MANILA, Philippines – For some netizens, indigenous tattoo artist Whang-Od Oggay deserves a “more special award” than the National Artist Award.
“For indigenous art forms, Republic Act No. 7355 created a separate (and a more special) award system for the finest traditional artists called the ‘Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)’ or the National Living Treasures Award,” said lawyer Emil Marañon III.
Marañon is a former Comelec official who works for the electoral rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines such as the Cordillerans or the Igorot.
Reacting to a viral online campaign that seeks to declare Whang-Od a National Artist, Marañon tagged Rappler in a Facebook post saying the Kalinga tattooer “is ripe for this award – instead of the National Artist award as pushed.”
He urged netizens to nominate Whang-Od, considered one of the last tattooers in Kalinga province in Cordillera, for the National Living Treasures Award.
To date, there are only 13 recipients of the special award, noted Marañon, a Chevening scholar in London.
In a Facebook comment, Far Eastern University multimedia instructor Aboy Yu shared Marañon’s argument saying:
“NCCA’s declaration of National Artist focuses on the modern art forms such as visual arts, literature and dance. Traditional artists or craftsmen are given the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GaMaBa), so GaMaBa is more suited for her.”
Read the heated exchange among netizens under this post:
The National Artist Award is one of the the highest civilian honors in the Philippines. It was first given by the government in 1972. A total of 66 National Artists have already been honored for their significant contributions in their respective fields.
In 2003, the award was elevated to the Order of National Artists through Executive Order 236, making it 4th in precedence among the decorations accorded outstanding people. The order places the National Living Treasures Award equal in rank to the National Artist Award.
The National Living Treasures Award is conferred upon “a Filipino citizen or group of Filipino citizens engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino, 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 generations in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence.”
But for Facebook user Iana Ong, Whang-Od simply embodies the rich heritage of the country: “She is history. She is truly an Alagad ng Sining for the part of culture most Filipinos have forgotten.” – Rappler.com