apo whang od

The Great Apo Whang-Od Oggay of Buscalan

At the age of 100, Apo Whang-Od continues to help her community by attracting tourists to their town who wishes to be tattooed by her. I didn’t get a tattoo, but being able to witness her strength and passion for the craft was an amazing experience already.

(Buscalan Village, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Mountain Province, PH)


Notable People of Filipin@ Ancestry
Apo Maria Whang Od

Apo Whang-Od, who is in her 90’s, is a well known mambabatok, (tattoo artist), and the last one among the Kalinga. However despite what everyone says of her being the last one and when she dies the Kalinga tattooing tradition dies with her, that is false.

She is currently training her young granddaughter (through one of her nieces), Grace Palicas, who is now 17 years old. Her strong interest 7 years go in preserving the tattooing tradition among the Kalinga, a tradition that has died out over years of colonization among the rest of the Philippines especially among the Bisayans who were called the Pintados, “the Painted Ones”, by the Spaniards as they were known to be covered in tattoo’s all over their body, will keep the tradition alive once her lola passes away.

Apo Whang Od is well known to the Filipin@ diaspora, especially toward those interested in tattooing, in particular traditional Filipin@ tattoo’s. Starting from when she was 16, she learned the art from watching her father before her.

Today despite her old age, she still dedicates her life to continuing the tradition, tattooing both other Filipin@’s and foreigners, as well as inspiring a new generation on studying and reviving our old traditional tattooing culture.

Photo Source: [x]

The rebirth of a 1,000-year tradition
A dying Filipino tattoo tradition is being revived – and forever changed – by the international travellers seeking to get inked by its last tribal artist, 97-year old Apo Whang-Od.
By Anne Collins Howard

*jaw drops* ….Apo Whang-Od was nominated for the Philippines National Living Treasures Award !?

muchymozzarella  asked:

Weren't the pintados Visayan? So I'd think tattooing would be common among Visayans. And supposedly Bohol was one of the tribes that had pintados. Maybe for lack of reference they can look at records of pintados styles and try to work their way back from there on a Bohol-specific historical thread.

The Pintados, or “The Painted Ones”, were the Bisayans yes and was the term the Spaniards first called the people they met and saw around the Bisayas because they were all tattooed (unlike say the Tagalogs they eventually encountered who had none). For those in Bikol peninsula, the Spaniards mentioned how they looked just like the Bisayans as they shared similar tattoos and they shared a cultural affinity with the Bisayans (from tattooing, warrior culture, etc.) and they shared both cultural influences from Tagalogs and other southern Luzon groups and the Bisayans.

Like I said, motifs, terms, and the way of tattooing through handtapped or poking were pretty much shared throughout different groups (though with local interpretations and variations). Motifs found in the Bisayas are found among the Cordillera groups like the Kalinga, Ifugao, and Bontoc as well as among the Austronesian groups in Oceania and Polynesia such as Hawai’ians (the leading traditional Hawai’ian tattoo practitioner, Keone Nunes, has talked about the similarities and shared motifs and even visited Apo Whang Od and discussed the shared tattooing culture stretching across the Pacific where Austronesians brilliantly navigated, that is an Austronesian practice), Samoans, and also the indigenous groups of Taiwan (not the Han Chinese who arrived and colonized there and are mainly seen and representative of Taiwanese) who are also part of the Austronesian family. It is possibly found in other Austronesian groups in Indonesia and Malaysia and probably could be found in the remaining ethnic groups that still practice tattooing though I don’t know too much about the tattooing traditions in those regions of maritime Southeast Asia besides the ones in Borneo (where according to Bisayan folklore and mythology their ancestors come from).

As I mentioned before, either on this blog or my personal blog if you follow me there, motifs were mainly geometric shapes and designs based on nature. The scales of pythons, crocodiles, lizards, which are all spiritual and divine animals and are associated with the ancestors and spirits. Birds which are seen as messengers of the ancestors and deities, omens, and represented in many of the creation myths in the Philippines. Ferns which represent the agricultural lifestyle, fertility, and of harvest. The rivers which represent life and death and the very foundation of society as many groups are based around a river or other water source and are often named after it (Tagalog - people of the river, Akean - people of Akean River, Kapampangan - people of the river bank, Ilokano - people of the bay, Tausug - people of the sea currents, etc.). Rivers were also believed to be the pathway to the ancestors and the afterlife and are part of mythology and cosmology of the upstream, which represents birth and life, and the downstream, which represents death and the afterlife and of returning to the sea which is what brought us to the islands. 

If you want to look at motifs that may have been tattooed, look at traditional woven motifs. Motifs found in weaving were often the same as what was tattooed as tattooing was pretty much our form of permanent clothing on our skin. Ilokanos for example can look at their weaving motifs as these are possibly what was used in their tattooing prior to colonization as they are recorded by the Spaniards to have practiced it and saw them tattooed.

Planning on doing a personal project, a backpacking trip around the Philippines for either half a year or a whole year and documenting the journey.

I want to do this project where me and a few others travel around the Philippines from Luzon to Mindanao and take pictures and videos of various places we stop by. We will be doing interviews on the history of the places we visit, on festivals, hopefully talk with Apo Whang Od and her niece and get a tattoo by them. Along with historical and cultural stuff I want to also get into politics, how people feel about certain issues in the country such as mining, logging, extrajudicial killings, disregard toward indigenous rights, U.S. military involvement in the Philippines, etc. I also want to highlight the beauty of our country, her islands, waters, and people.

I hope to be able to do this project next year and leave in January with first staying with and visiting family, 2 weeks in my tatays side in Mindoro and 2 weeks in my inays side in Aklan especially during the Ati-Atihan festival in January. Then in February I’ll start the actual journey starting from Batanes and then work my way down to Davao.

But I want to make this project special and personal. I want to not only blog the journey but also vlog and set up a YT channel just for the project. I’m hoping I can make this project a reality and hope I can find a few others who might be interested in participating in this journey throughout the Philippines.

I have been thinking about this for a couple of months now and as the days pass by, the more I’m determined to do this project. If I do decide to go on with it I’m most likely going to do a few fundraisers and do a donation drive to help fund the project in regards to travel and everyday necessity expenses like food and shelter. (Though in some places we will either sleep in tents or stay with a local family instead of a hotel) I would also try to make a team of individuals who are interested and have the time to participate in a project like this, who can help take pictures, videos, translate in a local language that another team member might not speak, and overall help document the entire journey. Some don’t have to stay during the whole journey they can choose to join us during a portion of the journey if they have other obligations, but its not going to be a simple vacation trip, it’s an actual project, one where we will be doing work.

Like I said it’s a big project, one that I am anxiously eager to accomplish with the help of other Pilipin@s to document the beauty of the Philippines, her history, people, cultures, and the issues our people face. There is still more than half a year before next January, leaving plenty of time for planning, fundraising, etc. So what do you guys think?