Social media is abuzz after Arab Israeli vlogger Nuseir Yassin a.k.a. Nas Daily introduced a course on the “Ancient Art of Tattooing.” The instructor? None other than our National Artist Whang-Od Oggay of Buscalan, Kalinga herself. Sounds like an intriguing and exciting class you’d be tempted to enroll in, huh? Whang-Od is the “last” and oldest mambabatok tattoo artist and at 104 years old, so it’d be cool to see her teach her skills. But yesterday, the artist’s grandniece herself came forward and claimed that the entire thing was a scam. Here’s what happened.
[Updated August 5, 2021; 2:27 PM to include Nas Academy’s statement.]
Nas Daily and his Nas Academy
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know who Nas Daily is, or at least are familiar with his face. He became famous for documenting his 1,000 days of travel across the globe through interesting one-minute videos. After that adventure ended in 2019, he went on to on creating videos focusing on specific countries — the Philippines included — and building his own Nas Academy.
Yassin launched Nas Academy in 2020 as a “platform for world-class learning.” Creators and instructors get a chance to teach others about their craft and at the same time earn from sharing their knowledge. You can find paid courses on anything from marketing, video editing, and even classes on finance.
The Whang-od Tattoo Academy
Yikes what’s going on here? pic.twitter.com/XqHR35Yi2p
— Tammy David (@tammydavid) August 4, 2021
Pinoys and Yassin have a great relationship. He even has a Nas Daily Tagalog page dedicated to us Filipinos. But things turned sour when he launched a new course named “Learn the Ancient Art of Tattooing.”
According to the description, the class would have Apo Whang-Od, the last traditional tattoo artist from the old Kalinga generation, “reveal all her rituals, tools, and methods for making traditional tattoos.”
It sounds like a course you’d be interested in, right? After all, aspiring tattoo artists wouldn’t need to travel for two days just to visit a national treasure like her and learn her ways. For P750, anyone would be able to learn all about traditional tattooing from the comforts of home. But that’s exactly what made red warning lights start flashing.
Apo Whang-Od’s niece asks for help
Gracia Palicas took to Facebook to warn people that Yassin’s course is a scam. “Whang Od Academy is not real,” she starts in a now-deleted post. Palicas, Whang-Od’s grandniece, continues to say that when the Nas Academy team reached out to her grandmother, “she did not understand what the translators are saying.” In short, talks were made without Whang-Od’s clear consent.
Exploiting indigenous people
Now, Nas Academy isn’t all bad. In fact, our very own Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray has her own class there — “How To Be A Queen” for P1,450. But Yassin seems to have crossed a line with his Whang-Od Tattoo Academy.
“My grandmother did not sign any contract with Nas Daily to do any academy,” Palicas writes anew on the Facebook group Tattooed By Apo Whang-Od. “[Some] people are taking advantage of our culture. PLEASE HELP US STOP this disrespect to the legacy of Apo Whang Od and the Butbot Tribe.”
Filipino tradition should be preserved
Pinoys online immediately supported Palicas’ call for help. “This feels so wrong [because] indigenous tribes here in [PH] don’t just teach their practices to someone outside of their tribe,” one Twitter user commented.
“And those outside any tribe shouldn’t be the ones to decide that a particular culture is to be taught or not,” said another.
Another Twitter user said: “Batok is called an ancient, traditional practice for a reason; no one should be passing these techniques on except the people it belongs to.”
What Yassin missed while creating his whole course is that Filipino tradition, like any other tradition of a tribe or race out there, is sacred. They are meant to be passed down from generation to generation and not be broadcasted on mainstream media as if it’s a regular classroom course. Most of all, all that knowledge and history is not worth a measly P750.
Many Pinoys took the issue as an opportunity to air their grievances toward the vlogger. Yassin has used the Philippines numerous times as the subject for his videos. He even interviewed Senator Manny Pacquiao in his podcast, Nas Talks. Many are calling him out for using Filipinos to gain views a.k.a Pinoy baiting.
“Nas daily is just feeding [Filipinos’] hunger for validation from foreigners Colonization at its finest,” one netizen wrote.
“Are we really surprised that Nas Daily did that sh*t when he’s been exploiting thirsty Filipinos who long for validation from foreigners, isn’t he basically a pioneer in Filipino-baiting,” said another.
What do Pinoys have to say for it?
The course’s “exploiting of an indigenous tribe’s culture” obviously did not sit well with Filipinos. After a few hours of Palicas posting on Facebook, “Nas Daily” climbed the trends. Filipino netizens didn’t hesitate to express their dismay and anger.
What happened to the course?
Following the backlash, Nas Academy thankfully removed the course from its platform. While the move was a little bit late (they obviously shouldn’t have given it a go signal anyway), Pinoys are still relieved.
What does Yassin himself have to say for it?
Nas Academy published a statement on Facebook that the claim that the Whang-Od Course was not a scam, and that the allegations were “falsehoods.” Whang-Od, they say, is aware of what the course is, and she had signed a contract with her thumbprint.
“Out of respect for her family, we temporarily took down Whang-Od Academy while we resolve any issues that have arisen from these falsehoods,” the post reads.
It looks like this story is far from over.
What do you think of Nas Daily making a course taught by Whang-Od? Share your comments with us below!