Tattoos are a trend now. Some perceive it as a pathway towards being hip and cool. Others look at the tattoo as taboo. Whatever it may be, it is a form of art engraved as part of your body for the rest of your life. Just ask a 100-year-old woman by the name of Maria Fang-Od Oggay who lives in a village in Bucalan, Philippines – who is a tattoo artist- in a village with a population of 742 people. To get there is a mile hike from the nearest dirt road through foggy forest and centuries-old rice terraces. There is no mobile phone service and little electricity. Black pigs and chickens roam the narrow paths of stone and dirt.
Historically, tattoos were part of the local culture in the Philippines. But when the Spanish arrived in 1521, bringing with them Catholic and colonial sensibilities, the practice was discouraged. Ms Fang-od, also spelt Whang-od, is a ritual tattoo artist of the Butbut tribe of the Kalinga ethnic group in the northern Philippines and the last remaining one.
Ever since a documentary about her aired in 2009 named “Tattoo Hunter”, there was a widespread tourist and visitors who flock from all over the world to witness the 100 -year-old woman to work. Visitors take a number and hope to be tattooed by her, while others settle for a tattoo from one of her grandnieces, who have begun to carry on the tradition.
With intense concentration, she paints a design on the skin using the homemade coal-water ink. Tap by tap, she uses the thorn and bamboo stick to push ink deep into the skin, drawing blood. With this simple technique, Whang Od creates meaningful geometric designs — but not without the pain commonly associated with modern tattoos.
Fang-od is herself inked with patterns and symbols — and the names of former boyfriends. Pretty badass for a lady her age eh?