Manila FAME organizers defend 100-year-old Whang-Od’s participation

Photo by Tristan Nodalo/CNNPhilippines

By CNNPhilippines staff – The organizer of design and lifestyle event Manila FAME clarified that the invitation of the 100-year-old tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od was sought through proper channels.

“Apo Whang-Od’s participation in Manila FAME was a tremendous collaborative effort of various government agencies. These include the Philippine Air Force, Philippine Army who ensured her safety prior to and during her travel to Manila and back,” said Clayton Tugonon, Center for International Trade and Expositions and Missions (CITEM) Executive Director.

The participation of Whang-Od in Manila FAME sparked a debate among netizens Sunday, as photos of her sleeping during a session in the event circulated social media.

Some called out Whang-Od’s participation in the event, deeming it exploitative.

Others tried to speak on behalf of the organizers, pushing detractors to get the side of Whang-Od’s team first.

You may ask Apo Whang Od’s team to know the truth about her visit here. Please don’t spread hate verify information first. #ManilaFAME

— Leizel (@ilovezzzel) October 22, 2017

But Tugonon said that Whang-Od’s health and safety needs were addressed, with a dedicated medical team from the Department of Health’s National Geriatric Hospital, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, National Center for Geriatric Health, and St. Lukes Medical Center Security.

Tugonon added Whang-Od’s invitation was coordinated with the Kalinga community of elders, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Tourism, and the Department of Trade and Industry. He also clarified that all proceeds from Whang-Od’s tattoos would go to the Kalinga elders.

Whang-Od Oggay, the last mambabatok (hand-tapped tattoo artist) from Buscalan, Kalinga, was nominated for the Gawad sa Manglilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasure Award on October 20.

Under Republic Act No. 7355, the “Manlilikha ng Bayan Act” GAMABA recognizes Filipinos practicing any traditional art “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 oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines started her “pagbabatok”since she was 15 years old.

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