By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

OUTSTANDING GOV’T WORKERS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (4th from left) on Wednesday (Feb. 14, 2024) leads the awarding rites for the 2023 Outstanding Government Workers at Malacañan Palace in Manila. The awarding is part of the Civil Service Commission’s Honor Awards Program honoring civil servants for their utmost dedication and commitment to public service. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday pledged to improve the working conditions in the government to ensure the professional development of civil servants in the country.

Marcos made the vow, as he hailed the 2023 Outstanding Government Workers’ consistent delivery of “quality public service regardless of their position or their pay.”

Leading the Civil Service Commission’s Honor Awards Program (HAP) in a ceremony at Malacañan Palace in Manila, Marcos said the outstanding government workers’ “remarkable and honest” work has made a “positive impact on the lives of the Filipino people.”

“Standing solidly on our nation’s bedrock belief that public office is a public trust, our 2023 Outstanding Government Workers project the image of an ideal Filipino government worker. They didn’t set out to do things that would earn them praise or to reap rewards,” Marcos said.

“Because it is what they feel is their duty, the duty they owe to the people.”

The HAP has three award categories – the Presidential Lingkod Bayan, the CSC Pagasa Award, and the Dangal ng Bayan Award.

The HAP awards are the most coveted recognition given by the Philippine government to individuals or group of individuals who have excelled or shown utmost dedication and commitment to public service.

Marcos hailed the HAP awardees for making a difference in the lives of the people they serve by “respond(ing) with audacity (and) turning bold ideas into reality.”

“You go extra mile to provide creative and innovative solutions to emerging challenges, such as in the areas of food security, education, social development, climate and disaster resilience, science and technology, and financial literacy,” he said.

“In Bagong Pilipinas (a New Philippines), we want to increase their tribe in line with our efforts to build a resilient government driven by agile and future ready civil servants. This government will always support efforts that will improve your welfare,” Marcos added.

Apo Whang-od

Meanwhile, Marcos also conferred the Presidential Medal of Merit to Maria “Whang-od” Oggay, a Filipina centenarian who holds the distinguished title of “Mambabatok” or a master tattooist of “batek,” the folk skin inscriptions of Kalinga.

Marcos said Apo Whang-od, Kalinga’s oldest living tattoo artist, is “truly a national treasure,” stressing that her work makes her an “enabler for unity and an example of an idea that binds us all.”

He added that her contributions to the preservation of Philippine traditional arts and practices cannot be overstated.

“We are honoring Apo Whang-od for works that have made her and the country famous, for other achievements that make her a Filipina worthy of our respect and of our admiration. She is a pioneer in shattering gender stereotypes, venturing into tattooing when it was just a man’s exclusive preserve,” Marcos said.

“She is a keeper of oral traditions and a mentor, teaching a new generation of artists, thus ensuring that her art form lives on to tell tales of her community’s history. Her craft and stature as an internationally recognized artist raised international awareness of our country’s rich cultural heritage.”

Known for its distinctively symmetric and intricate designs detailing the valor and bravery of ancient tribal warriors, “batek” is a traditional Filipino body art applied through a hand-tapped pricking method using intrinsic instruments, such as carabao horns and fruit thorns.

Whang-od’s tattoos have garnered recognition both locally and abroad, with tourists flocking to her village and seeking for her. She has two successors in her grandnieces, ensuring the continuation of the thousand-year-old craft for another generation. (PNA)