Apo Whang Od is a Philippine national treasure. A member of the Kalinga tribe in northern Luzon she is close to 100 years old and one of the last traditional tattoo artists in the Philippines. While there are others, out of respect for her they do not practice. She lives in the tiny village of Buscalan in northern Luzon. While her village is small, it has become somewhat of a pilgrimage for people in the tattoo community. I had the chance to visit her in 2014. This series is a set I photographed (and had some help being photographed as I was getting a tattoo by her) At the moment she is still tattooing and slowly passing her knowledge on to her grand niece Grace. No one knows how long she will continue working, But judging by how spry she was when I went to visit I can image she will be going for quite a while longer.

As an update to this post, Apo is still tattooing at the age of almost 110 years of age. From what I understand She doesnt Tattoo much anymore but leaves that to Grace and another girl who has been training with her. Still incredible!!

Apo Whang Od

photos sent by people tattooed by Whang Od

The basic tools of the trade

Marking out the design with fire soot

Marking out the design with Fire soot

Tattooing begins

Hand tapping Technique

Marking out the design in fire soot

Yours Truely being tattooed by Whang od.

A simple sign telling you, you have arrived in the right place

Simple mountain village life

The sun splashes the mountainst at Dawn.

laundry out to dry

Apo is like any granny. She helps take care of the local village children when she isn’t tatooing.

The photographer and Whang Od.