Whang-Od’s grand niece defends Manila FAME event organizers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 24) — A relative of 100-year old tattoo artist Whang-Od is speaking up after concerns the legendary "mamababatok" was "exploited" during a design and lifestyle event in Metro Manila popped up on social media.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Grace Palicas, Whang-Od's grand niece and herself a tattoo artist, said they wanted to tattoo people at the Manila FAME event Whang-Od participated in last weekend. 

Concerns arose after a controversial photo showed the elderly Whang-Od sleeping during one of the event's sessions. Other netizens also hit the event and criticized the amount of people Whang-Od was made to tattoo in two days.

However, Palicas allayed fears Whang-Od and her companions were not compensated for their work. She said they had received a talent fee in accordance with their contract with the event's organizer.

"Kagustuhan po naming magtattoo sa event., kung ang alam niyo po ay kinuha ng CITEM yung mga bayad ng tattoos namin ay hindi po. Sa amin po lahat napunta ang mga yun," she said.

[Translation: We wanted to tattoo people at the event. If you think CITEM got the payment for the tattoos, they didn't. Everything went to us.]

She also appealed to netizens to put an end to the issue, using the hashtags #StoptheNegativity and #shareLove

"Kung patuloy po ang issues na ito ay parang pinagmukha niyo rin po kaming tanga.. kaya please #StopTheNegativity," Palicas added.

[Translation: If we continue to have these issues, it makes us look like we're stupid... So please #StopTheNegativity.]

Earlier, Manila FAME's organizers, the Center for International Trade and Expositions and Missions (CITEM), clarified the invitation of Whang-Od was sought through proper channels and that all her health and safety needs were addressed at the event.

They also said the invitation was coordinated with the Kalinga community of elders and other authoriites, and proceeds from Whang-Od's tattoos would go to the Kalinga elders.

"Pagbabatok" is the art of hand-tapping tattoos. Whang-Od Oggay, the last original "mambabatok" from Buscalan, Kalinga, is the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines.

She has been honing her craft since she was 15 and was nominated for the Gawad sa Manglilikha ng Bayan or the National Living Treasure Award on October 20.