Credit by Whang Od – The Kalinga Tattoo Maker © contented.cc
“When you die, they will take away all your accessories, but not your tattoos”
PEOPLE Philippines

“When you die, they will take away all your accessories, but not your tattoos”

Grace Palicas, Whang Od's apprentice | looloo iNSIGHTS
Grace Palicas, Whang Od's apprentice | looloo iNSIGHTS

Meet the coolest 100-year-old ever.

Whang Od has dedicated her entire life to the traditional hand-tapped body art of her tribe. She is the last remaining tattoo artist of the Kaling tribe in the Philippines.

In a hilltop hut in the Cordillera mountains, Od has tattooed everyone from her friends and neighbours to worldly travellers who pass by.

Apparently, born on 17 February 1917, Od’s boyfriend and love of her life died during the war when she was 25-years-old, and she’s never married.

As the last remaining master tattooist, when she dies there will be no one else to carry on the tradition. In fear of the tradition dying out, Od teaches her sister’s granddaughter Grace the ancient Filipino body art, along with a younger generation of women, in the hope that the art form is kept alive for many more years to come.

Whang-od Oggay is considered as the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut people in Buscalan Kalinga and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. She was tattooed when she was a teenager. Each of her arms took one day to be finished and her family paid bundles of rice for it. When her tattoo was completed her father killed a pig to celebrate it. This ancient technique of tattoing is called batok that dates back a thousand years before her time is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques. | imgur.com
Whang-od Oggay is considered as the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut people in Buscalan Kalinga and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. She was tattooed when she was a teenager. Each of her arms took one day to be finished and her family paid bundles of rice for it. When her tattoo was completed her father killed a pig to celebrate it. This ancient technique of tattoing is called batok that dates back a thousand years before her time is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques. | imgur.com

The Last Mambabatok, a short film that is part of While I’m Still Here Legacy Project by Foster Visuals, takes us into the world of Whang-Od and her great grandniece, Grace Palicas. Her wrinkled hands and focused eyes demonstrate total control as she performs the ritual. “When you die, they will take away all your accessories,” she says in the video. “Only your tattoos will remain with you.”

“The first tattoo I got was a ladder and a python,” Od said. “Parents tattooed their daughters because it made them prettier.

Traditionally, the tribe didn’t accept money for their work but modern life has changed that:

“Before we didn’t tattoo for money, but now times have changed. Thanks to the money from tattoos, I can buy more pigs and hens.

Apo Whang Od is the oldest and the last of the
Apo Whang Od is the oldest and the last of the "mambabatok" or traditional hand-tap tattoo artist in Kalinga, Philippines. (SunStar File Photo) 

The ink used is a mixture of charcoal and water, and is inserted in the skin with the broken end of trees or thorns. With extraordinary patience, Whang-Od produces beautiful geometric figures tap by tap. This method is slower and more painful than modern ones, but thousands of people travel to this tiny village every year for the experience of getting a tattoo by the village elder, who is quite possibly the world’s most hardcore tattoo artist.

Od’s work varies in design, but some creations are kept for certain individuals:

“There are designs only for warriors, like the eagle, that cannot be tattooed on anyone else. Speaking of her own future, Od never wants to stop doing what she loves: “I want to live more than a hundred years and continue to be a tattoo maker.”

Source and reference : Huffpost UK | Atlas Obscura | Coconut Philippines 

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