Organizers of Manila FAME, a trade show that celebrates culture, designs, crafts and brands, face criticism on social media when they brought the legendary “mambabatok” Apo Whang Od from Buscalan, Kalinga to NCR last Wednesday, October 18.
Apo Whang Od became prominent because of her traditional way of inking. Instead of using regular tattoo ink and needle, she uses a mixture of charcoal and water and a thorn from a calamansi or pomelo tree, which she would rhythmically pound on the skin to form various designs and geometric patterns.
She is so famous that local celebrities and even foreigners would walk for miles just to have her work of art inked on their body.
Though she was escorted by the Philippine Air Force, and it was in her contract to do a two-day live tattooing plus speaking engagement, it did not stop the netizens from crying foul for having the 100-year old artist work at the trade fair and allegedly allowing her to tattoo up to 300 attendees at the show.
One of the netizens who expressed her disappointment over the alleged exploitation is blogger Winky Scott.
According to her, the organizers charged attendees P2500 for a tattoo, P500 for a signature (3 tattoo dots) and P700 to see the centenarian at the press conference.
Her Facebook post showing Apo Whang Od sleeping during a press conference has gone viral and has stirred controversy in the social media community.
As of this writing, the post has been shared 36,000 times and has already gathered almost 80,000 reactions.
On the other hand, Manila Fame organizers have been firm that their intention was to proudly showcase her culture and not to exploit her.