Apo Whang-Od, a 106-year-old tattoo artist from the Philippines, will be the oldest person to ever grace the cover of Vogue with the publication of the magazine’s April edition.
Since she was a young adult, Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, has been honing the craft of hand-tapping tattoos under the guidance of her father.
She is regarded as the nation’s oldest mambabatok, or traditional Kalinga tattoo artist, and resides in the mountain town of Buscalan in Kalinga province, some 15 hours north of Manila.
Indigenous Butbut warriors used to earn the hand-tapped tattoos that Whang-Od now does using simply a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water, and coal.
Her audience is now mostly made up of foreign travelers looking for her distinctive geometric patterns.
She has been hailed as the last mambabatok of her generation, imprinting the Kalinga tribe’s symbols—which stand for beauty, courage, and strength—on the skin of hundreds of visitors to Buscalan, according to a post on social media by Vogue Philippines.
Whang Od has been teaching her grandnieces Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas for a number of years. The art can only be handed down via blood relations.
Whang Od said to CNN Travel in 2017 that “(my buddies who got tattoos) have all died away.”
Because I’m training the next tattoo masters, even though I’m the only living tattoo provider left, I’m not concerned that the tradition will disappear.
She said, “The custom will endure so long as people come in to get tattoos.
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“I will continue tattooing as long as my vision is clear; when it becomes fuzzy, I will quit.”
The publication’s employees unanimously determined that Whang-Od should appear on the cover, according to editor-in-chief of Vogue Philippines Bea Valdes. “We believed that she embodied all that we found to be admirable in Filipino culture.
The beauty of mankind is what Valdes want to speak about, adding that “we feel the notion of beauty needs to expand, and encompass varied and inclusive faces and shapes.”
Actress Judi Dench, who posed on the cover of British Vogue in 2020 at the age of 85, formerly held the title for the oldest Vogue cover model until Whang-appearance Od’s in Vogue Philippines.