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Apo Whang Od

Mamjamana Apo Whang-Od.

Mamjamana Buscalan.

It’s not everyday you get to take a beautiful portrait shot of our country’s last and oldest original Mambabatok and a National living Treasure.

Years ago, I’ve always wanted to meet the legendary, lola - Apo Whang Od. One of The Philippines National living Treasures and the last of the original Mambabatok. The road towards her was not easy, but after a challenging January, I realized that I needed to learn something my Kuya told me to. And I realized I needed to do something for myself.

After a 10 hour grueling drive with a lot of sharp turns in one of the worlds most dangerous roads , an almost 1.5 hour plane ride from Cebu, a 2 hour climb to 2 different mountains, and waking up early morning while driving in extreme darkness, all I hoped was to see her and take her photo.

I wanted to take a portait shot of her capturing her emotion, I’ve always been fascinated with humans and creatures and how their eyes speak. Being the the last original mambabatok, and being a national living treasure, taking her photo would mean a whole lot.

When I met her personally after the long walk, Our guide, Solomon told her in their language that we brought goodies for her and their family, she was smiling and I was really happy even though I didn’t understand their language. They toured us around and they were very hospitable. Very caring.

Later on, Manong Bob, Manong Franc, Nang Maricel had their three dots signature tattoos done. I told Nang Maricel I didn’t think I could take a portait since a group of 14 arrived. When I saw the groups arriving I was sad, but right away accepted that I wouldn’t be able to take the portait I wanted, my friend from Cebu told me it was difficult since she would usually be busy the whole day, and even her nephew said taking a portrait is difficult since she’s not always in the mood for it.

Although I was a bit heartbroken, I told them I was happy since I got to see her and I did take some photos of her tattooing people, I was Happy too that I got to know her family and the people there and got to see Northern Luzon’s beauty and appreciated the Philippines more.

However, while we were in their home to get our stuff, believe it or not. Apo walked and I started tearing up, she started dressing up and then she invited us over preparing for the portait photo I was going to take of her. After I took a couple of photos she even spoke in their native to Solomon that we should have lunch with them in their home.

Motivation. Acceptance. Patience - these are 3 things I learned from this quick trip. Believe it or not, in the end, I was able to take this beautiful portrait of her - Smiling - which is rare.

Thank you ate Meg for guiding me on what to do and for introducing me to Solomon, Apos nephew. Noy Bob and Noy Francis for driving me all the way, Nang Maricel for assisting me throughout the trip. Te Rose and Michelle for helping me pack up, most importantly Ralph who helped me when things were looking bad in Sagada. Papa for incessantly calling and making sure we were okay and for the trip, my Mama for the guidance and my siblings, and lastly and most importantly to God. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you.

Thank you. Mamjamana.

Oh and guess what, she’s turning 104 years old this February 17 according to her sister, amazing right?

-Jas Sarmiento, jassiewassy|020420©jaswsj




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