an excerpt from an anthropological study, which provides background on a recent encounter between a young visionary and a national treasure…..

an excerpt from an anthropological study, which provides background on a recent encounter between a young visionary and a national treasure…..

89-year-old Whang Od never married and dedicated her life to tattooing. She is the last Kalinga mambabatok or tattoo artist.

89-year-old Whang Od never married and dedicated her life to tattooing. She is the last Kalingamambabatok or tattoo artist.

PERPETUALLY SHROUDED IN MIST, the Kalinga village of Buscalan sits high up in the Cordillera Mountains of northern Luzon, Philippines. Although all of the tattooed warriors are now gone, the village is teeming with tattooed elderly women that wear the artistry of the last Kalinga tattoo artist: 89-year-old Whang Od who learned the art of batok (tattoo) from her father.

Whang Od is a graceful woman who despite her age continues to work in her family’s rice fields nearly everyday. That may seem like nothing special, but then again Buscalan sits high atop the ridge of a mountain that dives 1,500 feet down towards a raging river that feeds numerous terraced rice fields below. Every morning at sunrise, Whang Od scales down some one-thousand stairs that shimmer in morning dew passing waterfalls and lush foliage in her worn-out flip-flops that have lost their treads. After reaching the river, she heads one mile upstream on a series of treacherous and muddy footpaths that eventually lead to her family’s rice terraces. She works all day until the heat of the afternoon sun drains all of her strength. Just after 4pm, the trek back up the mountain begins and Whang Od now has a fifty pound basket of rice attached to her forehead with a tumpline. Singing a few melodies along the way, she takes care to not miss a step and slowly, and very methodically, she plods her way up the staircase that seems to have no end. Once she reaches her hut, the rice basket comes to rest on the creaky wooden floor and then she immediately begins to prepare her dinner consisting of rice, greens, and a little pork that was gifted to her. As the sun starts to fade, crisp mountain air begins to permeate the cracks of the wooden walls of the house and Whang Od moves closer to the fire in her kitchen where she always sleeps. Tomorrow, she will repeat her routine as she has for over seventy years.

Melissa Yeung

Basic Information

Founded 2007 – Everyone’s Got Heart!

Got Heart Foundation empowers marginalized communities around the Philippines by developing sustainable social enterprises. Our goal is to celebrate sustainable, holistically-developed, independent and dignified communities.

Company Overview

Got Heart Foundation Inc. (Got Heart) is a non-stock, non-profit, non-governmental organization that aims to celebrate SHInDigs! (Sustainable, Holistically Developed, Independent and Dignified Communities) – something truly worth celebrating!MissionTo create a space for all those who’s Got Heart – all those who can help, needs help, and all those who want to help but don’t know how to be involved in social development and environmental sustainability and contribute to nation-building.
Our role is to bring out the heart in each one and strategically link the right hearts together in order to create a sound support system what will enable each person or business to contribute in the creation of SHInDigs!


1. Social enterprise development for grassroots communities.
2. Employment opportunities and practical skills trainings for unemployed individuals.
3. Grassroots financial management education.
4. Consultancy for corporate social and environmental responsibility.
5. Collaboration with professionals and institutions to scale-up best practices.


Melissa writes:

Getting a tattoo from the last living Kalinga tattoo master, Whang Od. Probably my most excruciatingly painful physical experience so far (just managed to smile here) — But it’s worth it! 😀



About rictandag @rictandag @LVHelpGro Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer, Tandag, Surigao del Sur, Republic of the Philippines 1979-1980; Financial Management training Program [FMP], G.E., Appliance Park, Louisville, Kentucky 1981-1982 Champion [two days] Jeopardy 1986 Attorney, Los Angeles, CA 1989-1995 Disabiility Rights Attorney,, Las Vegas 1998-1999 Immigration Asylum Attorney, throughout the State of Kansas 1999-2001 Supply Logistics Specialist, UPS Las Vegas, 2006- present [business] advocate for: [Gawad Kalinga, tagalog for "to give care"]
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