Saturday, March 7, 2015

Whang Od at Grace: Ang mga Mambabatok ng Buscalan, Kalinga

The art and tradition of "pambabatok " continues in the village of Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga Province. Ninety-six year old Apo Whang Od carries on the Butbut Tribe's tradition of inking skin using the hand-tapping method.

With Whang Od's advanced age, the said traditional art is in danger of being lost forever. Fortunately, she had passed on the skill to her 18-year old grandniece, Grace, who took a strong interest in the art of tattooing as early as the age of ten.

Two weeks ago, I have had the privilege of witnessing two generations of mambabatoks working side by side, and in one instance, as can be seen in this video, continuing the work of the other. It was indeed a wonderful sight to behold, the old and new generation, bound by blood, tradition, and culture, keeping the art of tribal tattooing alive.

And yes, I journeyed to Buscalan to have the honor of getting a batok from a living treasure, a heroine of her tribe in her own right. I am humbled and honored to have a piece of the Kalinga culture, history, and tradition woven into my skin. Not only does my batok showcase our proud Philippine heritage, it also carries a deeper, special meaning for me.

Sending you happy thoughts...

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