LONDON: A 106-year-old tattoo artist featured in the April issue of Vogue Philippines is the oldest person ever to appear on the magazine’s cover.
Apo Whang-Od is also believed to be the oldest traditional Kalinga tattooist, known as a mambabatok, in the Philippines, CNN reported.
“Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe — signifying strength, bravery, and beauty — on the skin of thousands of people who have made the pilgrimage to Buscalan,” wrote Vogue Philippines in an Instagram post revealing the new cover.
Once prized by indigenous warriors who protected local villages, the hand-tapped tattoos are created using a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal.
Whang-Od, who lives in the mountain village of Buscalan, north of Manila, learned the art of hand-tapping tattoos from her father during her teenage years.
Today, tourists seeking Whang-Od’s signature geometric designs make up much of her clientele.
The traditional art is passed down only to blood relatives, and Whang Od has been instructing her two grandnieces for years now.
“The tradition will continue as long as people keep coming to get tattoos,” she told CNN in 2017, adding that she would persevere until her vision gets blurry.
“We felt she represented our ideals of what is beautiful about our Filipino culture,” said Bea Valdes, Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief.
Staff at the publication were in complete agreement that Whang-Od should go on April’s cover, she added.
“We believe that the concept of beauty needs to evolve, and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms. What we hope to speak about is the beauty of humanity,” Valdes said.
The magazine’s previous oldest cover star was British actress Judi Dench, who featured in British Vogue in 2020 at the age of 85.