Apo Whang-Od is a traditional tattoo artist from the Philippines.
Vogue Philippines has unveiled the cover star for their April 2023 issue: 106-year-old traditional tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od. Also known as Maria Oggay, the Filipina centenarian will be the oldest person to grace the coveted cover of Vogue. With muted silver hair, the heavily tattooed artist cuts a striking figure with soft eyes and weathered hands that carried local traditions safely into the 21st century.
Living in the mountainous village of Buscalan in the Philippines’ Kalinga province, Apo Whang-od started learning the indigenous tradition of hand-tapping tattoos when she was a teenager. A cultural icon in her own right, Whang-Od is considered to be the oldest, and perhaps the last, mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattoo artist).
Once reserved for warriors from the Butbut tribe, the tattoos held high cultural significance and had to be earned. Now, Whang-Od mostly works with international visitors, who make the long pilgrimage to Kalinga for her famous geometric designs. As long as people keep coming to get tattoos, she believes that the tradition will continue.
On safeguarding the processes of Kalinga tattoo artistry, Apo Whang-Od told CNN Travel, “I’m the only one left alive that’s still giving tattoos. But I’m not afraid that the tradition will end because (I’m training) the next tattoo masters.”
For several years now, she has been teaching her grandnieces Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas how to create tattoos using only bamboo sticks, thorns from pomelo trees, water, and coal. The art can only be passed down to blood relatives, and Whang-od is training the next generation, just as her father once trained her.
International celebrities shared and commented on Apo Whang-Od cover photo.
Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry is the latest celebrity to praise the Vogue Philippines cover featuring Apo Whang-Od, who at 106 years old, is the oldest traditional Kalinga tattoo artist or “mambabatok.”
“Now THIS is real beauty,” Halle Berry wrote on Instagram, as she reposted the cover of the magazine’s beauty issue.
Top supermodel Naomi Campbell commented with three heart emojis, while “Saved by the Bell” star Mario Lopez wrote, “She’s awesome.”
Meanwhile, Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy said that it is “the best Vogue cover ever.”
“At 106 years old this Filipino icon is finally getting her flowers… Mahal kita APO WHANG-OD,” he added.
Supermodel Gigi Hadid also reposted Whang-Od’s Vogue cover on her Instagram Stories.
The said Vogue cover also made headlines in various publications abroad like CNN and NBC News.
Whang-Od’s Vogue cover was unveiled in March and was met with instant praise and admiration from people across the world.
Vogue Philippines’ cover featuring the oldest mambabatok made international news over the weekend, after it was uncovered that the 106-year-old Apo Whang Od is the oldest person the global magazine franchise has ever put on its cover. (bizleg.com; K. Tsao,GMA Integrated News)
Caption: photo credit. Shop.vogue.ph; Apo Whang-Od, Gigi Hadid, Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Mario Lopez & Law Roach ( IG)