Nas Daily doesn't understand Kalinga culture, PH law — UP professor

Published August 7, 2021, 3:44 PM

by Alexandria Dennise San Juan

An anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman offered an explanation regarding the controversy involving Apo Whang-od of Kalinga and Palestinian-Israeli content creator Nuseir Yassin of Nas Daily.

Tattoo master Apo Whang-od and vlogger Nuseir Yassin of Nas Daily (Photos from NCCA and Nas Daily)

In his Facebook post on Friday, August 6, professor Nestor Castro listed some of the problems over the alleged exploitation of the world-renowned traditional tattoo artist by the popular vlogger after attempting to put up a Whang-od tattooing course on his learning platform Nas Academy.

According to Castro, Nas Daily clearly does not understand the Kalinga culture, as well as the traditions being practiced by Whang-od’s tribe — the Butbut.

“Whang-od is not just an individual artist but she is also a member of the Butbut Tribe of Kalinga. Her skill on the art of traditional tattooing is derived from the indigenous knowledge of generations of Kalinga ancestors. Thus, this indigenous knowledge is collectively owned (although it may be individually practiced) by the Butbut,” he explained.

With this, Castro emphasized that getting the permission of an individual is not enough as the consent of other members of the Butbut is “necessary” if this knowledge will be shared with outsiders.

On his second point, the UP professor said “Nas Daily does not know Philippine law, more particularly Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations.”

Castro pointed out that free and prior informed consent (FPIC) is required when the knowledge of indigenous peoples is used for commercial purposes, similar to Whang-od Academy which Nas Daily said would “reveal all the rituals, tools, and methods for making tattoos.”

“This consent is secured from the members of the ancestral domain, in this case the members of the Butbut Tribe and not from just one individual or her family. This is especially true of [what] the Whang-od Academy will reveal to outsiders about the indigenous community’s rituals,” Castro added.

He likewise said that the agreement between the parties should be written in English and the local Kinalingga language and should be witnessed by the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

“I believe that the problem can still be corrected if Nas Daily respects Kalinga culture and follows the law,” Castro concluded.

The controversy went viral on social media after Whang-od’s grandniece Gracia Palicas, in a now-deleted Facebook post, called the tattooing course a “scam,” claiming that her grandaunt did not sign any contract with Nas Daily or Nas Academy.

Palicas also called out Yassin for “taking advantage” of the Igorot culture when he created the Whang-od academy that offered courses on traditional tattoo making.

Meanwhile, Nas Daily countered Palicas’ statement and uploaded a video showing that Whang-od affixed her thumb mark in a contract with them. However, questions were raised on the fairness of the contract stipulations.

The 104-year-old Whang-od is a popular member of the Butbut community from Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga, and has been known as the oldest living “mambabatok” or traditional tattoo artist in the province.