Whang Od: A Celebration of Filipino Artistry

I was communicating with a friend (he’s an artist) about his paintings, i mentioned that i will feature him and his artworks, i realized that this is another opportunity for me to widen my horizon and topics in blogging, hence the birth of art features at the end of the month in this blog. This should also justify my blog’s title “artistic world” and would even make me go deeper about my art interests.

Sometime in a Saturday, i watched a magazine show that featured this tattoo artist, which i also seen in the pictures from my friends who traveled north.

I could say once again that the Philippines is rich in indigenous culture that it’s very ancient making it unique and unbelievably true, The practices of these indigenous group started long time ago dating at the time when there’s still land bridges (the water’s still low) in Asia connecting Malaysia, Thailand and the neighboring countries in the South East Asia. If you could notice the physical attributes of the people here are almost the same, even in some culture practices.

These groups that originated somewhere in Asia went to the Philippines and brought here the birth of a generation. Their culture primarily focuses in nature affecting their socialization within the tribe, arts, living, and beliefs.

One of the many distinct tribes here in the Philippines would be Kalinga (in line with Ifugao) that’s on the Cordillera region in the Mountain Province of the Philippines (where the famous Rice Terraces and Sagada is found).

When you say about Kalinga, there’s one practice here that is famous in the local and foreign tourists — — -tattooing or Batok, and the only living person doing that in her ancient generation is non other than Whang Od Oggay, “Ang Huling Mangbabatok” (the last tattoo artist).

The History:

“The Kalinga tattoo has evolved from headhunting — the ancient tradition of killing people and taking their heads as trophies, practiced by male Kalingas over the centuries. For every head taken, a warrior received a tattoo. The purpose of headhunting was to ensure territorial protection while also having serious religious implications: heads were offered as a form of human sacrifice of the highest order to the Kalinga’s most powerful spirits and gods. Nowadays, headhunting has lost in favour, with only rumours lingering. As a result of this decline, the Kalinga tattoo is only one generation away from total disappearance.”


The Process:

“They apply tattoos by driving a stick with an inked thorn into the skin, making small pigments until it forms a design. The “ink” is a mixture of water and soot from the charred bottoms of pots that the Kalinga use for cooking.”


Whang-Od Oggay and the recognition for The National Artist of the Philippines.

“At the age of 25, she lost her husband in an accident and did not marry since and she has no children. According to tradition, her tattooing skills can only be inherited through lineage.Whang-od believes that if someone outside the bloodline starts tattooing, the tattoo will get infected.Due to modern living, the young people of her village no longer interested in embracing the tattooing works of their elders. Despite that, she trains Grace Palicas, her grandniece, and Ilyang Wigan, another bloodline successor, to continue her tattooing work.”

“Whang-od Oggay (born c. 1918) is a Filipina tattoo artist from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines.She is considered as the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut Kalinga people and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. This ancient technique called batok that dates back a thousand years before her time is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques.She uses designs found in nature and basic geometric shapes. Due to her status as the last mambabatok, many netizens are lobbying her to be one of the National Artists of the Philippines Instead of National Artist, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her colleagues in the Philippine Senate through a resolution that Whang-od should be nominated as one of the National Living Treasures or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, which is equal rank to National Artist.”

Source researcher/Contributor: Hance Capili.

Source | Source | National Artist | Images

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