Have you ever declared the expression “you ‘re going to regret your tattoos” or “imagine what you’re going to look like when you’re old?” Well, this Philippine lady, 103, is proof you ‘re going to look cool AF. Her name is Whang Od and she’s a master of traditional tattoos. She’s tattooed men for over 8o years and she’s always doing it. She uses the same methods that were commonly used for generations before her in the Philippines. Spikes from a Pomelo tree, a little happier stick page from a coffee tree, coal and water is all she wants to give you a tattoo that looks amazing and will last a lifetime. She makes her own ink and tattooes the ink deep into the skin to make sure the color lives on.
Whang Od lives in a village that can only be reached by walking up the mountain from the nearest dirt road, so it’s a journey to get there, but that doesn’t deter visitors from around the world. People are willing to go on 15-hour road trips and then trek up to the village just to meet this beautiful woman and get her tattoo.
Whang Od says you would only be allowed to have a tattoo back in the day if you were a man who murdered someone in war. But everybody can get those conventional designs out of her these days. She considers it as body accessories these days and sees no problem with getting them from strangers just because they think it looks good. She can tattoo traditional symbols with different meanings, people sometimes get them because they think they’re going to give them spiritual advice or be a kind of chard that’s going to protect them. It’s just generally quite an honor for Whang Od to be tattooed because she’s the oldest and the last of her kind.
Modern Kalinga tattoo masters are called mambabatok and last of their kind is Whang Od. She says all her colleagues, who were also typical tattooists, have died and now it’s just her who gives those tattoos, so obviously she has a lot of work to do. Her father had taught her the art of traditional tattooing. Tradition says you can’t just teach tattoo to anybody, it’s something that can be passed down to blood relatives only. We claim the tattoo would get infected if the art is passed on to someone who is not a blood relative.
Whang Od doesn’t have children of her own, but by teaching her grandnieces she ensures that the tradition lives on. She says she doesn’t even think about the fading practice because she is sure she will teach a new generation of tattoo masters and ultimately pass it on to their children or other blood relatives.
People who have been to the village of Whang Od to get a tattoo from her say the tattooing process is way less painful than they planned, given what it looks like. It looks actually worse than it sounds. We also say Whang Od, given her age, is pretty quick and a lot of time can end a tattoo in an hour or so. One thing that shocks someone who has come across Whang Od is how fit and safe she is. The woman is 103 and she has absolutely no trouble getting to and from the village and can climb the hills and mountains with little effort, although this challenge is also faced by many younger visitors.
Whang Od still gives tattoos and she seems to be in good health and condition, but since she’s 103, we ‘d recommend you hurry up if you want her to tattoo.