(A tribute to Apo Whang-Od Oggay, a National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) Elderly Filipino Week (2022) awardee for her outstanding contribution to national culture and the arts.)
In the beautiful mountainous province of Kalinga, where breathtaking sky-high views and stunning natural landscapes meet – there lived a 104 year-old centenarian named Whang-Od Oggay, the oldest living “mambabatok” not only in the Philippines but in the entire world.
Latin America-based The Victor Magazine named Apo Whang-Od, in their June 2021 issue as the oldest living tattoo artist in the world and true enough, the iconic “mambabatok” or traditional Kalinga tattooist has almost singlehandedly drawn thousands of local and foreign tourist to her small hometown village Buscalan, municipality of Tinglayan in Kalinga province.
The National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) in celebration Elderly Filipino Week (Oct. 1-7) did not fail to notice Apo Whang-Od’s greatness as she was unanimously chosen as this year’s top centenarian awardee for her outstanding contribution to national culture and the arts.
Getting through the living legend’s nest for a mini-documentary, presentation of the plaque of recognition and cash incentive was by no means an easy task although, admittedly it was all worth the trip and the experience.
It took a bunch of six young and free-spirited NCSC staff members to do the job that included a 10-hour drive from Manila, a one hour mountainous trek and a lot of guts traveling on inclement weather to the top of Apo Whang Od’s lair in Barangay Buscalan on the 6th of October.
The gallant NCSC team was composed of Kim Charles Principe, Reian Mansilungan, Melanie Silvestre, Mara Horlador, Jhas Pelgone, and Krista Cogollo.
Just before the morning uphill hike to Brgy. Buscalan, the team met with representatives from Department of Social Welfare and Development-Cordillera Autonomous Region and the Tinglayan MSWDO.
They also paid a courtesy call to Tinglayan Mayor Sacrament Gumilab and expressed gratitude for the support in coordinating with Whang-Od’s family and providing assistance to the NCSC.
The team then presented the plaque of recognition and P10,000 cash gift to Apo Whang-Od, whom they later discovered to be a huge fan of lipsticks and the blockbuster TV series “Ang Probinsiyano.”
Apo Whang-Od sent a message to senior citizens and the youth alike during a brief interview not to engage in vices like smoking and drinking in order to live a longer and healthier life.
The “rock star” in the traditional art of tattooing also shared some tips on how to live to a hundred years by saying that eating healthy, consuming plenty of vegetables and foods that have no preservatives are part of her regular routine.
Apo Whang-Od also wished the leaders and staff of the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) the best of things to come, to do their job well and make the older persons happy and protected.
The recently-concluded country-wide celebration of the Elderly Filipino Week turned out to be a rousing success despite the limited time, manpower and resources. It has truly surpassed the expectations of many.
Kudos to the NCSC Family! Long live the Elderly!