A 106-Year-Old Tattoo Artist Is Vogue’s Oldest-Ever Cover Star
Vogue Philippines has revealed the cover star for their April 2023 issue: 106-year-old traditional tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od. Also known as Maria Oggay, the centennial Filipino will be the oldest person to appear on the cover of Vogue. With his platinum hair, the densely tattooed artist creates a striking figure with gentle eyes and bare hands that safely bring local traditions into the 21st century.
Living in the mountain village of Buscalan in the Philippines’ Kalinga province, Apo Whang-od started learning the indigenous tradition of hand tattooing when she was a teenager. A cultural icon in its own right, Whang-Od is considered the oldest, and perhaps the last, mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattoo artist).
Once reserved for warriors from the Butbut tribe, these tattoos have high cultural significance and must be earned. Now, Whang-Od mainly works with international tourists, long pilgrims who come to Kalinga for her famous geometric designs. She believes this tradition will continue as long as people continue to come and get tattooed.
On the defense of Kalinga tattoo art processes, Apo Whang-Od said CNN travel“I’m the only one alive who still has 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 nieces Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas how to create tattoos using only bamboo sticks, pomelo thorns, water and charcoal. This art can only be passed on to people by blood, and Whang-od is training the next generation, just as her father had trained her.