Press Release
October 2, 2015


Responding to calls from netizens, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday urged her colleagues to nominate as National Living Treasures Igorot tattoo artist Wang-od Oggay and traditional dance advocate Ligaya Fernando Amilbangsa.

Santiago, author of the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, has filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 1602, expressing the sense of the Senate to nominate Wang-Od and Amilbangsa for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan.

"The admirable contributions of these two women cannot go unnoticed. In an era where distractions abound thanks to information technology, they successfully raise awareness on traditional art forms that are otherwise dying," the senator said.

Santiago's resolution responds to the recently launched social media campaign to recognize as national artist Wang-Od, 97, who is said to be one of the last mambabatuk or ancient tattoo artists in the Cordilleras.

The petition highlighted how Wang-Od continues to create interest for the batuk, ancient marks once worn by women of the Cordilleras as symbols of beauty and by male headhunters as brands of strong warriors, especially among the youth and foreign tourists.

"Wang-Od's work has not only preserved an important cultural heritage among Filipinos, but has also created for her community a source of livelihood by attracting tourists," Santiago said in her resolution.

Her inclusion of Amilbangsa in the proposed nomination, meanwhile, comes after the Senate in August adopted a resolution commending Amilbangsa for winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award for her work to preserve the traditional dance Pangalay.

The Magsaysay Award, which is also called the Asian Nobel Prize and which Santiago won as Immigration commissioner in 1988, cited Amilbangsa for her "single-minded crusade in preserving the endangered artistic heritage of the southern Philippines."

Pangalay is believed to have spread to the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan area from India even before Islam and Christianity arrived. Amilbangsa, 71, has travelled all over the country and across Asia both to study and teach the dance. She also published a book on Pangalay in 1983.

"Both Wang-Od and Amilbangsa fulfill the minimum requirements to be honored as National Living Treasures," the senator said, referring to Republic Act No. 7355 or the Manlilikha ng Bayan Act, which includes as criteria technical and creative skill, artistic quality, character and integrity, among others.

The Gawad sa Manlilikha sa Bayan honors Filipino citizens or groups from indigenous or traditional cultural communities engaged in traditional art. It was created in 1992, and is administered by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

If given the award, Wang-Od and Amilbangsa will be entitled to an initial grant of P100,000 and a lifetime stipend of P14,000 a month. They may also avail of up to P750,000 in medical and hospitalization benefits, and funeral assistance similar to that given national artists.

Only 13 recipients have been given the Gawad sa Manlilikha sa Bayan. These include T'boli princess Lang Dulay, known for producing intricately patterned T'nalak cloth from abaca; Iloilo epic chanter Frederico Caballero; and artist and poet Ginaw Bilog from Oriental Mindoro.

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