No Whang-Od consent in Nas Academy contract – gov’t probe

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera Administrative Region (NCIP-CAR) said that online learning platform Nas Academy did not get the consent of Whang-Od in the creation of a traditional tattooing course

The findings counter Nas Academy’s earlier claim – which they “supported” with a video of Whang-Od – that they had gotten her consent. 

In a press statement released Sunday evening, August 29, NCIP-CAR said “Apo Whang-Od is not aware of any contract and she she (sic) did not affix her thumb mark in any contract for this account.” 

The NCIP-CAR statement also added that Nas Academy did not “explain or discuss” provisions of the contract and that “what was assured of her is external to the terms of the contract.” 

The NCIP-CAR said they would help Whang-Od and her community should they decide to pursue legal action.  

The NCIP-CAR’s findings stem from a visit to Buscalan in Kalinga on August 17. The NCIP-CAR Team, led by regional director Marlon Bosantog, reviewed the contract that Whang-Od supposedly signed and spoke to Whang-Od, her family, and leaders of Buscalan.

The investigation was triggered after traditional tattoo artist Grace Palicas, Whang-Od’s grandniece, cried foul over the Nas Academy course, which promised to “reveal all the rituals, tools, and methods for making traditional tattoos.” 

While the Nas Academy took down the course following criticism online, the NCIP-CAR said they would be reviewing the contract and the circumstances surrounding it.  

‘Onerous contract’ 

The contract, said the NCIP-CAR, was unfair or “grossly onerous” towards Whang-Od. 

Contact terms, based on their review, meant that the content of the “show” or the online class would belong to Nas Academy, “inclusive of the right to alteration and the right to assign and transfer the same without content.”

Singaporean law also apparently governed the contact. 

The NCIP-CAR also questioned the validity of the thumb mark affixed onto the contact, noting that it is different from a thumb mark she affixed onto a clean piece of paper. “The same is now the subject of further forensic study,” said the statement. 

But the issue of the contract and the online course goes beyond getting just Whang-Od’s consent. Because the art of tattooing is part of their cultural traditions, Philippine law states that consent must be secured from the entire tribe, and not just Whang-Od. 

Citing their consultation with elders and traditional leaders of Buscalan, the NCIP-CAR said the “teaching of [tattooing] in an open platform accessible to millions of people would render it generic and thus it would lose it authenticity of cultural meaning.” 

“The online platform can also lead to the demise of their culture-driven tourism industry,” the NCIP-CAR added. 

The NCIP-CAR noted that researchers and visitors should coordinate with both the NCIP and the local government prior to any activities within the ancestral domain and should be “culturally sensitive and shall exert proper and due diligence considering her stature as a culture bearer of the community.” 

Whang-Od, a 104-year-old traditional tattoo artist, is a beloved figure not just in her community but across the country.

She was awarded the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 2018.  The award recognizes living Filipino artists and cultural workers who have made significant contributions to Philippine culture and arts. – Rappler.com