From My Modern Met
At 102 years old, Whang-Od Oggay (who also goes by Whang-od or Maria Oggay) is helping to keep an ancient tradition alive in the Kalinga province of the Philippines. She’s the country’s oldest mambabatok, a traditional Kalinga tattooist. Each morning at dawn, Whang-Od wakes to craft a mixture of ink from pine soot and water in preparation to apply hand-tapped tattoos on the bodies of people from around the world. Although many come to see her, their journey is no small feat. Visitors make a 15-hour drive north of Manila to the mountain village of Buscalan, which is only accessible by hiking a mile from the nearest dirt road through a forest and rice terraces.
Whang-Od inks multiple tattoos a day using a few tools—a thorn from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, coal, and water. The handmade ink is tapped deep into the skin using the thorn and bamboo to push it in. The results are permanent motifs that range from lines to simple shapes to tribal prints to animals. Each carries meanings such as strength, beauty, and fertility.
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