By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Juan Edgardo (Sonny) Angara on Tuesday called on the Senate to fast track approval of the resolution seeking to nominate the country’s legendary tattoo artist Wang-od Oggay for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), or the National Living Treasures Award.
Angara, who filed Senate Resolution No. 538 in November last year, said Wang-Od deserves the award for her “exceptional embodiment of the Filipino’s rich heritage.”
“Wang-od, who turned 99 on February 17, deserves the GAMABA award, given her valuable contribution to fostering and preserving the traditional indigenous tattoo art of Kalinga province,” Angara said.
“Wang-od is renowned for her batek that she started practicing since her childhood years when she tattooed countless warriors and headhunters of her tribe that has now garnered both local and international recognition and reverence,” Angara stressed.
“The continuity of the batek is anchored on the well-being of Wang-od being the last living mambabatok, which therefore necessitates immediate action to preserve the folk art considering Wang-od’s advanced age,” he pointed out.
Wang-od, who hails from Buscalan village, is the only surviving Kalinga traditional tattoo artist with the distinguished title of mambabatok or master tattooist of batek or the folk skin inscriptions of the province.
Angara said a GAMABA award is equal in rank with the National Artist. It is conferred by the National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the country’s highest policy-making and coordinating body for culture and the arts, on Filipinos who are at the forefront of the practice, preservation and promotion of the nation’s traditional folk arts.
It was institutionalized in 1992 through Republic Act No. 7355, or the “Manlilikha ng Bayan Act.”
The senator said the indigenous tattoo art of batek is distinctly known for its symmetric and intricate designs that detail valor and bravery of ancient tribal warriors, and is customarily applied through a hand-tapped pricking method using intrinsic instruments, such as carabao horns and fruit thorns.
Angara said this traditional Filipino tattoo art “must not disappear due to mere negligence to preserve a significant feature of Philippine culture and identity” considering it has survived centuries of foreign influences.
“These awards, grants and recognitions are proper not only to honor Wang-od and similar individuals who contribute and enrich the Filipino cultural identify and history, but also to preserve and to further promote traditional folk arts for the benefit of future generations,” Angara emphasized.