The Oldest Tattoo Artist In The World May Be Up For A National Award

Tattoo artistry has been in different cultures for centuries now and with the advancement of technology, this practice is easier to recreate and share with people. It’s rare to see people still applying the old traditional methods of getting a tattoo, but it doesn’t mean that its significance is belittled.


Meet Whang-od Oggay, born in 1918 (presently at age 97) and is the oldest living tattoo artist in the Philippines. Said to be the last “mambabatok” or traditional tattoo artist from Kalinga, Philippines, Oggay lost her husband at the early age of 25, has not married since, and has no children. Because of their tradition, Oggay cannot pass on her tattooing skills to anyone else but her blood relatives. They believed that if someone outside of their bloodline were to tattoo someone, that tattoo would become infected. Oggay has since trained her grandniece Grace Palicas, and Ilyang Wigan (another blood relative) in traditional tattoo artistry, but they are unsure whether or not they will continue the legacy.

Whang-od Oggay Using The Hand Tapping Technique


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Oggay uses the traditional hand tapping technique to apply her art. She uses natural tools like thorns and sticks as needles, hammers, and handles to carry out her work. She uses a blade of grass to create an outlined pattern of her design, then she starts tapping on your skin until the ink is soaked into the skin. This traditional method is much more painful than the modern one because the thorn might just snag the skin off.

One Of The Few Designs Done By Whang-od Oggay


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Oggay has been nominated for a National Treasure Award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). Other recipients of this award are Alonzo Saclang, Kalinga master of dance and the performing arts awarded back in 2000, and Teofilo Garcia, an expert Casque Maker awarded in 2012. Hopefully, things go well for Oggay so she may forever be remembered as one of, or if not, the last traditional tattoo artist in the Philippines.

What is your view on tradition tattoos and their methods? Would you consider traveling somewhere specifically just to get a traditional tattoo or are you fine with the modern approach? Share this article with your friends today!