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Apo Whang-Od Did Not Consent to Teach at Nas Academy - NCIP

Apo Whang-od did not consent to teach her craft at Nas Academy and did not affix her thumbmark to the "grossly onerous" contract.

 |  9 min read

YouTuber Nas Daily is allegedly exploiting Apo Whang-od, one of the Philippines living treasures.
YouTuber Nas Daily is allegedly exploiting Apo Whang-od, one of the Philippines living treasures.

Nas Daily denies Whang-Od Academy Scam

In a Facebook post, content creator Nuseir Yassin, popularly known as Nas Daily, issued a statement attesting that the Whang-Od Academy is legitimate.

Dear Philippines!

There has been a post circulating online regarding our beloved Whang-Od Academy. The post claims that Whang-Od has no knowledge of the Academy and that this is a scam.

Gracia Palicas, Apo Whang-od's granddaughter is sending everyone a warning that Nas Daily is exploiting her grandmother.
Gracia Palicas, Apo Whang-od's granddaughter is sending everyone a warning that Nas Daily is exploiting her grandmother.

As a company, we have been champions of the Philippines from Day 1, so this makes us very sad to hear. Let us set the record straight.

We approached Whang-Od because just like you, we love her. We love her traditions, and are inspired by her. We wanted to share her culture for future generations to appreciate and respect the ancient Kalinga tradition of mambabatok. So we pitched her family the idea of creating Whang-Od Academy. Her and her family present both loved this idea, and have worked WITH US to build it, with Whang-Od teaching herself. As a matter of fact, Whang-Od's trusted niece, Estella Palangdao, was present and translated the content of the contract prior to Whang-Od affixing her thumbprint, signifying her full consent to the project. This is the clearest evidence that it is not a scam and achieved the consent of her and her immediate family.

Everybody was compensated for their time, and for every sale the Whang-Od Academy generates, most of it went directly to her and her family. We just provided the technology and the marketing.

So naturally, when we saw the falsehoods circulating online, we were sad. The truth is often times not as simple as a "tweet". And online falsehoods can be dangerous. Out of respect for her family, we temporarily took down Whang-Od Academy while we resolve any issues that have arisen from these falsehoods.

40% of Nas Academy is made up of Filipinos. So for us, this is personal. We care deeply about the Philippines and respect the many cultures and traditions that exist across the country. And we have all come together to make the world a better place.

Thank you for supporting our mission!

Watch the video below:

NCIP - Cordillera responds

On the issue of NAS DAILY involving Apo Whang-od, NCCA Dangal ng Haraya 2018 (Achievement Awardee).

Here is the official statement of ATTY MARLON P. BOSANTOG, Regional Director, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, CAR.

"NCIP-CAR is made aware of the issue surrounding our revered mambabatok Apo Whang-od and a certain blogger. Rest assured that appropriate intervention is initiated.

We are thankful for the immediate response and concern from the public. It shows that the exploitation of our Indigenous Peoples is a public matter deserving of moral outrage. We do really welcome endeavors to promote, protect, and advocate our cultures and their ancestral bearers. However, attempts to monetize without consent, diminish, and demean such practices and even its Peoples, will be dealt with harshly by appropriate penal laws.

Please continue to stand and speak with us as we continue to mainstream Indigenous Concerns."

In his update he added: "Certainly, we celebrate the artistic expression of Apo Whang-od and will not stand in her capacity to enter into private contracts. However, recently, the Kalinga community had made known their claim on certain tattoo designs as belonging to the entire Indigenous Community being an expression of their culture and traditions, and such they opposed the usage of the same by a well-known clothing brand. Indigenous Peoples have Intellectual Property claims to cultural expressions and there are issues of cultural intellectual property that intersect in the art of Apo Whang-od.

Bandying on social media a contract is not a proof of compliance. The NCIP will make our review and onsite validation and interview, whether the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent process should have then implemented on this incident."

Anthropologist Explains what went wrong

According to UP Diliman Anthropology Professor Nestor Castro, whose dissertation for his doctorate degree was focused on the politics of ethnic identity in the Philippines, Nas Daily does not understand Kalinga culture.

Apo Whang-od is not just an individual artist but a member of the Butbut Tribe of Kalinga, which means "her skill on the art of traditional tattooing is derived from the indigenous knowledge of generations of Kalinga ancestors", the professor explains.

Photo of Whang-od from Lars Krutak, Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal, 2010
Photo of Whang-od from Lars Krutak, Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal, 2010

Nas Academy, the online ed-tech platform of Nuseir Yassin (a.k.a. Nas Daily), announced in its website that it is offering of a course on Kalinga traditional tattooing. Called Whang-od Academy, the course's lecturer - Kalinga traditional tattoo artist Whang-od from Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga - would allegedly "reveal all the rituals, tools, and methods for making tattoos."

This plan was then exposed by Whang-od's grandniece Gracia Palicas who called the course a "scam" and claimed that her grandaunt did not sign any contract with Nas Daily or Nas Academy. In a Facebook post, Palicas said, "Some people are taking advantage of our culture. PLEASE HELP US STOP this disrespect to Apo Whang Od and the Butbot Tribe." Nas Daily countered that the Whang-od Academy is not a scam and uploaded a video showing that Whang-od used a thumbprint in signing the contract with them.

So what is the problem? First, Nas Daily does not understand Kalinga culture. Whang-od is not just an individual artist but she is also a member of the Butbut Tribe of Kalinga. Her skill on the art of traditional tattooing is derived from the indigenous knowledge of generations of Kalinga ancestors. Thus, this indigenous knowledge is collectively owned (although it may be individually practiced) by the Butbut. Thus, the consent of the members of the Butbut is necessary if this knowledge is to be shared to outsiders. Getting the permission of one individual is not enough.

Secondly, Nas Daily does not know Philippine law, more particularly Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations. Free and prior informed consent (FPIC) is required when the knowledge of indigenous peoples is used for commercial purposes. This consent is secured from the members of the ancestral domain, in this case the members of the Butbut Tribe and not from just one individual or her family. This is especially true of the Whang-od Academy will reveal to outsiders about the indigenous community's rituals. The agreement between the parties should also be written in English and the local Kinalingga language and witnessed by the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

I believe that the problem can still be corrected if Nas Daily respects Kalinga culture and follows the law.

NCIP On Apo Whang-od to teach the Kalinga Art of Tattooing on Nas Academy

Igorot tattoo artist Apo Whang-od did not consent to teach her craft via Nas Academy's online platform and did not affix her thumbmark to the "grossly onerous" contract, an investigation of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) showed.

After due review of the contract and personal interview of NCIP-CAR led by its Regional Director, Atty. Marlon P. Bosantog with Maria Oggay popularly known as "Apo Whang-od," her family, and the elders and leaders of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga on 17 August 2021, the following findings were observed:

  1. Apo Whang-od did not consent or was made aware to teach the Kalinga Art of tattoing in Nas Academy.
  2. Apo Whang-od is not aware of any contract and she did not affix her thumb mark in any contract for this account.
  3. No provision of the contract was explained or discussed to her or to her representative, or what was assured of her is external to the terms of the contract.
  4. The contract was grossly onerous on the part of Apo Whang-od. The contract states that the Nas Academy has exclusive ownership of any content that the show would produce including the likeness, image, voice, etc of Apo Whang-od and such ownership is in perpetuity, inclusive of the right alteration and the right to assign and transfer the same without consent. Furthermore, the law of Singapore shall govern said contract.
  5. Ms. Stella Palangdao (Apo Whang-od representative) stated that the provisions of the contract were not explained to them except that they were made to sign the contract of filming, interview, photography, and release of such.
  6. When the validation team compared the thumb mark affixed by Apo Whang-od in the contract to that of one she affixed in a clean piece of paper, there is apparent disparity. The same is now the subject of further forensic study.
  7. The art of tattooing is a cultural expression and it is practiced by the ICCs/IPs of Kalinga. Teaching of said cultural manifestation or expression in an open platform accessible to millions of people would render it generic and thus it would lose its authenticity and cultural meaning. This would also discourage the next generation to learn and carry on with the tradition. The online platform can also lead to the demise of their culture driven tourism industry. This is the sentiment and collective affirmation of the elders and traditional leaders during the dialogue.

NCIP On Apo Whang-od to teach the Kalinga Art of Tattooing on Nas Academy (page 1)
NCIP On Apo Whang-od to teach the Kalinga Art of Tattooing on Nas Academy (page 1)

The NCIP said it would assist Apo Whang-od and the Buscalan community should they decide to pursue legal action. Under Philippine law, an entire community's permission must be secured should an endeavor involve indigenous systems and knowledge.

  1. As provided under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the consent of the community must be sought if it involves the Indigenous Knowledge System and Practices of the community.
  2. Proponents/Researchers must notify the concerned agencies (NCIP, LGU) before conducting any activities within the ancestral domain.
  3. Should Apo Whang-od and/or the community pursue legal actions, NCIP will provide legal assistance.
  4. Visitors who are dealing with Apo Whang-od must be culturally sensitive and shall exert proper and due diligence considering her stature as a culture bearer of the community.
  5. Policy considerations and legislative adjustments are required in order to protect and preserve indigenous intellectual property rights.

NCIP On Apo Whang-od to teach the Kalinga Art of Tattooing on Nas Academy (page 2)
NCIP On Apo Whang-od to teach the Kalinga Art of Tattooing on Nas Academy (page 2)


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