Exploring Apo Whang-Od’s Influence in the Tattoo World

Inking is not new. It may look like a fun, modern pastime, but it’s an ancient art. Tattoos and inks have been part of tribal cultures worldwide for centuries. Before tattoo guns and needles, tattoos were made with rose thorns, shark teeth, and other materials. One 106-year-old woman keeps alive her tattoo culture, even though the oldest known techniques are long forgotten.

Who is Apo Whang Od?

Woman Gets Inked By Oldest 106YO Tattoo Artist Apo Whang-Od

Apo Whang Od, a 106-year-old Filipino woman, keeps history alive by tattooing people with the 1,000-year-old practice of Batok. Whang Od is regarded as the oldest tattoo artist on the planet. She is a celebrity who has even appeared on Vogue’s cover.


The remote village of Buscalan is home to the famed tattoo artist, known for being the last mambabatok of her generation. She has a long 12-hour journey to Manila, the Philippines’ capital. A sign greets travelers as soon as they enter the municipality of Tinglayan in Kalinga.

While modern communications are not yet fully available in the village, a few houses have WiFi, and the town does not receive cell signals. Apo Whang Oggay, aka Maria Oggay, has witnessed all the changes that have taken place in the village.

Oggay began hand-tapping her tattoos as a teenager. But it wasn’t until 15 years ago that her clientele boomed, and she began working outside Cordillera. Now, thousands are waiting for an appointment to get tattooed by this legend.

Tourist Gets Tattoo from Oldest Artist Living

Beatrice, a tourist from the United States, decided to visit the remote village and get tattooed. Beatrice was unlike many tattoo fans coming to Whang Od’s studio. She had never had a tattoo done on her. Her first tattoo was one of the most painful she would ever have to endure, but it is also the only one with more value than black ink.

Whang Od’s tattoo ink consists mainly of charcoal and distilled water. After the ink is mixed, it’s tapped into the skin using a thorn of citrus fruit, such as a pomelo or a cabana. In the viral video, Beatrice gets a tattoo on her upper arm while she writhes in pain.


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