Art is an important manifestation of culture because it tells not just our history, but the traditions that identify who we are today. An especially important art form in the Philippines is none other than tattooing. The legendary Apo Whang-Od is a living testament to this art form.
Historically, tattooing in the Philippines doesn’t just mean permanent ink embedded onto skin. It’s not just embellishments to the body. For conservatives, tattooing means defiling one’s body and has a negative connotation related to thugs and criminals. However, in pre-colonial Philippines, a tattooed man is an honorable man.
Historically, tattoos were only granted to warriors who were able to prove their strength in battle. The more tattoos a person has, the more battles he survived. Men who wear these markings were called Pintados and they used their tattoos to intimidate their enemies in battle.
Fortunately, this tradition of tattooing in the Philippines is still present today. This is thanks to the legendary Maria Fang-Od Oggay — otherwise known as Apo Whang-Od.
Apo Whang-Od is considered the last Kalinga mambabatok, a colloquial term for a way of tattooing that involves hand tapping a needle using ink made of pine soot and water.
1. Rhian Ramos
Rhian Ramos posted on Instagram about her second tattoo last year. In the caption it reads:
“Round 2: the beginnings of my new (and hopefully, last) tattoo.. designed by me, drawn by Grace and tapped in by Apo Whang Od, right above my last two tatts from them, the scorpion and hawk. ???? their energies are so open and giving ???? im just so grateful they agreed to this request. A little old, a little new.”
2. Patricia Tumulak
HBD girl Patricia Tumalak also headed to Apo Whang-Od for a traditional tattoo.
3. Aiza Seguerra and Liza Dino
Aiza and Liza were both inked by Apo Whang-Od. Aiza got marked by the living legend first and his wife soon followed. This was documented in Liza’s Instagram account.
4. Drew Arellano
Iya’s husband, Drew, was also tattooed by the legendary Apo Whang-Od. The whole process was documented in his show “Byahe ni Drew.”
Araguy!!!😫😣😩 Just watching this video brings me back to the excruciating pain I endured. Ang hirap magtapang-tapangan pag nahihila ang balat mo ng bumabaong tinik. Ginalingan ni Apo Whang-od eh. Baon na baon oh!!! Abangan sa Sagisag Kultura sa PTV ang aming Kalinga episode on March 5 and March 12 4pm sa PTV4 #sagisagkulturasaptv
Early this year, Apo Whang-Od was nominated by the Senate for the Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan. She has also recently visited Manila for an event at the World Trade Center. This visit caused an uproar on social media about potential exploitation and alleged cultural appropriation.