The Nas Academy is insisting that their online traditional tattooing course by Whang-Od is not a scam, and that they got the artist’s consent for it.
The online learning platform led by vlogger Nuseir Yassin aka Nas Daily came under fire on Wednesday, August 4, after Whang-Od’s grandniece Grace Palicas called the tattoo course a scam.
“I spoke to her and she said she did not understand what the translators were saying. Am sorry to tell you she will not be joining the [Nas Daily],” Palicas said in a since-deleted Facebook post. In another post, Palicas had said Whang-Od did not sign a contract with Nas Academy.
Palicas herself is a tattoo artist who learned the traditional Kalinga tattoo method from Whang-Od herself. She also expressed worry that their traditions are being exploited.
The tattoo course is one of several featuring Filipino creators, and was featured on a page on the Nas Academy website before being taken down. It offered an opportunity to “learn the ancient art of tattooing” from the 104-year-old Whang-Od, for a course fee of P750.
In a statement released on Facebook on Thursday, August 5, Nas Academy insisted that the course was not a scam, and that Whang-Od gave her consent to it.
“We approached Whang-Od because just like you, we love her. We love her traditions, and are inspired by her. We wanted to share her culture for future generations to appreciate and respect the ancient Kalinga tradition of mambabatok. So we pitched her family the idea of creating Whang-Od Academy. Her and her family present both loved this idea, and have worked WITH US to build it, with Whang-Od teaching herself,” they said.
They said that Whang-Od’s niece Estella Palangdao translated the project contract, and was present when the artist placed her thumbprint on it. They also included a video of the apparent contract-signing in their statement.
“This is the clearest evidence that it is not a scam and achieved the consent of her and her immediate family,” they said.
Nas Academy claimed everyone involved was compensated “and for every sale the Whang-Od Academy generates, most of it went directly to her and her family. We just provided the technology and the marketing.”
They said they took down the Whang-Od course page “out of respect for her family…while we resolve any issues that have arisen from these falsehoods.”
The group also insisted that they care about the Philippines and “respect the many cultures and traditions that exist across the country.”
Rappler has reached out to Palicas but she has yet to reply as of posting.
Whang-Od is revered as among the last living artist practicing the art of traditional Kalinga tattooing – a hand-tapped method using thorns and charcoal for ink. In 2018, the National Commission for Culture and The Arts (NCCA) gave her the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Nas Academy was launched in 2020, initially as a platform for content creators to sell their knowledge through online courses. They have since expanded their course offerings, and recently included courses taught by the likes of broadcast journalist Jessica Soho and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. – Rappler.com
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