“The significance of having a tattoo is that it will stay with you until death. When you die they will take away all your accessories. Only your tattoos remain with you.”
These are the words of 99-year-old Whand-od Oggay, the last and oldest mambabatok or traditional Kalinga tattoo artist.
Filmmaker Brent Foster of National Geographic Travel visits Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga to document the life of our very own Apo Whang-Od.
It takes 17 hours of road trip, a two-hour trek to the mountain-top village, and a long queue of tourists to get a personalized tattoo from Whang-Od.
“I’m the only one alive from the old generation of tattoo artists in Kalinga,” says Whang-Od. “I might not be doing tattoos much longer because of my eyesight. I taught my granddaughter so that when I die our tattoo-making tradition will still go on.”
Whang-Od is referring to Grace Palicas, her protégé.
“It’s an honor for me because when my grandmother dies I will continue the tradition,” Grace reveals. “It’s really important for us because it’s our culture. She will leave behind a great legacy, not only in Kalinga, but in the entire world.”
Want to get inked?