Vogue Philippines has chosen Apo Whang-Od, a 106-year-old tattoo artist from the Philippines, as the cover star for its April issue. This decision makes Whang-Od the oldest person ever to appear on a Vogue cover. Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, has practiced the art of hand-tapping tattoos since her teenage years under her father’s guidance.

A Living Legend in Buscalan

Whang-Od resides in the mountain village of Buscalan, about 15 hours north of Manila, in Kalinga province. She is considered the country’s oldest mambabatok, or traditional Kalinga tattooist. Her hand-tapped tattoos, created using a bamboo stick, a thorn from a pomelo tree, water, and coal, were once earned by indigenous Butbut warriors. Today, international visitors seeking her signature geometric designs comprise much of her clientele.

Preserving the Tradition

The art of Kalinga tattooing can only be passed down to blood relatives. Whang-Od has been training her grandnieces Elyang Wigan and Grace Palicas for several years. “I’m the only one left alive that’s still giving tattoos. But I’m not afraid that the tradition will end because (I’m training) the next tattoo masters,” Whang-Od told CNN Travel in 2017.

The Beauty of Humanity

Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Valdes explained that the publication’s staff unanimously chose Whang-Od for the cover because she represents their ideals of Filipino culture’s beauty. Valdes emphasized the need for the concept of beauty to evolve and include diverse and inclusive faces and forms.

A New Record Holder

Prior to Whang-Od’s appearance in Vogue Philippines, the record for the oldest Vogue cover model was held by actress Judi Dench, who appeared on the front of British Vogue in 2020 at the age of 85.