Whang Od Oggay is a 103-year-old woman from the Philippines, and she’s considered to be the oldest tattoo artist in the world. Whang Od is a traditional tattoo artist and she lives in Kalinga province in the northern Philippines. She’s the last mambabatok, a traditional Kalinga tattooist, and she’s famous for her ink mastery. People from all around the world come to meet Whang Od and get a tattoo from the legend herself, although reaching her is pretty hard. First, you have to drive for 15-hours north of Manila to get to the mountain village of Buscalan, and the village is only accessible by hiking from the nearest dirt road.
Whang Od uses a thorn from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, coal, and water for her tattoos. She makes the ink herself, and she taps it deep into the skin using the thorn and the bamboo. Most of her tattoos range from simple shapes and various lines to tribal prints of animals with deeper meanings.
The Kalinga tattoos were only given to men who have taken someone down in a battle, but they’re unique pieces of art, and they’re now available to everyone brave enough to get there.
The 103-year-old tattooist told CNN that the main obstacle these days is to keep the tradition alive because the technique can only be passed down to blood relatives. According to their culture, the tattoos will become contaminated if that’s not the case.
Luckily, Whang Od has trained her grandnieces to preserve this tradition, and she’s training the next tattoo masters.