Vogue Philippines has released its latest editions, and 106-year-old tattoo artist Apo Whang-od features on the cover.
Apo Whang-od is a 106-year-old woman who has become Vogue’s oldest-ever cover model. She is a tattoo artist who hails from the mountain village of Buscalan in the Kalinga province of the Philippines.
Whang-od, also known as Maria Oggay, is known as the oldest mambabatok in the Philippines. A mambabatok is a traditional Kalinga tattooist.
Apo Whang-od – representing the beauty of the culture of the Philippines
The 106-year-old Filipina tattoo artist has made history by becoming the oldest model to ever appear on a Vogue cover.
She has been tattooing head-hunters and the women of the indigenous people of Butbut in Buscalan, Kalinga, since she was 15 years old.
While the tradition of tattooing Butbut warriors who protected villages or killed enemies is no longer in existence, Whang-od continues to practice her traditional art form on tourists visiting her native village.
Whang-od only converses in her native language from her region, Kalinga, and does not speak Tagalog or English.
Vogue’s oldest ever cover model – 106-year-old indigenous artist
Vogue Philippines’ April 2023 edition is a special one, as it features the wonderful Filipina artist Apo Whang-od.
Vogue posted shots of the upcoming April cover on social media, saying, “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”.
The mambabatok tradition – ensuring it lives on
People travel from far and wide to receive tattoos from Apo Whang-od, travelling 12 hours by car from Manila and 40 minutes walking through the rice terraces to get to her.
According to Kalinga, the mambabatok tradition can only be passed down through blood relatives. As Whang-od never had any direct children of her own, she has been training her grand-niece, Grace Palicas, since she was ten years old.
Now 26 years old, Palicas and her cousin Elyang Wigan have a tattoo practice of their own, ensuring the mambabatok tradition will live on, just as their great-aunt has ensured.