Whang-Od is the Philippines' oldest traditional tattooist at age 106. Creative Commons/ Mawg64


  • Apo Whang-Od, an indigenous Kalinga woman in the Philippines, is the oldest model to front Vogue magazine
  • She has been pracitcing the art of hand-tapping tattoos since she was a teen
  • She is considered the country's oldest "mambabatok," or traditional Kalinga tattooist

A woman in the Philippines now reigns as the oldest person to ever be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine at 106 years old.

Vogue Philippines unveiled its April issue Friday, and it featured Apo Whang-Od — the country's oldest "mambabatok," or traditional Kalinga tattooist, CTV News reported.

Described as a symbol of the "strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit," the indigenous Kalinga woman, who resides in the small mountain village of Buscalan in the Philippines, has been practicing the art of hand-tapping tattoos since the age of 15, learning under her father's instruction to perfect her now-signature geometric designs.

The traditional tattoo method uses just a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water and coal. The tattoos were formerly earned by indigenous Butbut warriors as a status symbol. But now, tattoo enthusiasts from all over the globe seek Whang-Od's services.

"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," Vogue Philippines wrote on Instagram alongside its April cover.

Whang-Od is the only remaining traditional Kalinga tattoo artist from her generation. During an interview with CNN Travel in 2017, she revealed that all of her friends have "passed away" but that she's not afraid that the tradition will die with her.

"The tradition will continue as long as people keep coming to get tattoos," Whang-Od told the outlet. "As long as I can see well, I will keep giving tattoos. I'll stop once my vision gets blurry."

She currently has about 90 apprentices whom she's training to carry on the tradition, according to a report from PhilStar Global.

Before Whang-Od's feature in Vogue Philippines, actress Judi Dench held the record for the oldest Vogue cover model after appearing on the front of British Vogue in 2020. She was 85 years old at the time.

Speaking on the collaboration, Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes revealed that the magazine's staff all agreed that the 106-year-old woman should appear on the cover.

"We felt she represented our ideals of what is beautiful about our Filipino culture," Valdes said in an interview with CNN Style. "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."

Meanwhile, Grace Palicas, Whang-Od's grandniece, who is also following in her footsteps as a Kalinga tattooist, expressed her thoughts on the fashion magazine's latest issue.

"It's also good because it's for Woman's Day so we are happy that Apo is in the cover," Palicas told PhilStar, adding that Vogue reached out to them via the Philippines' National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for the feature.

Kalinga native Whang-Od poses for the cover of Vogue Philippines' April issue. Vogue Philippines