102-Year-Old Tattooist Preserves Ancient Philippine Tattoo Tradition

Tattooing is an art of its own that is popular and embraced around the world. Historical sources say that Neolithic times have seen the beginning of the art of tattooing, while any direct evidence for tattooing is found starting from the 4th millennium BC on mummified human skin. The oldest finding is on the body of Otzi the Iceman from between 3370 and 3100BC.

While tattooing advanced, unique traditional tattoo styles developed along with it around the world. Such tattoo styles include the Batek style from the Philippines, Sak Yant from Thailand, Irezumi from Japan, Tatau from Samoa, Ta Moko from New Zealand, Ptasan from Taiwan and Mehndi from India.

102-Year-Old Philippine tattooist Whang-Od Oggay
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While some of these traditional ancient tattoo styles are on the verge of dying, this 102-year-old woman from the Philippines is keeping alive the ancient tattoo tradition in the Kalinga province.

Kalinga tattoo tradition Philippines

This amazing tattooist is Whang-Od Oggay and is the country’s oldest mambabatok (a traditional Kalinga tattooist). This tattooist is popular not only among the locals but also among the tourists. They travel a long distance just to see her.

Kalinga tattoo tradition Philippines
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She uses a thorn from a pomelo tree, coal, water and a foot-long bamboo stick to ink the tattoos, and she does multiple tattoos a day. The tattoo designs vary from simple shapes and lines to tribal prints with deep meanings embedded to them such as beauty, fertility and strength.

102-Year-Old Philippine tattooist Whang-Od Oggay
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Their belief goes such that only blood relatives can continue this tradition because otherwise the tattoos get infected. While Whang-Od does not have any children, there’s nothing to worry because she has taught the tradition to her grandnieces.

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