Apo Whang Od: Tattoo, Price, Location, Age

Apo Whang Od
Apo Whang Od is an indigenous tattoo artist from Kalinga province who uses an old style of tattooing called "Batok," or traditional hand-tapped tattooing. She became prominent because she has been featured on some local TV shows, international documentaries, magazines and others. Photos below will show the beauty of Buscalan, Kalinga and their traditional "batok."

This event was organized by TakeFive Outdoors. Let's not talk about the pain from the tattooing yet; travelling from Manila to Buscalan, Kalinga is literally a pain the ass because it's a 12-hour land travel, including a few stop over by the high way. ETD from Manila was at 9:40 PM. ETA in Bontoc, Mountain Province was around 6:30 AM. ETA at the jump off/Parking Area was 8:40 AM.

After getting off the van, I felt a rewarding ambiance - it was a very cool and relaxing ambience. The next part was an hour assault trek to Butbut Tribe in Tinglayan. No worries about the hiking part, pathways to the village were already concrete. While on the trail, I saw that the surroundings appear like a huge painting on the background because of the mountains, covered with greens and colorful ornamental plants.

We reached the village around 9:30 AM. Similar to what I mentioned earlier,  the weather is cool plus the people are welcoming. We proceeded to a locals house offering a "homestay." To welcome us, they offered a coffee made from roasted rice. Rested for almost an hour and had a walk in the village. The cute animals such as pigs and chicken scattered everywhere and are living like locals.

Grace Palicas, Whang Od's grandniece

Ilyang Wigan, a bloodline successor
We were few meters away from a spot with a lot of people encircling somebody. I already new that we finally reached the area where the "batok" is being performed because of the sound of two sticks being hand-tapped. Whang Od, Grace and Ilyang, the lines were like scenario from a movie house with a blockbuster movie screening. Instead, had my paparazzi mode activated, with Whang Od's photos below:

Together with the other event participants, we waited up until 4PM to have a chance to get at least the Whang Od's signature (the 3 dots) and they were able to have it. Since I already have a tattoo from Whang Od with the signature, I tried waiting for Grace or Ilyang, however, I failed. Then, I went back to the homestay where I met "May-A," a 13-year old girl and one of the youngest mambabatoks in the tribe. I showed her the arrangement of my designs and let her do it. Since it was already dark, we were unable to finish the entire design. Had our dinner and slept.

My body automatically wakes up at around 3 in the morning even without setting an alarm, even though I was tired because of our travel to Kalinga, I was unable to go back to sleep. Instead, had my iPod turned on and listened to Linkin Park songs, checked on my photos while the others were still sleeping. When a beam of light passed through a space and appeared on the wall, I grabbed my camera, stood up and went out the house to check the cold-foggy surroundings.

As expected, Buscalan, Kalinga has an amazing ambiance during the day and in the evening. When I opened the door, was wearing a sando, I easily felt the fresh cool wind then proceeded to the rice-field area to see the village surrounded with fog. Other tourists were also unstoppable to capture that moment.

Traditionally, a tattoo is a sign of strength, power, wealth and beauty. In Buscalan, Kalinga, Batok already existed thousand years ago earned by the male warriors and headhunters after a successful battle or protecting their village against enemies while Batok for women means beauty and wealth. Its ink is composed of a mixture of charcoal and water, hand-tapped into the skin using a pair of stick with a thorn of a calamansi or pomelo tree at the end.

Another elder with tattoos on her arm.

May-A and Me, after the tattoo session.

I was the last one to have a tattoo. So, after the session had my breakfast with the others. Packed our things and descended. Since my tattoos were still fresh, it hurts every time that my bag shoulder strap hits it but was able to manage. The photo above was taken by the jump off, a proof that Tinglayan, Buscalan, Kalinga is a MUST visit place! I will definitely be back here. Next was another 12 hour travel back to Manila.

THE MEANING: The Serpent Eagle for guidance or someone is watching over us. The Sun/circle in the middle is for success and prosperity and a Scorpion for Courage.

MY OWN INTERPRETATION: "my original plan was to have an image similar to an arrow pointing upwards (like the serpent eagle) that symbolizes moving up or aim for the highest. Circle for prosperity and success. Six triangles with dots inside on top of the circle is for me and my 5 siblings. Scorpion is for courage and my zodiac sign. Also, my  personality is like a scorpion, very calm and silent but poisonous, hahahaha. cheret lang!

THE POSITION: Why it's on my upper right back?
I want a tattoo placed on the my back and can only be seen if I am wearing a sando or topless. I am left handed and want the tattoo on the opposite side, which is upper right back side. Using my left hand, I need to touch or reach the tattoo, meaning, I want that the moving up attitude, success, prosperity, courage be reachable whatever happens.

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