05 Dec 2012 03:30
Whang Od, the 92 year old Kalinga tattoo maker, lives in the hidden village of Buscalan
in the Kalinga province in the Philippines. This tattoo practice was used as a form of skinnatural language passed on from generation to generation.
Whang Od has become popular not only because she has appeared on National Geographic, but also because the day she dies, a big part of her tribe’s culture dies away as well. Even though some kids from the village tried learning from her, Whang Od says that the “future artist must be from her family.”
Within the tribal culture, the tattoo symbolized feminine beauty and male courage was a culture of exchange that did not require money. Now, however, people have to pay for their tattoos as they are required to start using money for things like electricity, buying pigs and hens, and rice.
Lost tourists who pass by Buscalan are offered lodging and food at Whang Od’s modest, two-story house before they are given the chance to pay 500 pesos for a tattoo chosen by Whang Od herself. Clients can only decide where they want their tattoo, unless they choose one of the drawings on Whang Od’s hands.
Whang Od would like to live to be 100 years old.
Photographs by Buscando Historias
Text by Buscando Historias