MANILA, Philippines – According to Jayvee Franz Paclay Sabawil, a nephew of Apo Whang Od who accompanied her to Manila, the famous Kalinga artist enjoyed her first visit to the National Capital Region.
This was the same sentiment Whang Od's niece, Grace Palicas, sent to Manila FAME organizers. .
"Masaya ako na mainvite kami sa Manila FAME, proud kami... Pag nag-uusap kami (ni Whang Od), gusto niya. Sabi ni lola, gusto niya rin daw makita ang Maynila. Sabi ko, kung gusto mo, sige para memeet din niya yung ibang kultura," Palicas said. (READ: Indelible moments with Whang Od, a living legend)
(We were happy. It was an honor to be invited to Manila FAME... When we talked about it, she (Whang Od) said she wanted to go. Lola told me she wanted to see Manila. I told her, if she wanted to, we could go to meet other cultures.)
Manila FAME, a trade event organized by the Department of Trade and Industry - Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (DTI-CITEM), brought Whang Od and her relatives to Metro Manila with the intention of showcasing the pambatatok culture. According to organizers, Apo Whang Od agreed to guest at the event but had three conditions: first, that she be flown in via a helicopter; second, that she be given an opportunity to tattoo some of the visitors; and third, that she get a chance to meet actor Coco Martin.
On Sunday, October 22, a photo of Whang Od asleep during a press conference made rounds online, causing netizens to claim that she was exploited or made a spectacle during the 3-day event held at the World Trade Center.
Manila FAME organizers, however, denied that Filipino tattoo artist Apo Whang Od was "exploited" during the trade fair that ran from October 20 to 22. In fact, they said that the reason they flew in the centenarian tattoo artist from Kalinga was to endorse her nomination to the National Living Treasure Awards.
'She enjoyed but..'
While Whang Od enjoyed her stay, Sabawil said he would have wanted that the centenarian tattoo artist had conducted her live tattoo sessions inside a private room instead of the display located in the middle of the exhibit.
"Although nagbigay siya ng consent, sana sa magandang lugar naman siya pinagtattoo at sana hindi sa display para mapreserve 'yung energy niya," said Sabawil, who is a councilor in Buscalan, Kalinga.
Over 470 exhibits were displayed at Manila FAME. Whang Od together with Grace and Elyang, her two assistants, conducted live tattoo sessions on a small platform located in the middle of the bustling activity. The area was cordoned off by red stanchions.
Together, Whang Od, Grace and Elyang, did about 300 live tattoo sessions for the first two days of the fair.
According to Sabawil, because of the prime location, many people lined up to get a tattoo from a mambabatok – one that is done by taking a mix of soot and water and applying it to the skin using a stencil. This would then be pounded onto the skin using a stick with a thorn at the end that is rhythmically pounded. Each tattoo’s design is chosen and can range from centipedes, trees, to geometric patterns.
"Alam mo nasaktan ako eh. Nakikita niya yung mahabang pila. Siya nagdedecide kung anong tattoo design na gagawin ng dalawa. Pero siya lang gagawa nung signature niya. Siya naman, naawa siya sa mga nakapila," Sabawil explained.
(I was hurt on her behalf. She saw how long the queue was. She would decide the tattoo design that her two younger assistant will make. However, she was the only one who tattooed her signature. She continued because she pitied those who were waiting in line for her)
Sabawil added that one-hour worth of tattoo sessions could easily wear down Whang Od who claimed that she turned 100 years old on February this year. Sabawil's mother is a cousin of Apo Whang Od.
It was also Sabawil who told Philippine Tattoo Artists Guild (Philtag) President Ricky Sta. Ana that doing tattoos at the trade fair was not part of their initial agreement with the show organizers. Sabawil clarified that not all of Whang Od's relatives were informed about the provisions inside the contract.
Whang Od took home about P800,000 from all her earnings during the fair, apart from the honorarium she received from the organizers.
Overall, Sabawil said that Whang Od enjoyed her experience in Manila.
He noted how organizers stayed true to Whang Od's requests especially to travel via chopper. The old tattoo artist is no fan of vehicles. In fact, Sabawil said that the short ride from their hotel to the venue was enough to make her nauseous.
"With regards sa document with DTI-CITEM, wala na kaming magagawa. Natapos na 'yun kasi she already gave her consent. Kung may susunod man, magiingat na kami," he said.
In the contract signed by Whang Od, she agreed to a "two-day live tattooing in Manila FAME and speaking engagement for Create Philippines."
Manila FAME flew Whang Od back to Buscalan on Sunday morning, October 22 as scheduled. – Rappler.com