I visited Whang-od or Fang-od of Buscalan, Kalinga in Philippine last year with my daughter and a group of photographer friends. Whang-od is the last Kalinga membantok or tattoo artist from Buscalan, Kalinga. I was not aware that she is quite well known among the tribal tattoo artist until I googled her. A small framed 95 years old woman with shy eyes and I can see that she has that colorful vibrant personality too. You can read details about Whang-od and her tattooing skill here at Lars Krutak: Tattoo Antropologist. And, if you enjoy street photography please feel free to browse through my Zenfolio gallery here at Street in North Luzon, Philippines for more photos of my journey there.
It was not easy to reach her at her village. We started our approximately 4 hours journey to Buscalan, Kalinga from Segada via our cramped transport van. The road was narrow and winding but the view of the mountain was superb. I love mountains and greens … and more mountain … and … more more mountains, 😉 I know … this will never end.
We spent one night at the village and the whole morning roaming around every corner of the village mingling around with the uncles, aunties and children there. The highlight event of the day was watching Whang-od at work, giving her tattoo services to a few of her willing customers. I used to feel fascinated by people with tattoos, maybe because previously tattoos were earned. The tattoo bearer’s (especially in a certain tribal group) were entitled to wear their tattoos as a medal of evidence to show life accomplishment such as the act of bravery or courageousness or a rank within their community. In our modern world now, tattooing are more towards fashion statements or body art and anybody can wear tattoos according to their personal liking.
Honestly, after half an hour of watching Whang-od carving on her customer’s skin while listening to the soft repetitive tapping sound of her needle, made me sleepy and my eyes started to wonder around my surroundings, hunting for interesting subject of colour to simulate my senses. Then, I noticed Whang-od’s jewelry. Wow, such a stylish lady she was … with abundant glass beads necklaces hanging on her neck and her striking colored hair decoration. The beads were mostly glass beads mixed with a few ceramic beads. I was informed that most of the beads were family heirloom passed down by her ancestors. And, I noticed her earrings too, a pair of silver earring charm that symbolized good luck.
If I had known earlier that Whang-od loved beads then I would probably bring along some beads for her as a souvenir. A good tip for anyone who plan to visit her, bring along some gorgeous beads for her 🙂 and I bet she would love it for sure.
To tell you the truth, glass bead has never been my kind of bead maybe because it looks a bit old fashion, heavy, fragile and most importantly man-made (I love natural stones). But, seeing Whang-od with her heirloom glass beads … hmmm makes me want to have my own unique glass beads collection too but trying to get hold of a one-of-a-kind glass bead here in Kuala Lumpur is not easy. Maybe I will get lucky and stumble upon them during my next visit to Xinjiang and Tashkurgan Country, China and yeah maybe I will share it here.
So, what did I get for myself during this trip? Yes!! … I bought my own Kalinga native silver charm as an addition to my treasure chest collection. Ruel told me that the shape represent ‘good luck’ by the Kalinga native. Super cool right? Up until today, I still can’t figure out how to wear this charm. Should I wear it as a pendant or should I just tie it to my leather bracelet?