.

The award was given in 2000 and recognizes him as a Kalinga master of dance and the performing arts with his mission to create and nurture a greater consciousness and appreciation of Kalinga culture, among the Kalinga themselves and beyond their borders.

Garcia hails from San Quintin, Abra who is an expert Casque Maker awarded the Gamaba in 2012.

Garcia makes the native tabungaw, a functional and elegant headpiece that shields him from the rain and the sun.

It is made of the native gourd, hollowed out, polished, and varnished to a bright orange sheen to improve its weather resistance. The inside is lined with finely woven rattan matting, and the brim sports a subtle bamboo weave for accent.

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