An amazing article and video feature on how one woman – Whang-Od – and her tattooing transformed the Kalinga village of Buscalan (Philippines) and the world. Kudos to Rhys Buccat and the ABS-CBN News production team for putting this together! To read full article, please visit http://news.abs-cbn.com/specials/ph/tattoo/whang-ud

May 1, 2017


TINGLAYAN, KALINGA – The thick fog gradually fades as the summer sun penetrates the village of Buscalan, home to the Butbut tribe.

Beside the village’s only school, an elderly woman gears up for another day of literally bloody work. She looks harmless with her family’s heirloom beads entwined with a glow-in-the-dark rosary. But rumor has it, she knows how to cause pain.

This ash-haired woman is Maria Oggay, better known by her Kalinga name, Whang-ud (pronounced as Fang-ud). She is Kalinga’s oldest practicing mambabatok, a living artifact of a once forgotten tradition.

Sitting on five-inch-high wooden stool, Whang-ud carefully stirs a mixture of water and soot for her ink. Guided by an expansive repertoire of age-old motifs, she draws a stencil on the skin of her first client.

She uses nothing more than a bamboo stick and a few lemon thorns, but she performs batok, a local term for tattooing, with a surgeon’s precision.

Tek. Tek. Tek.

At 100 taps per minute, the mambabatok inscribes her cultural identity on a bleeding canvas.


To read more about Whang-Og and the Kalinga tradition of tattooing, pick up a copy of my book Kalinga Tattoo or read my article here.