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106-year-old Filipino woman is oldest person to grace Vogue cover

Gracing the April cover of Vogue Philippines, Apo Whang-Od is considered the nation's oldest mambabatok, or traditional tattooist.
106-year-old Filipino woman is oldest person to grace Vogue cover
Posted at 8:54 AM, Apr 03, 2023

At 106 years old, Apo Whang-Od (also known as Maria Oggay), has become the oldest person to grace a Vogue cover.

The indigenous Filipino woman of the Kalinga tribe is seen on the April cover for Vogue Philippines. Whang-Od hails from the small Filipino village of Buscalan, and is recognized as the nation’s oldest mambabatok, or traditional tattooist. 

Whang-Od has been hand-tapping tattoos since she was 16, and learned under the mentorship of her father. She was the first and only female mambabatok of her time, and would travel to villages near and far to tattoo sacred markings on individuals meeting or approaching certain thresholds in their lives.

While working on a client at home, Whang-Od told Vogue that she will continue to tattoo her visitors for as long as her eyes can see.

Traditionally, ceremonial rituals accompany the tattoos, which are still done upon request.

As evident in her Vogue cover, Whang-Od’s skin tells a story of its own, as it’s laced in markings from her shoulders down.

Whang-Od is continuing to pass down the thousand-year-old tradition of batok, or indigenous tattoos of the Philippines, through descendants that she has been training and inspiring to keep the practice alive.