A Filipino tattoo artist who has been in the practice for more than nine decades has become Vogue’s new cover star at the age of 106.
Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, is a master of hand tapping tattoos and has been perfecting the art since she was a teenager.
Appearing on the cover of Vogue Philippines, she has become the oldest ever star of the global fashion magazine, beating the previous titleholder, the then 85-year-old Dame Judi Dench.
The tattoo artist comes from the mountain village of Buscalan, 15 hours north of the capital Manila in Kalinga province.
She makes her designs using a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal.
Tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od, 106, graces Vogue Philippines cover of her beauty issue, becoming global fashion magazine’s oldest-ever cover star
In a social media post, Vogue Philippines said: “Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe – meaning strength, courage and beauty – on the skins of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage . to Buscalan.’
The tattoos date back to the time of native Butbut warriors, who earned the inks for their service.
But now the centenarian artist is attracting visitors from all over the world in search of her geometric designs.
Since the art of tattooing can only be passed on to blood relatives, Whang-Od is currently teaching the younger generation in her family how to practice the art.
The centenarian (pictured in 2012) is the oldest known traditional Kalinga tattoo artist
The tattoo artist herself inked entirely in geometric patterns and has been practicing the art since she was a teenager
Whang-Od, aka Maria Oggay, receives clients from all over the world who travel to get inked by her
The centenarian performs the practice using bamboo sticks, tree thorns, water and coal and is currently teaching her grandnieces the practice
For several years she has been training her great-nieces, Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas.
In 2017, the tattoo artist told CNN travel: “(My friends who got tattoos) are all dead.”
“I’m the only one still alive and still getting tattoos. But I’m not afraid the tradition will end because (I’m training) the next tattoo masters.’
She added, “The tradition will continue as long as people keep coming to get tattoos.”
Whang-Od continued that she would continue to tattoo other people as long as her vision was clear.
Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes said it was a unanimous decision by the publication’s staff to put Whang-Od on the cover.
She said the tattoo artist represented everything that was “beautiful” about Philippine culture.
“We believe the concept of beauty should evolve to include diverse and inclusive faces and shapes. What we hope to talk about is the beauty of humanity,” Valdes said.
After publishing the cover, the tattoo artist’s Instagram account posted the photo with the caption, “Beauty embracing culture. Beauty that transcends age. Beauty is not modern, it is timeless.’
In 2018, Apo Whang-Od appeared in Tatler Asia. Whang-Od’s grandniece Elyang told the publication at the time, “My Apo is the strongest, bravest woman I’ve ever known. I’ve tried all my life to be like them.
“It’s like she’s the foundation of our whole community. We all know that when she dies, everything will change.’