Whang Od: A Celebration of Filipino Artistry

I was communicating with a friend (he’s an artist) about his paintings, i mentioned that i will feature him and his artworks, i realized that this is another opportunity for me to widen my horizon and topics in blogging, hence the birth of art features at the end of the month in this blog. This should also justify my blog’s title “artistic world” and would even make me go deeper about my art interests.
Sometime in a Saturday, i watched a magazine show that featured this tattoo artist, which i also seen in the pictures from my friends who traveled north.
I could say once again that the Philippines is rich in indigenous culture that it’s very ancient making it unique and unbelievably true, The practices of these indigenous group started long time ago dating at the time when there’s still land bridges (the water’s still low) in Asia connecting Malaysia, Thailand and the neighboring countries in the South East Asia. If you could notice the physical attributes of the people here are almost the same, even in some culture practices.
These groups that originated somewhere in Asia went to the Philippines and brought here the birth of a generation. Their culture primarily focuses in nature affecting their socialization within the tribe, arts, living, and beliefs.
One of the many distinct tribes here in the Philippines would be Kalinga (in line with Ifugao) that’s on the Cordillera region in the Mountain Province of the Philippines (where the famous Rice Terraces and Sagada is found).

When you say about Kalinga, there’s one practice here that is famous in the local and foreign tourists—–tattooing or Batok, and the only living person doing that in her ancient generation is non other than Whang Od Oggay, “Ang Huling Mangbabatok” (the last tattoo artist).

The History: 
“The Kalinga tattoo has evolved from headhunting – the ancient tradition of killing people and taking their heads as trophies, practiced by male Kalingas over the centuries. For every head taken, a warrior received a tattoo. The purpose of headhunting was to ensure territorial protection while also having serious religious implications: heads were offered as a form of human sacrifice of the highest order to the Kalinga’s most powerful spirits and gods. Nowadays, headhunting has lost in favour, with only rumours lingering. As a result of this decline, the Kalinga tattoo is only one generation away from total disappearance.”

The Process:

“They apply tattoos by driving a stick with an inked thorn into the skin, making small pigments until it forms a design. The “ink” is a mixture of water and soot from the charred bottoms of pots that the Kalinga use for cooking.”


Whang-Od Oggay and the recognition for The National Artist of the Philippines.

“At the age of 25, she lost her husband in an accident and did not marry since and she has no children. According to tradition, her tattooing skills can only be inherited through lineage.Whang-od believes that if someone outside the bloodline starts tattooing, the tattoo will get infected.Due to modern living, the young people of her village no longer interested in embracing the tattooing works of their elders. Despite that, she trains Grace Palicas, her grandniece, and Ilyang Wigan, another bloodline successor, to continue her tattooing work.”

“Whang-od Oggay (born c. 1918) is a Filipina tattoo artist from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines.She is considered as the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut Kalinga people and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. This ancient technique called batok that dates back a thousand years before her time is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques.She uses designs found in nature and basic geometric shapes. Due to her status as the last mambabatok, many netizens are lobbying her to be one of the National Artists of the Philippines Instead of National Artist, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her colleagues in the Philippine Senate through a resolution that Whang-od should be nominated as one of the National Living Treasures or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, which is equal rank to National Artist.”

Source researcher/Contributor: Hance Capili.
Source | Source | National Artist | Images

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. I had always been fascinated by tattoo art but I cant still see myself having one via the mambabatok because of it's pain that as described by others as almost 10 times more painful than the common tat procedure. If ever I'll get a tattoo, it's gonna be a sun, an anchor and yin-yang.

  2. Very educational and a fitting tribute to those who are true artists.

  3. Earning a tattoo for hunting down the enemy is still practiced until this day. Just look at Bilibid prison. Many earn their tattoo after killing the enemy of their prospective gang. Anyways, I don't like tattoo. I'm the kind of person who is serious with symbolisms so I will not don any tattoo with any mark that I don't identify with (i.e. swastika which many kids wear nowadays without knowing its gruesome meaning).

  4. Oh my! This terribly made tattoos more exciting. I think once I decided as to what tattoo will I get, I might choose the traditional. Looking at the photos makes me want to eek! Bravo to this kind of live art 🙂

  5. Thank you for sharing about this traditional tattoo skills. Looks painful though. I wouldn't dare to try.

  6. Whang-od for the win! Though I don't plan on getting inked, if it would be an opportunity to be inked by an artist like here, I would try it.

    Excited to see the arts you will post here. 🙂

  7. This is informative. 10 times! that's like whoa! Nice idea for a tattoo. I will have myself inked by whang od only! hehehe. and it's gonna be her own pick. 🙂

  8. Bravo indeed and yes, i'll consider having one if it's only whang od regardless if im gonna "eeeek" hahahaha.

  9. Whoa, really? i dont even know that tattoos are still a practice for a "glory" in gangs today. Most of the Christians here in the Philippines won't really consider tattooing much, and im not surprised by your answer ish, truly living the belief! 🙂

  10. Indeed Jonathan! 🙂 I also got myself reviewed about our rich culture when i did this post. 🙂

  11. Me too, even if i'm a Christian, i still believe that God won't judge us based on our Physical attributes (this is linking to my Christianity culture and diversity post), that's why i'm getting a tattoo, ONLY THROUGH WHANG OD, such a privilege for me to have one. But i'll make sure that it's not loud and won't affect somebody's faith.

    I'm excited for the coming posts too! 🙂

  12. This is really exciting to know MUN! hope you learned much about this one as how i learned while i was creating this post.

  13. In my country, this is part of our culture here in our state (Sarawak) too.

  14. Beautiful article and what a rich and vibrant culture!! I'm glad that tattoos no longer hold the same meaning at least not in all cases anyway. It is amazing how quickly times change and tradition fades. I look forward to seeing the Philippines one day. Thank You for sharing!

  15. this is actually pretty interesting.. What makes me sad though is that, it seems no one would continue this kind of artistic expression… … hopefully her grand niece would be able to pick it up and do it.

  16. i know very little about filipino artistry, both traditional and modern, so it was illuminating to read this! 🙂

  17. I do wish I would get to see her personally and hope get inked too! 🙂 Thank you for this! 😀

  18. I know a blogger from the Philippines that had her tattoo done by her. You know Marge of Coffeehan.com?

  19. The pictures are so amazing!:)


  20. I really find her amazing.. she and her talent is more like a living masterpiece…it's good to know that her family/relatives are there to continue her legacy

  21. aww, looks painful! I hope to visit Sagada and see her but only to see her do her art. Tattooing isn't for me, I'm afraid of needles/needle-like instrument. hehe

  22. Oh! that;s nice, is it traditional tattooing too?

  23. Even as a Filipino i just learned more about this art Sean, i'm glad that you knew the culture of Filipinos through this. 🙂

  24. her niece is doing it already, but sad that she has no child to continue the art through her blood line.

  25. Oh you should see the Philippines Robert! there's a lot here that even us Pinoys can't tour the whole country due to it's archipelago. Tattoos here in the Philippines is still a little contriversy since our country's still not open about that kind of art.

    new generation, still don't accept it as a form of art esp if they come from a conservative family. About whang – od, i think her art is praised due to its reputation.

  26. i heard coffehan already but i dont know hthe blogger at all. Im planning to have one too — if the odds permit it!

  27. Mee too tal, i hope i can make it this year, Im also not planning to have tats but after creating this post and learning bout it, well? i'll be privileged to be wearing a tattoo from a legend!

  28. True blue, good thing that she's not really the "huling mambabatok". maybe the reason why she had that title is because from the previous years, there was no one to pass on the art.

    Good thing that her niece is doing it, new generation will still have a chance for this/

  29. You should, iknow it's worth of an experience!

  30. I think her BF (not husband) was killed in a tribal war. Something like that.

Hi, I wanna know your thoughts!

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