Elders and leaders: Kalinga tattoos are collective properties of the Kalinga community

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BAGUIO CITY – Following the attempts of private corporations, most from the clothing and fashion industry, to allocate tattoo patterns and/or designs as their individual property and endeavor to appropriate the same for commerce, Kalinga elders and leaders through their customary decision making, immortalized their stand via community resolution necessitating all to secure first prior consent from the Kalinga people before their tattoos or designs can used beyond its customary purpose.

The Kalinga community resolution reads, “…affirming our tattoo pattern or design as part of our indigenous property and resultantly requiring all interested entity making use of these patterns/designs to secure our prior consent”.

“We, Indigenous Cultural Communities / Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) of Kalinga was alarmed of the attempt of others to allocate unto themselves these Kalinga tattoo pattern/design as their personal and individual property and endeavor to appropriate as theirs for money to the prejudice, damage and loss of the collective owner, the whole YKalinga”, underscored by the Kalinga elders and leaders.

Kalinga elders and leaders recognized that their tattoo designs, not limited to the python, anthropomorrphs, centipede (gayaman) eagle (ginaya-gayang; bukaw; binukabuka), horn (sinaksak’od, sinaksakgod), ladder (mer-erchan, iner-erdan), lizard (inurti-it; inur-urtiit, silay), matte (inob-ofog, inob-obok), mond (sinor sorag; sorag), ribcage (pinerpertang), rice bundles (tinpoytalu), snake (urog, tinab-tab-bad) and tie-band (binulibod) have already gained universal attribution to have cradled from Kalinga province and its people, and that are owned collectively by the Kalinga people and those yet unborn. Therefore, cannot be owned by a single individual.

They emphasized that the long practice and carry-over from generations to generations immortalized many of their cultures and practices to the world. Thus, the Kalinga tattoos and designs is one of the indubitable and unmistaken Kalinga cultural manifestation and identity, in which almost anyone, can ascertain where and who it sprouted from.

Not less than the world renowned Apo Whang-od Oggay, during the validation process conducted by NCIP Kalinga, recognized that no single individual can claim ownership to the tattoo designs as the same belongs to the entirety of the Kalinga collective community. Hence, any appropriation to be made thereof like, incorporating Kalinga tattoo designs in clothing apparels for commerce, necessitates the need to secure first the consent of the collective Kalinga community.

In retrospect, the Kalinga tattoos and designs became the subject of appropriation by known clothing apparels namely, NEW ERA and VANS Philippines. NCIP – CAR early January 2020 called the attention of NEW ERA. Said clothing apparel sought to incorporate the Kalinga tattoo designs in their products which gained notoriety from the indigenous community. VANS Philippine followed thereafter sometime November 2020.

NEW ERA was then advised to go through the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process. While VANS Philippines was asked by NCIP to hold in abeyance the release of their products bearing the Kalinga tattoo designs. Both NEW ERA and VANS Philippines, as of this writing, have yet to secure prior consent from the Kalinga community.

Meanwhile, NCIP – CAR disseminated resolution of the Kalinga elders and leaders to VANS Philippines. NCIP – CAR further reiterated to the latter that they must undergo the FPIC process. NCIP – CAR committed the stand by the community resolution of the Kalinga, and ensured that the words carved therein, coming from the Kalinga elders and leaders, will be respected and be re-echoed beyond Kalinga, and even outside the country.

“Now therefore resolved, as it is hereby resolved, so that the general public be informed that [the] tattoo python pattern/design among others are owned collectively by the YKalinga as part of its cultural manifestation, […] and that anyone dealing with our Kalinga tattoo design should secure first our consent”, the community resolution stressed. // Rocky Ngalob