Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, appears on the April issue of Vogue Philippines.
A 106-year-old tattoo artist from the Philippines has become the oldest-ever person to feature on the cover of Vogue magazine.
Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, appears on the April issue of Vogue Philippines displaying the hand-tapped traditional tribal tattoos that adorn her arms and chest.
Based in the mountain village of Buscalan in the Kalinga province, about a 15-hour journey from Manila, Whang-Od is considered the country’s oldest mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattoo artist).
According to the cover story, the centenarian began tapping out tattoos at the age of 16 under her father’s guidance, travelling to villages both near and far to imprint sacred symbols on the skin of both women and headhunting warriors using a bamboo stick with a thorn at the end.
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These days, international visitors make up a significant portion of her clientele.
“Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe–signifying strength, bravery, and beauty–on the skin of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage to Buscalan,” Vogue Philippines said in a post on social media.
“When visitors come from far away,” Whang-Od says in the Butbut language, “I will give them the tatak Buscalan, tatak Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see”.”
Mambabatok can only be passed down to blood relatives, and Whang-Od has been training her grandnieces Grace Palicas, 26, and Elyang Wigan, 23, for several years.
Despite living in a remote part of the country, Whang-Od is no stranger to the limelight, having appeared in 2007 Discovery Channel documentary series Tattoo Hunter. Nearly 90 at the time the documentary was made, Whang-Od still worked in the rice fields every day.
Before Whang-Od made her appearance on the cover of Vogue Philippines, actress Judi Dench held the record for being the oldest Vogue cover model – she appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 2020 at age 85.