Whang Od, the 92-year old Tattoo Artist

Collection with 15 media items created by Transterra Editor

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

Tattoo Tattoo Maker Philippines Buscalan Kalinga Photo Essay Collection Photo Collec... Whang Od Culture

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
05 Dec 2012

An Israeli tourist takes a picture of some children from the house of Whang Od (December 2012). Whang Od's family has hung a sign on their house door as an indication for lost tourists and she provides them with food and lodging.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
05 Dec 2012

Whang Od is sitting outside her home before making a tattoo (December 2012). Many tourists arrive to Buscalan to become one of the tattoos of this ancient culture.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
24 Sep 2013

Whang Od, age 92, is crouching while she makes a tattoo to a tourist in front of her house in Buscalan (December 2012). At her age she has a great view and flexibility.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
05 Dec 2012

The countryside around the village of Whang Od (December 2012). The Kalinga valleys and irrigated rice plantations are spectacular.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
23 Sep 2013

Whang Od, age 92, rests at home after making a tattoo (December 2012). Her fingers are stained by mixing charcoal, water and sweet potato used for tattooing.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
05 Dec 2012

Tourists are resting in front of the house of Whang Od before getting a tattoo (December 2012). The tourists who pass by Buscalan are offered lodging and food at Whang Od’s modest two-story house.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
24 Sep 2013

An Israeli tourist shows his new tattoo made by Whang Od (December 2012). She has left him choose the design from one of the tattoos on her arms.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
06 Dec 2012

Whang Od shows the tattoos on her arms (December 2012). Within the tribal tattoo culture symbolizes the feminine beauty and male courage.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
06 Dec 2012

It is dawning on Bucalan (December 2012). Buscalan is a hidden village in a mountain of the Luzon island.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
05 Dec 2012

Whang Od is crouching in her kitchen preparing dinner for some tourists (December 2012). She is 92 years old but has great flexibility.

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Whang Od
Kalinga, Philippines
By Joan Planas
06 Dec 2012

Whang Od prepares the mix to make the tattoo (December 2012). Her working material is a coconut bowl to mix water, charcoal and the sweet potato that will provide texture to the mix. She also uses a Philippine lime and a nail made out of a thorn joined to a bamboo stick.