December 4, 2022

The contract between Nas Academy and Apo Whang-od has been nullified and voided by the parties during reconciliation talks between the Singapore-based group and the Butbut community organized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.  

The Nas Academy, together with ranking NCIP officials and Kalinga leaders, went to Barangay Buscalan in Tinglayan to meet with the Butbut elders and residents on Oct. 22.

The Nas Academy led by its Philippine operation head, Jacqueline Maya Lim, has apologized to Whang-od and to the Butbut residents, including other concerned indigenous cultural communities, for the contract it earlier inked with the oldest traditional tattooist and her family, which was heavily criticized by the public for not going through the proper customary process.

“We went to Kalinga to humbly pay our respects to Apo Whang-Od, her family, and the entire community. We are honored to meet with all the chiefs of the five communities of the Butbut, including Buscalan village chief Leon Baydon, through the help of NCIP. We had an open discussion in front of the whole community to understand one another, came to a resolution, and then decided on how to move forward,” Lim said in a press release.

In a short video clip released by Nas Academy, the visiting group is seen dancing and sharing a meal with the Butbut residents as a sign of reconciliation.

Nas Academy claimed the Butbut elders and leaders have accepted its apology, as the elders also reiterated to the team that the traditional art of tattooing is not exclusive to Whang-od but it encompasses indigenous cultural communities of Kalinga.

Last year, 68 Kalinga elders and leaders, including government officials, passed a resolution affirming collective ownership of the tattoo patterns or designs, which are part of their indigenous property. The signatories also cautioned all concerned that using these patterns/designs requires their prior consent.

NCIP-Cordillera Director Marlon Bosantog said the Butbut community has decided not to have the art of tattooing be part of the lineup of the online learning platform of Nas Academy.

In July this year, Nas Academy led by Nuseir Yassin, best known as “Nas Daily,” posted in its website that the art of traditional tattooing by Whang-od will be part of its digital classes. 

Days later, Grace Palicas, grandniece of Whang-od, in her social media post, called the online class a scam, saying her grandmother did not sign any contract with the content creator.  

The group denied this and has shown a video clip of Whang-od, accompanied by her relatives, putting a thumbmark on a contract. The NCIP-CAR later found out that the contract is erroneous and that Whang-od stated the she did not understand its content. 

When asked how the NCIP-CAR would prevent the situation from happening in the future, Bosantog said those wanting to go to the indigenous cultural communities should have proper coordination with the agency.

“There should be a proper coordination with the NCIP on that area as we have the formal data on who to talk to, or the council of elders and if it involves community cultural properties,” Bosantog said.  – Ofelia C. Empian