Maria Oggay, otherwise known as Apo Whang-Od, is the oldest practitioner of a centuries-old practice called batok tattooing. This unique hand-tapping technique involves using a stick and thorn to make patterns and designs on the skin.
Whang-Od is a renowned mambabatok, or traditional tattoo artist, who hails from the isolated village of Buscalan in Kalinga province. Her home lies 15 hours away from the bustling streets of Manila. She is a master at the batok technique of tattooing—a method that involves tapping by hand using a stick and thorn to achieve desired results. It has been used for centuries and she’s an expert at it.
Image | Vogue Philippines/Instagram
A remarkable milestone was achieved recently when Vogue Philippines chose 106-year-old Apo Whang-Od to be on the cover of their latest issue – making her the oldest person ever to be featured in the magazine.
Whang-Od is a celebrated figure who made it to the cover of Vogue magazine, setting an example for other members of indigenous communities.
According to Vogue Philippines, Whang-Od’s journey with traditional tattooing started when she was 16 years old. She learned the craft from her father and has since become a master of the technique. In the article, she mentioned that she was the pioneer mambabatok at that time, having to travel near and far to ink the sacred symbols of their ancestors on those who have crossed or are about to cross a threshold in their lives.