In the Philippines, Tattooing has been a part of Filipino life since pre-Hispanic colonization. You can find the famous tattooed indigenous peoples in this country resided in north Luzon, especially among the Bontoc, Kalinga and Ifugao peoples.
One of them is the famous “Apo Whang-Od” or also known as Maria Oggay, she is often described as the last and oldest ‘mambabatok’ (traditional Kalinga tattooist) of her generation.
Apo Whang-Od is a Filipina tattoo artist from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines and she was part of the Butbut people of the larger Kalinga ethnic group.
Last February 17, the oldest “mambabatok” celebrated her 102nd birthday in her hometown
When the famous ‘mambabatok’ reaches the age of 100 in 2017, she becomes eligible to receive the benefits based on the Centenarians Act of 2016 or Republic Act 10868 wherein the government will provide a corresponding monetary allowance for people who have reached this age.
At first, she had a problem because she has no birth certificates to attest her age, but with the help of different individuals, she was able to get a postal ID which she uses to claim her benefits.
At the age of 15, she started her hand-tapped tattoo, which she inherits from her father. Tattoo on the body is a symbol of strength and courage for Butbut warriors and other indigenous groups in the Philippines.
Traditionally, this hand-tapped tattoos in Kalinga called “batok” were earned by indigenous Butbut warriors.
Apo Whang-Od paints meaningful geometric designs on the skin using only homemade ink but is said to be more painful than a tattoo machine. Her technique only requires a few tools: a thorn from a lemon or pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, coal scraped off a pot, and water.
Many local and international tourists flock to her village in Buscalan to get inked with traditional Kalinga designs and took a selfie with her, including some famous Filipino celebrities like Aiza Seguerra and partner Liza Dino, and her favorite actor, Coco Martin
On June 25, 2018, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts awarded Apo Whang-Od the prestigious “Dangal of Haraya” in Tabuk, Kalinga.
Apo Whang-Od’s life was also featured on various television programs and reports worldwide.
In fact, there were also suggestions and proposals to make Apo Whang-Od as a National Artist for the National Living Treasures (GAMABA) because of her excellence as the last and oldest ‘mambabatok’ in the Philippines.