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One of the last great tribal tattoo artists to practice their trade live on the slopes of the Philippines’ Mt. Buscalan, Apo Whang Od has been elected by her people as a cultural ambassador and guardian of ancient traditions.

 

Who is Apo Whang Od?

Apo Whang Od is the world’s oldest tattoo artist. She is from the Philippines and is believed to be over 100 years old. She is the last of the Kalinga people, a tribe known for their traditional tattoos.

Apo Whang Od is a living legend. She has been tattooing for over 80 years and has inked some of the most famous faces in the Philippines, including that of President Fidel Ramos. She is one of the few people who still practice the traditional hand-tap method of tattooing.

Despite her age, Apo Whang Od is still going strong. She can be found in her village of Buscalan in the mountains of northern Philippines, where she continues to tattoo both locals and visitors. If you’re lucky enough to meet her, you’ll definitely want to get inked by this amazing woman!

Buscalan Story

“Apo Whang Od is considered to be the world’s oldest tattoo artist, and she can be found in a small village called Buscalan in the Philippines. Documentary photographer Laia Abril set out to meet and photograph Apo Whang Od for a project about traditional tattooing, and she ended up spending several weeks with her in Buscalan.

 

Apo Whang Od is a 92-year-old woman who has been tattooing for most of her life. She comes from a long line of traditional tattoo artists, and she is the last one left in her village. Apo Whang Od doesn’t use any needles or modern equipment; instead, she uses thorns, ashes, and soot to hand-poke tattoos into her clients’ skin.

Apo Whang Od doesn’t just tattoo people from her village; she also tattoos tourists who come to visit her. It’s become quite an attraction, and there are often queues of people waiting to get tattooed by her. Getting tattooed by Apo Whang Od is considered to be a very lucky thing, and it’s said that her tattoos have magical powers.

If you’re ever in the Philippines, make

How to get there (how about a map?)

Example itinerary

Day 0

  • ETA 17:00 – 0500 Manila – buscalan

Day 1

  • 0600 ETA IN BANAUE  (Breakfast on pax account)
  • 0700 Banaue Rice Terraces (picture taking)
  • 1100 ETD in Buscalan Jumpoff
  • 1130 Trekking
  • 1300 Lunch
  • 1400 Tattoo Sessions
  • 1900 Dinner
  • 2000 Socials
  • 2100 Lights off

Day 2

  • 0600 Wake Up Call/ Breakfast
  • 0700 Tattoo Session
  • 1000 ETD Buscalan
  • 1200 ETA Bontoc/Lunch (Pax Account)
  • 1300 ETD for Manila
  • 2345 ETA in Manila

Apo Whang Od is the last of her kind. She is a living legend and the oldest mambabatok in Kalinga. At 97 years old, she has been tattooing for over 80 years and is one of the most sought after tattoo artists in the world.

To get to Apo Whang Od’s tattoo studio, you’ll need to make your way to Buscalan village in Tinglayan, Kalinga. The village is about a 5-6 hour drive from Manila, so it’s best to make an overnight trip. Once you’re in Tinglayan, there are jeepneys that go straight to Buscalan village for around PHP 200-250 ($3-5 USD).

Video of Apo whang od tatoo session.

When you arrive in Buscalan, you’ll see Apo Whang Od’s hut towards the end of the village. The hut is usually surrounded by visitors waiting to get tattooed by her. There is no set price for a tattoo, but it is customary to give a tip of PHP 500-1000 ($10-20 USD) per tattoo.

Apo Whang Od is the world’s oldest tattoo artist and she is featured in a new documentary. The film tells the story of her life and how she has become a cultural icon in her native Philippines. It also explores the history of tattooing in the country and its place in the contemporary art scene.

Bonus summary of some helpful things for travelers to know before going

  • Get to know the world’s oldest tattoo artist – Apo Whang Od!

  • She only tattoos using traditional methods, so make sure you’re prepared for that.

  • Be aware of the strict rules she has in place – no cameras, no talking, and no touching her without permission.

  •  Respect her culture and traditions, and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience getting a tattoo from her!

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