Vogue Philippines released its April issue on Friday and its newest cover model is an 106-year-old indigenous Kalinga woman, Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay.
Whang-Od, from the small mountain village of Buscalan in the Philippines, is considered the country’s oldest mambabatok (traditional tattooist). She has become famous for mastering a 1,000-year-old “batok” tattooing technique, which uses a traditional tapping method utilizing charcoal soot and a sharp stick. She began learning the traditional method from her father at 16 years old, the magazine reported.
“Apo Maria 'Whang-Od' Oggay symbolizes the strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit," Vogue Philippines wrote in a tweet. "Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe signifying strength, bravery & beauty on the skin."
Her artwork has driven waves of tattoo tourism to the Philippines, where people from all over the world visit her to receive one of her legendary designs, according to Vogue.
Whang-Od has passed down her knowledge to her grandnieces, Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas, whom she has trained in the tattooing art for several years, she told Vogue. Her work has inspired a new generation of batok artists in the Philippines and United States, the magazine reported.
“When visitors come from far away,” Whang-Od told Vogue in the Butbut language, “I will give them the tatak Buscalan, tatak Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see.”
Whang-Od is the face of Vogue Philippines’ Beauty issue, which “also highlights the female gaze,” according to the magazine.