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Apo Whang-Od Receives Presidential Medal of Merit: Honoring a Cultural Icon

Apo Whang-Od awarded Presidential Medal of Merit for traditional tattoo artistry by President Marcos, recognizing her cultural significance.

Apo Whang-Od is honored with the Presidential Medal of Merit for her traditional tattoo artistry by President Marcos, acknowledging her cultural significance.

In a heartwarming ceremony on February 14th, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. bestowed the prestigious Presidential Medal of Merit upon Apo Whang-Od, the venerable 106-year-old Igorot traditional mambabatok artist from the Butbut tribe in Kalinga.

This esteemed recognition celebrates Whang-Od's profound contributions to Philippine traditional arts and her pivotal role in preserving indigenous cultural heritage.

A Trailblazer in Breaking Gender Stereotypes

President Marcos Jr. lauded Whang-Od as a pioneer in defying gender norms, venturing into the male-dominated realm of tattooing at the tender age of 15.

He remarked, "She is a pioneer in shattering gender stereotypes, venturing into tattooing when it was just a man's exclusive preserve." Whang-Od's unwavering dedication to her craft and her resilience in the face of societal barriers exemplify her status as a trailblazer in empowering women within the artistic sphere.

Preserving Cultural Heritage Through Artistry

At the heart of Whang-Od's legacy lies her steadfast commitment to preserving oral traditions and mentoring younger generations of artists. President Marcos Jr. emphasized her role as a guardian of cultural heritage, stating, "She is a keeper of oral traditions and a mentor, teaching a new generation of artists, thus ensuring that her art form lives on to tell tales of her community's history." Through her intricate hand-tapped tattoos, Whang-Od not only immortalizes the stories of her community but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of Philippine culture.

A Symbol of Unity and National Pride

Whang-Od's influence transcends geographical boundaries, captivating audiences from diverse backgrounds and political affiliations. President Marcos Jr. remarked, "As Apo Whang-Od's works appeal to diverse cultures and across political divides, she becomes an enabler for unity and an example of an idea that binds us all." Indeed, Whang-Od's artistry serves as a powerful conduit for cultural exchange and dialogue, bridging gaps and fostering a sense of national unity and pride.

An Emblem of Filipino Excellence

The conferral of the Presidential Medal of Merit upon Whang-Od underscores her status as a national treasure and a beacon of Filipino excellence. President Marcos Jr. expressed admiration for Whang-Od's international acclaim, stating, "We are honoring Apo Whang Od for works that have made her and the country famous, for achievements that make her a Filipino worthy of our respect and admiration." Whang-Od's accolades not only elevate her personal achievements but also shine a spotlight on the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines on the global stage.

Understanding the Presidential Medal of Merit

The Presidential Medal of Merit is a prestigious award bestowed upon individuals who have delivered outstanding service to the President, the administration, or Cabinet members. Additionally, it is given to individuals who have gained prestige for the country in various fields such as literature, the sciences, the arts, entertainment, and other civilian endeavors that foster national pride and artistic excellence. This honor also extends to retiring cultural workers or artists who have served the government in an official or advisory capacity, foreign artists who have promoted Philippine culture, and individuals who have provided acts of merit that enhance the prestige of the Philippines.


In honoring Apo Whang-Od with the Presidential Medal of Merit, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pays tribute to a living legend whose artistry transcends generations and borders. Whang-Od's indelible legacy as a traditional mambabatok artist from the Butbut tribe in Kalinga serves as a testament to the power of tradition, resilience, and cultural pride. As we celebrate her remarkable achievements, let us draw inspiration from her story and strive to preserve and cherish the diverse cultural tapestry that defines the Filipino identity.

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