Whang Od | Oldest Tattoo Artist

Whang Od
In this generation, most of the people think that a tattoo on the skin has a negative connotation. It can even affect your career, regardless of the talent and education you have. It was October, in 2014, in Philippine National Museum, when I saw a portrait of an old lady, with tribal tattoos on all over her body. In National Geographic, there were several documentaries featuring how significant the tattoos and pierces are, especially for the people in ancient times. Tattoos and pierces are proof that a tribe recognizes a person’s accomplishment, mostly on battles. There are several ways of tattooing around the world, depending on their geographical feature and culture. In the Northern part of the Philippines, in Buscalan, Kalinga, they call it as Batok. It is an ancient/tribal form of marking (tattooing) a warrior after a successful combat or ladies who brought pride to the tribe.

A lady named Apo Whang Od (locals pronounced it as Fang Od) is 98-years old and considered as the oldest mambabatok, from the Butbut tribe. She is petitioned to be considered as the National Living Treasure. The tattoos on her skin are proof how powerful she was during her time.

Banaue Rice Terraces
Buscalan, Kalinga is situated on the higher part of the Mountain Province, 10 to 12 hours road travel from Manila. Traveling from Manila was already a challenge, but the experience was extraordinary. Before reaching Buscalan, I had a chance to see and step on one of the former 7 New Wonders of the World – Banaue Rice Terraces (photo above). More photos, details and my travel diary, click here: Whang Od

Buscalan Rice Terraces
The village of the Butbut tribe is surrounded by the mountains, formed into a rice terraces, for farming as their primary source of livelihood. Their older way of farming was already influenced by the modern way, like using a hand tractor in cultivating rice and vegetables. They also have born-again Christian church, donated by the Koreans; and an elementary school, by the government. The ambiance at this village is really cool, the air is fresh and the surroundings are relaxing, because of its geographical location.

Butbut Village
At the village, one house captured my attention (photo above). As what you can see, the terrace is surrounded by hanging bones, skulls, and teeth; they maybe from wild animals, hunted by the locals. Finally, it’s my time to be a warrior. Photos below will explain how Batok is done by Apo Whang Od:

Whang Od Tattoo
First, drawing the pattern, using the charcoal dust, mixed with water.
Whang Od Tattoo Designs
Second, leaving the color in the skin, by hammering a bamboo with thorn on one side.
Tribal Tattoo
Selfie with Apo on the background
Oldest Tattoo Artist
Blood with swelling muscles (click image to enlarge)
Whang Od Price
Photo shoot with the greatest mambabatok
Tribal Tattoo
The thorn, between two lovers
Ancient Tattoo
My *batok after 24 hours
I’ve been part of the show business for two years; meeting and talking to famous Philippine showbiz personalities and politicians are nothing, than meeting Apo Whang Od. I am now marked by the powerful hands of the National Living Treasure (legally, not yet). This mark means success and prosperity, perfect for the forthcoming Chinese New Year. Meeting and marked by Apo is already a success and prosperity for my future. More photos and my travel diaries, click here: Whang Od