You’re never too old to be on the cover of Vogue—as exemplified by Apo Whang-Od, an indigenous tattoo artist in the Philippines who is gracing the April issue of the Philippine edition aged (wait for it) 106. Apo Whang-Od, who is from Buscalan, a remote, mountainous village in the Kalinga province of the northern Philippines, began tattooing at 16. “Apo Whang-Od, the sprightly centenarian also known as Maria Oggay, has been hand tapping tattoos on skin since she was a teenager,” Vogue reports, describing how Whang-Od is passing down through the generations the ancient art of batok which involves inscribing the tattoo into the skin, using a thorn dipped in soot and natural dye (ouch). “The first and only female mambabatok [traditional Kalinga tattooist] of her time, Whang-Od would travel to far and neighbouring villages, summoned by host communities to imprint the sacred symbols of their ancestors on individuals who have crossed or about to cross a threshold in their lives,” Vogue adds. Tourists, especially Generation Z kids, are flocking to Buscalan for the rather tortuous traditional tattooing treatment.
Apo Maria “Whang-Od” Oggay symbolizes the strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit.
Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe signifying strength, bravery & beauty on the skin.
— Vogue Philippines (@vogueph) March 30, 2023