Arab-Israeli influencer Nuseir Yassin gets backlash for attempt to monetize protected Philippine cultural tradition

DUBAI: Arab-Israeli social media influencer Nuseir Yassin, who runs the Nas Daily vlog, has received backlash for his attempt to monetize a protected cultural tradition in the northern Philippines.

Nas Daily, which gained traction on Facebook and YouTube for featuring light and positively-vibed one-minute videos, has earlier launched an online class under its Nas Academy brand on the ancient art of tattooing.

The course features Whang-Od, the Philippines’ last and oldest mambabatok or traditional tattooist of her tribe.

The 105-year-old Whang-Od is part of the Butbut people of the larger Kalinga ethnic group, who were once known as fierce headhunters whose warriors received markings on their bodies to celebrate their victories against their enemies.

Nas Academy offered the traditional tattooing course for $15. It includes three videos, ranging from four and a half minutes to over 18 minutes long.

The course was then removed after Apo Whang-od’s grandniece Grace Palicas slammed the vlogging site as a “scam”.

“WARNING!!! Whang Od Academy is a scam. My grandmother did not sign any contract with @NasDaily to do any academy. 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,” Palicas posted in the Facebook group Tattooed by Apo Whang-Od.

Well-known social media personality and lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles, who also specializes in heritages issues and concerns, said in a Facebook post that “Nas Daily and Nas Academy attempted to make money from the cultural manifestations of the Kalinga indigenous cultural community by featuring the manner and works of Apo Whang Od.”

“This violates the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, in particular Sec. 16 Rule VI of the IRR pursuant to Sec. 29 of the law,” she wrote, which pertains to state protection of indigenous culture, traditions and institutions.

Nas Academy on Thursday maintained that the Whang-Od consented to the online course, as she herself affixed her thumbprint in the contract, “signifying her full consent” to the Whang-Od Academy.

“This is the clearest evidence that it is not a scam and achieved the consent of her and her immediate family,” Nas Academy’s statement said.

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