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She is Apo Whang Od

 Apo Whang Od the legendary

Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, is an extraordinary tattoo artist from the village of Buscalan in Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines. Born on February 17, 1917, she is renowned as the last and oldest practitioner of Kalinga tattooing.

Whang-od Oggay, also recognized as Apo Whang-Od, is a renowned Filipino tattoo artisan hailing from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines. Often hailed as the final and most senior mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist), she belongs to the Butbut community within the broader Kalinga ethnic group. With a tattooing career spanning more than 80 years, she epitomizes the profound cultural legacy of the Kalinga people. Employing a traditional approach, Whang-od utilizes a thorn sourced from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, and soot as ink. This age-old method, practiced by the Butbut tribe for generations, serves to symbolize aspects such as status, courage, and aesthetics. Despite her advanced age, Whang-od persistently engages in both the practice and transmission of this traditional craft to younger generations, including her grandnieces. Her stature as a living legend resonates deeply, symbolizing the enduring richness of the Philippines' cultural heritage.


Let's explore her captivating journey:

Background: Apo Whang-Od belongs to the Butbut people, a subgroup of the Kalinga ethnic group.Starting at the age of 15, she began tattooing Butbut headhunters and women, following the traditional practice where warriors earned tattoos through acts of combat.Even after the end of tribal warfare, Apo Whang-Od continues to carry on the tradition by tattooing tourists who visit Buscalan.

Unique Skills: Apo Whang-Od specializes in the ancient art of batok, which involves hand-tapping tattoos. She primarily communicates in Kalinga, her native language, and Ilocano, a widely spoken language in Northern Luzon, rather than Tagalog or English. Her designs hold deep symbolic meanings specific to the mambabatok culture.

Legacy and Recognition: In April 2023, at the remarkable age of 106, Apo Whang-Od graced the cover of Vogue Philippines' Beauty Issue, making her the oldest person ever featured in Vogue. In 2018, she received the prestigious Dangal ng Haraya Award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).She was also nominated for the National Living Treasures Award (Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan) in 2017.

Training the Next Generation: Apo Whang-Od has been actively training and inspiring the next generation of tattoo artists, including her grandniece Grace Palicas, who works alongside her in Buscalan.Apo Whang-Od's indelible impact on Filipino identity and her unwavering commitment to preserving this ancient art form have made her an iconic figure in the world of tattooing.

Sabay sabay tayong mag SANA ALL APO WHANG OD πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Papa Piolo Pascual yan oh!


Video from Alvin Alcantara








Is Whang-od still actively imparting the art of traditional tattooing to younger generations?

Indeed, Whang-od remains deeply involved in teaching the younger members of her tribe this ancient craft. Despite her advancing age, she persists in passing on her wisdom and expertise, ensuring the continuity and flourishing of this revered tradition. She stands as a remarkable inspiration, embodying the profound cultural legacy of the Philippines.


Her steadfast dedication to safeguarding this traditional art has garnered recognition not only within her community but also at the national level. Recently, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Merit in acknowledgment of her significant contributions to Filipino culture and arts.

It's truly remarkable, isn't it? The fervor and dedication she exhibits toward her craft are undeniably admirable.







Whang-od's teaching of traditional tattooing to younger generations holds immense significance, both culturally and historically. Here are a few reasons why:


  • Preservation of Cultural Heritage: Through her mentorship of younger generations, Whang-od safeguards the traditional Kalinga tattooing, known as "batok," from disappearing. This ancient art form is deeply entrenched in Kalinga culture, carrying profound symbolic significance reflecting the tribe's identity, beliefs, and historical narratives.
  • Community Empowerment: Whang-od's teachings empower the youth by equipping them with a distinctive skill set that can be utilized for economic opportunities. The influx of tourists to Buscalan seeking tattoos from Whang-od or her apprentices contributes significantly to the local economy.
  • Recognition and Reverence for Indigenous Traditions: Whang-od's endeavors have garnered recognition and reverence for indigenous cultural practices. Through her teachings, she educates both locals and visitors about the rich cultural legacy of the Kalinga people, emphasizing the importance of preserving and respecting these age-old traditions.
  • Sustaining Tribal Identity: In Kalinga culture, tattoos serve as more than mere body adornments; they are emblematic of tribal identity. By passing down the art of tattooing, Whang-od ensures the perpetuation of this aspect of tribal identity for forthcoming generations.
  • Living Heritage: Whang-od represents a living bridge to the past, connecting present generations directly to the historical customs of the Kalinga people. Her teachings offer a tangible link to the ancestral practices, making history vivid and palpable for the youth.

Isn't her contribution truly remarkable? It transcends mere tattoo artistry, encompassing the profound endeavor of preserving her people's cultural heritage for posterity.


Could you provide more information regarding Apo Whang-Od's nomination for the National Living Treasures Award?

Apo Whang-Od, the renowned tattoo artisan, was formally nominated for the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA), also known as the National Living Treasures Award. The nomination was put forth by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). This prestigious accolade acknowledges individuals who have made substantial strides in conserving and promoting traditional Philippine arts and crafts.


Apo Whang-Od's nomination for the National Living Treasures Award occurred during the October 2020 Manila FAME event held at the World Trade Center Metro Manila. It celebrates her extraordinary mastery of traditional tattooing, as well as her dedication to passing on this ancient craft to younger generations.


Unfortunately, specific details regarding the outcome of the nomination or whether she received the award remain elusive. Nonetheless, the nomination itself underscores the significance of Apo Whang-Od's contributions to Filipino culture and the recognition she has garnered for her exceptional talent.









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