This 103-year-old woman named Whang Od Oggay is the oldest traditional tattoo artist in the Philippines. Whang Od lives in Kalinga province located in the mountainous area in the northern Philippines and is the last mambabatok—a traditional Kalinga tattooist. This tattoo artist is a well-known master not only in the Philippines, but in other countries as well—every day, people from all around the world come here to get a tattoo from the legend herself. And in fact, their journey is far from a short one. Tourists and other visitors have to make a 15-hour drive north of Manila to the mountain village of Buscalan, which is only accessible by hiking from the nearest dirt road through a forest and rice terraces.
By the way, Bored Panda had a chance to talk to a woman, who some time ago got a tattoo from Whang Od herself, so make sure to scroll down for her answers!
People admire Whang Od because she’s the last of her kind to preserve this ancient tattoo tradition
For her traditional hand-poke tattoos, Whang Od uses a thorn from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, coal, and water. The ink that she makes herself is tapped deep into the skin using the thorn and bamboo to push it in. The tattoos she does are permanent and they range from various lines to simple shapes to tribal prints to animals, with meanings such as strength or fertility.
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When this Kalinga tattoo tradition first came about, they were only given to men who had killed someone in a battle. Fast forward to now—these pieces of art are available to everyone who manages to get here.
She’s been giving people tattoos for more than 80 years now!
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The main obstacle to keeping this tradition alive is the fact that this traditional tattoo technique can only be passed down to blood relatives. The culture believes that otherwise, the tattoos will become contaminated. Even though Whang Od has no children of her own, she’s trained her grandnieces to preserve this tradition.
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“[My friends who gave tattoos] have all passed away. 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,” the tattooist told CNN.
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A woman name Rajayana Librojo Fajatin had a chance to get a tattoo from Whang Od a year ago. “I had a 4-day trip going from Baguio to Sagada to Buscalan, where the village of Whang Od is. The villagers were friendly, and I had fun, especially with the kids. They dance to modern hits from a phone there. They respect their elders so much,” Rajayana told Bored Panda.
When asked, how she decided to get a tattoo from Whang Od, the woman told us this: “She’s been famous since I was little, but my decision of getting a tattoo from her was impulsive. I was in Baguio and I decided to go all the way up north to get to her since she’s pretty old already. But still very healthy. I got a serpent eagle tattoo on my shoulder because I wanted spiritual guidance at the time.”
Image credits: Scott L. Sorensen
“For me, Whang Od is the most beautiful woman I’ve seen,” said Rajayana. “The tattooing was not as painful as it was illustrated and lasted for less than an hour. I had it done on my right shoulder. Going down the mountains after getting a tattoo was quite exhausting, but the villagers, even the old women, can do it fastly and smoothly. Overall, a fun and humbling experience!”
Below you can see a photo of Rajayana posing with Whang Od after getting her tattoo done.
Image credits: _rajayana
Here’s what people on the internet are saying about the legendary Whang Od
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