Have you ever herald the phrase “you’ll regret your tattoos” or “imagine what they/you will look like when you’re old”? Well, this 103-year-old woman from the Philippines is proof that you’ll look cool AF. Her name is Whang Od and she’s a traditional tattoo master.
She’s been tattooing people for more than 8o years and she’s still doing it. She uses the same techniques that have been traditionally used in the Philippines for generations before her. Spikes from a Pomelo tree, a little happier stick page from a coffee tree, coal and water is all she needs to give you a tattoo that will look great and last a lifetime. She makes her own ink and she tattoos the ink deep into the skin making sure the pigment will stay for life.
Whang Od lives in a village that is only accessible by hiking up the mountain from the nearest dirt road, so it’s quite a trip to get to, but that doesn’t stop tourists from all over the world. People are willing to take 15-hour road trips and then hike up to the village just to meet this incredible woman and get a tattoo from her.
Whang Od says that back in the day you would only be allowed to get a tattoo if you were a man who killed someone in battle. But these days anyone can get these traditional designs from her. These days she views it as body decorations and sees no problem with people getting them just because they think it looks beautiful. She can tattoo traditional symbols that have specific meanings, people often get them because they believe they will give them spiritual guidance or be a sort of chard that will protect them. Just in general it’s quite an honor to be tattooed by Whang Od since she’s the oldest and the last of her kind.
Traditional Kalinga tattoo masters are called mambabatok and Whang Od is the last of her kind. She says that all of her friends who were also traditional tattooists have died and now it’s just her who’s giving these tattoos, so naturally, she’s got quite a lot of work to do. She was taught the art of traditional tattooing by her father. The tradition says that you can’t just teach anyone to tattoo, it’s something that can only be passed down to blood relatives. They believe that if the craft is passed down to anyone who’s not a blood relative the tattoo will get contaminated.
Whang Od doesn’t have children of her own, but she’s making sure the tradition lives on by teaching her grandnieces. She says she’s not even worried about the tradition disappearing because she’s confident she can train a new generation of tattoo masters and eventually they’ll pass it on to their kids or other blood relatives.
People who have been to Whang Od’s village to get a tattoo from her say that despite what it looks like, the tattooing process is way less painful than they expected. Basically, it looks worse than it feels. They also say that Whang Od is pretty quick, despite her age, and a lot of the time will finish a tattoo in about an hour. Another thing that amazes anyone who’s met Whang Od is how fit and healthy she is. The woman is 103 and she has absolutely no problem getting to and from the village and can hike the hills and mountains with little effort, while much younger tourists often struggle with this task.
Whang Od is still giving tattoos and she seems to be in great health and shape, but considering the fact that she’s 103, we’d suggest you hurry up if you want to be tattooed by her.