106-Year-Old Filipino Tattoo Artist Got Featured On The Cover Page Of Vogue’s Beauty Issue
The Vogue Philippines magazine has stunned everyone with its April 2023 beauty issue cover. Featuring a 106-year-old indigenous tattoo artist, the magazine has provided an excellent change of narrative for fashion magazine covers.
Apo Whang Od, aka Maria Oggay, the Filipino woman who became the oldest cover star of Vogue, is a tattoo artist trying to keep the traditional hand-tapped body art alive. She has been inking people since she was 16 years old and the artist has also been recognized and respected as a significant person in her culture as she took up the challenge of mixing pine-soot ink and applying by-hand designs which were only done by men before.
She is described as the oldest mambabatok in the large Kalinga ethnic group. According to Kalinga, “Batok” art form can only be passed down to blood relatives. Whang-Od who learned it from her father decided to train her grand-niece Grace Palicas because she never had children of her own.
Grace is now 26 years old and is trying to carry forward her family tradition by practicing this art form. She wants to keep the tradition alive for a very long time just like her grandmother.
Used as a status symbol amongst the headhunters of Kalinga earlier, the Mamababatok art has been practiced for more than a thousand years in the Philippines. After years of tattooing within her community, Whang Od decided to take the art form to people outside of her community. As her fame grew, people from all over the world visited her village to get tattooed by her. “When visitors come from far away, I will give them the mark of Buscalan, the mark of Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see,” Whang-Od told Vogue.
According to Vogue Philippines, “Apo Whang-Od’s life is inscribed in her skin, from accomplishments to ailments and names of long-gone lovers. It tells a story of bravery, beauty, and the rich heritage of the Kalinga tribe.”