Whang-Od, model gov’t workers feted in Palace rites

Whang-Od, model gov’t workers feted in Palace rites

/ 05:32 AM February 15, 2024

Whang-Od, model gov’t workers feted in Palace rites

‘SHATTERING GENDER STEREOTYPES’ That’s how President Marcos summed up one of the reasons famed Kalinga tattoo artist Maria “Whang-Od” Oggay (center) was chosen as this year’s recipient of the Presidential Medal of Merit, in ceremonies held in Malacanang on Wednesday. —PPA POOL

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday conferred the Presidential Medal of Merit on tattoo artist Maria “Whang-Od” Oggay, hailing her as a national treasure and “enabler of unity” who defied gender stereotypes to keep the skin art tradition of the Kalinga indigenous people alive.

Still active and with a spring in her step at 106, Whang-Od—the “mambabatok” who has made it to women’s magazine covers and YouTube videos—personally received the award, plus a hug, from the President.


Also honored during the ceremony in Malacañang were 22 employees and six organizations in the civil service.


In a speech, Mr. Marcos said Whang-Od’s contribution to the preservation of Philippine folk art and practices “cannot be understated.”

“She is a pioneer in shattering gender stereotypes, venturing into tattooing when it was just a man’s exclusive preserve. She is a keeper of oral traditions and a mentor, teaching a new generation of artists, thus ensuring that her art form lives on to tell tales of her community’s history,” Mr. Marcos said.

Whang-Od’s craft and renown “raised international awareness of our country’s rich cultural heritage,” he added. “As Apo Whang-Od’s works appeal to diverse cultures and across political divides, she becomes an enabler for unity and an example of an idea that binds us all. She is truly a national treasure.”

Continuing praise

Whang-Od, the President said, is one of the few remaining master mambabatok from Buscalan village in Tinglayan, Kalinga, whose achievements “make her a Filipina worthy of our respect and of our admiration.” He recalled that in 2018, Whang-Od was already honored by the government with the Dangal ng Haraya Award for Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was given by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

“Today, we continue that recognition and award her the Presidential Medal of Merit,” he added.

A member of the Butbut ethnic group, the tattoo artist learned the craft from her father, applying her skill first on the male members—the headhunters—of the tribe.


Tourists later discovered her in recent years. As her fame grew, she also began accepting women as apprentices.

According to the Official Gazette, the Presidential Medal of Merit is conferred on Filipinos and foreigners for outstanding service to the President and for gaining prestige for the country in various fields, including the arts. It may also be awarded to a retiring cultural worker or artist.

Exemplary workers

Aside from Whang-Od, a selection of exemplary government workers received from the President the Dangal ng Bayan Award or the 2023 Outstanding Public Officials and Employees Award, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Pagasa Award and the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award.

Among the Dangal ng Bayan recipients were Bernardino Dabuet, a utility worker II at the National Food Authority (NFA), who was commended for “demonstrating professionalism and excellence in service through innovative and creative approaches.” Dabuet’s skills in electrical work, carpentry, landscaping and plumbing, as well as forklift operation, machine maintenance and driving earned him the moniker “The Engineer” at the agency and “significantly reduced labor costs for the NFA,” according to a Palace statement.

Fernando Viado, an administrative aide VI or mechanic II of the Antipolo City government, was recognized for his “unwavering dedication to public service.”

He was cited for staying in the civil service—where his job mainly involves the maintenance of the city’s motor vehicles—despite prospects of higher pay and advancement in the private sector, and despite a hearing impairment caused by a work-related incident.

READ: Tattoo artist Whang-Od conferred Presidential Medal of Merit

The other 2023 Dangal ng Bayan awardees were: Eleonor Ayan, nutritionist-dietician III of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Cordillera Administrative Region (DSWD-CAR) in Baguio City; Mary Hazel Ballena, school principal II of the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division of Abra in Bangued, Abra.

Rex Bernardo, disability affairs officer III of the Camarines Norte provincial government in Daet, Camarines Norte; Bernardo Cadaon Jr., social welfare officer I of DSWD-CAR in Baguio City; Gay Galdo, special education teacher I of DepEd-Division of Davao Oriental in Mati, Davao Oriental; Fritz Juele, information technology officer I of DepEd Schools Division of Roxas City in Roxas City, Capiz.

Glenny Laping, head teacher III of DepEd Lapu-Lapu Division Office in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu; and Querino Lonsagon, master teacher II of DepEd Division of Ozamiz City in Carangan, Ozamiz City.

CSC Pagasa Award

The recipients of the CSC Pagasa Award were Venus Alboruto, education program supervisor of DepEd Schools Division of Surigao City; Vanessa Joy Calderon, senior science research specialist of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Office II in Tuguegarao City;

Drolly Claravall, associate professor V of the Isabela State University Ilagan Campus in Ilagan City, Isabela; Ericson dela Cruz, agricultural center Chief IV of the Philippine Carabao Center; Ronnalee Orteza, director III of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Philippine Science High School System in Ilocos region.

Relvin Paragua, agriculturist II of the DA Regional Office VI in Iloilo City; the DOST-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute’s Honey Team; the DOST’s Food Processing and Innovation Center in Davao City; and the Palayamanan Project Team of Bulacan Agricultural State College in San Ildefonso, Bulacan.

Lingkod Bayan

The recipients of the Presidential Lingkod Bayan award were Orlando Balderama, university professor of the Isabela State University; Ambrosio Cultura II, president of the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines in Cagayan de Oro City; Kris Christopher dela Cruz and Raquel Rivera, both master teacher I of Alaminos City National High School in Alaminos City, pangasinan; Julie Ann Salido, Professor III of the Aklan State University in Banga, Aklan.

The Baguio Lead Contact Tracing Team of the Baguio City government; Landbank Agent Banking Program Team of Land Bank of the Philippines; and S-Pass Core Team of the DOST Region VI in La Paz, Iloilo City.

The Dangal ng Bayan Award is conferred on a government employee for “performance of extraordinary act of public service and consistent demonstration of exemplary ethical behavior of an official or employee.”

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Awardees are automatically promoted to the next rank and receive P200,000. The CSC Pagasa Award is conferred on individuals or groups for their “outstanding contribution resulting from an innovative idea or outstanding performance which directly benefit more than one department of the government.”

TAGS: Bongbong Marcos, Whang-Od

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