Maria "Whang-od" Oggay, the Philippines's oldest surviving "mambabatok" or traditional tattoo artist, from the Butbut tribe in Kalinga is one of the recipients of the 1st HIYAS Award for Indigenous Art to be conferred by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) this September.
The Hiyas Award gives recognition to deserving individuals and/or organizations in Luzon who have exemplified commendable work and services in cultural and artistic endeavors, and have been at the forefront of the research, development, preservation, education, and promotion of arts and culture in Luzon for at least fifteen (15) years or more.
The general criteria indicate that an awardee must have made exceptional accomplishments in creative work, leadership, resource management, education, artist support, audience development, community service, solidarity, and partnership.
The 105-year-old in a Confirmation of Acceptance letter extends her gratitude on behalf of the Kalinga people for being selected as one of the awardees.
Apo Whang-od has been tattooing headhunters and women of the indigenous people of Butbut in Buscalan, Kalinga since she was 15 years old, but the Butbut warriors who used to earn tattoos by protecting villages or killing enemies no longer exist. Despite this, Whang-od continues to practice her traditional art form on tourists visiting Buscalan.
In 2017, she was nominated for the National Living Treasures Award (Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan) and awarded the Bantayog Award.