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Ancient History

People Flock To Get Tattooed By This 103-Year-Old Filipino Traditional Tattoo Artist

She was born in 1917, making her 103 years old. What makes her even more remarkable is that she’s a tattoo artist.



(TMU) – After reading this, if you ever find yourself in the Philippines, you might now be thinking about visiting Whang-Od Oggay (who also goes by Whang-od or Maria Oggay).

She was born in 1917, making her 103 years old. What makes her even more remarkable is that she’s a tattoo artist.

The journey you would need to take to see this legendary traditional Kalinga tattoo artist is no small task, it’s a 15 hour drive north of Manila to the village of Buscalan, and you can only get to this mountain village she resides in after a mile long hike through rice terraces and forest.

This doesn’t stop Whang-od receiving many visitors from all over the world.

Whang-og keeps The ancient tradition of Kalinga tattoo alive in her small village, she’s the oldest tattooist in the country, known as a Mambabatok.

At dawn each day, she creates her special “ink” from pine soot and water. She uses a foot-long bamboo stick to hand tap her designs into the skin of those who have braved the journey to Buscalan.

The handmade ink is tapped deep into the skin using the thorn and bamboo. Each design has meaning, from simple shapes to tribal prints and even animals.

Whang Od comes from the Butbut tribe, a legendary group of tribal warriors who were known for their bravery and ferociousness against people who attempted invading their land.

They were not a force to be taken lightly.


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Face tattoo… ready nako apo #kalinga #tattoo #handtaptattoo #whangod #feelgoodtraveler

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Similar to the traditional Sak Yant tattoo in Thailand, these tattoos started as a way for the Butbut warriors to commemorate a kill. For woman, it is considered a normal body art, and Whang-Od recalls having her arms and legs tattooed by her friends, and at age 15 she started learning how to create these tattoos on others.

What makes Whang-Od even more special is the fact that her father guided her in her new art, and it was considered the start of womanhood in her village to be allowed to tattoo.


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#TBT | #Philippines Yup. That was a painful experience. And yet, one of my favorite journeys so far. #WhangOd

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It’s no easy task keeping the tradition of ancient tattooing alive, in Whang-Ods culture it is believed you can only pass down the art to a blood relative. She has no children of her own but has trained her grandnieces.

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