Indigenous Filipino tattooist Whang-Od amazes at 106 years old

Last update: February 29, 2024

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Vogue Philippines has recently released its April issue featuring a 106-year-old indigenous Kalinga woman, Apo Whang-Od, as its newest cover model. Known as the last mambabatok of her generation, Whang-Od has become famous for preserving the 1,000-year-old “batok” tattooing technique, which uses a traditional tapping method utilizing charcoal soot and a sharp stick.

According to NBC News, Whang-Od started learning the traditional method from her father when she was only 16 years old. Her artwork has attracted tattoo tourism to the Philippines, where people from all over the world visit her to receive one of her legendary designs.

Despite her age, Whang-Od plans to continue the tradition of hand-tapping tattoos for "as long as her eyes can see," she told Vogue Philippines. She has also passed down her knowledge to her grandnieces, Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas, whom she has trained in the tattooing art for several years.

But beyond her remarkable skills and age, Whang-Od symbolizes the strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit. As Vogue Philippines wrote in a tweet, "she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe signifying strength, bravery & beauty on the skin.

Moreover, as reported by NBC News, Whang-Od's work has inspired a new generation of Batok artists in the Philippines and the United States.

The unique angle of this article lies in the fact that Apo Whang-Od represents more than just a skilled tattoo artist. She is a living embodiment of the Philippines' cultural heritage, a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Filipino people, and a source of inspiration for generations to come.

In a world where traditional cultures are disappearing and being replaced by modern lifestyles, Apo Whang-Od stands out as a shining example of the importance of preserving and celebrating cultural traditions. As long as she continues to pass down her knowledge and inspire others, the 1,000-year-old Batok tattooing technique will continue to thrive and endure.

Overall, Apo Whang-Od is a true icon for the Philippines and the world, reminding us of the beauty and value of our cultural heritage.

Watch Apo Whang-Od tattooing the traditional way

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