Apo Whang-Od, a Filipino Indigenous tattoo artist who is 106 years old, is now Vogue’s oldest cover model. The amazing accomplishment is evidence of both her persistent talent and the value of the traditional art form she practices to culture.
At the young age of 16, Apo Whang-Od started her tattooing profession after studying the batok art from her community elders. Using a thorn dipped in soot and natural dye and mounted on a bamboo stick, the design is manually tapped into the skin using the ancient Filipino tattooing method known as batok. Apo Whang-Od is one of the last practitioners who has continued the practice after many generations.
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, and beauty—on the skin of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage to Buscalan. “When visitors come from far away,” Whang-Od says in the Butbut language, “I will give them the tatak Buscalan, tatak Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see.” – voguephilippines
Despite her elderly age, famed tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od continues to ink patrons who travel from all over the world to have a traditional batok tattoo done by her. She enjoys high regard both within and outside of her community for her abilities and commitment to maintaining this significant facet of her culture.
It should be remembered that in early August, Nas Academy came under fire for an online course on traditional tattooing that included Whang-Od and was dubbed a “scam” by her grandniece. The academy removed it but posted a video of Whang-Od and claimed to have his permission.
Apo Whang-Od has now received recognition with a Vogue cover, highlighting her as an icon of both beauty and cultural history. It is evidence of the tenacity and endurance of ancient art forms as well as the steadfastness of the Indigenous communities that preserve them.
Apo Whang-tale Od’s serves as a reminder of the beauty and knowledge that come with experience and tradition in a culture that frequently places a premium on youth and novelty. Her legacy will definitely last for many decades because of her extraordinary talent and devotion to her profession, which serve as an inspiration to artists and cultural bearers everywhere.
We can only hope that Apo Whang-tale Od’s will continue to motivate and inspire upcoming generations to safeguard their cultural heritage and respect the contributions of the past.