Everyone was shocked to see the cover of Vogue Philippines magazine’s April 2023 beauty issue. The cover story, which centers on a 106-year-old native tattoo artist, is a welcome change from the usual tales on fashion magazine covers.

Apo Whang Od, also known as Maria Oggay, is a Filipino tattoo artist working to keep the tradition of hand-tapered body art alive. The oldest person to grace the cover of Vogue is Maria Oggay. She has been tattooing people since she was 16 years old. Because she took on the difficulty of blending pine-soot ink and applying by-hand drawings, which had previously only been performed by men, the artist has also gained recognition and esteem as an important figure in her society. She has gained respect and recognition as a key member of her culture since taking on this endeavor.

She is thought to be the mambabatok with the most professional expertise among the sizable Kalinga ethnic community. Kalinga claims that the “Batok” art form may only be passed down from blood relative to blood-related. Whang-Od decided to teach her grandniece Grace Palicas what she learned from her father because she never had children.

With this interest, Grace, now 26 years old, hopes to carry on the creative tradition that has been in her family for many centuries. Like her grandmother before her, she wishes to continue the tradition for a very long time.


In the Philippines, mamababatok is a technique practiced for over a thousand years. In the past, it was used as a status symbol by Kalinga’s headhunters. Whang Od spent many years inking people in her neighborhood, but finally, she started tattooing people from other neighborhoods. As her fame grew, people from all over the globe came to her hometown to get tattoos from her. “When guests arrive from far away, I will give them the mark of Buscalan, the mark of Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see,” Whang-Od told Vogue. “I will give them the mark of Buscalan, the mark of Kalinga, for as long as my eyes can see.”

According to an article in Vogue Philippines, “Apo Whang-life Od’s is engraved on her flesh,” including her accomplishments, illnesses, and the names of long-lost loves. It communicates a story about the bravery of the Kalinga tribe and its splendor and extensive history.

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