The latest Vogue Philippines cover model is a 106-year-old tattoo artist: 'Epic'

The 106-year-old Indigenous tattoo artist becomes the oldest Vogue cover model in history.

PRODUCTION - 24 May 2023, Philippines, Buscalan: Maria Oggay (2nd from right), known as Apo Whang-Od, the oldest mambabatok or traditional tattoo artist in the Philippines, looks on alongside great-niece Elyang Wigan (r), Grace Palicas (l), and her great-grandniece Zoey, at the Philippine edition of the internationally known magazine
Apo Maria "Whang-Od" Oggay, makes history as the oldest Vogue cover model. (Photo by Girlie Linao/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Vogue Philippines is making waves in the world of fashion and beauty, all thanks to their latest cover model.

For their April 2023 issue, the magazine tapped 106-year-old Apo Maria "Whang-Od" Oggay, a traditional mambabatok, or Indigenous tattoo artist, to pose for the beauty-centric issue.

As outlined in a post by the social media account Diet Prada, Oggay is one of the last people who practice batok, also known as the centuries-old tattooing practice within her tribe.

"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.

In a bold move for cultural representation, Oggay's cover makes her one of the few members of an Indigenous community to have graced Vogue's covers worldwide (model Quannah Chasinghorse covered Vogue Mexico in May 2021, and in May 2022, Vogue Australia’s fashion issue featured four Indigenous women).

At 106-years-old, she also becomes the oldest person to ever be featured on the cover of Vogue.

According to the article, the centenarian has been tattooing since the age of 16, using the traditional batok method. The Kalinga tribe believe that the art form is a way to communicate stories and knowledge passed down from their ancestors, while the designs on their skin protect them from evil spirits and travel with them to the afterlife.

Apo Maria
Apo Maria "Whang-Od" Oggay, an Indigenous tattoo artist featured in the pages of Vogue Philippines's April 2023 cover. Artu Nepomuceno / Vogue Philippines.

The original Vogue Philippines Instagram post highlighting Oggay's cover has earned more than 200,000 likes at the time of writing, with fans worldwide praising the magazine's choice of cover model.

"Epic!" shared Filipino influencer Bretman Rock.

"The perfect cover for a beauty issue. Beauty in aging. Beauty in culture. Beauty in being a Filipino," wrote another follower.

"Who ever thought of this need a raise. And this living legend right here shud be protected and celebrated at all cost," shared a third.

"This is groundbreaking! Congrats Vogue Ph!" added another.

Artu Nepomuceno, the photographer behind this photo shoot also shared a message of gratitude to Instagram on Friday, writing that "the love is incredible and humbling."

"We celebrate this month with beauty," he wrote. "We celebrate the beauty of time, the beauty of family, the beauty of love, the beauty of our elders, and the beauty of being Filipino...Your celebration of this beautiful soul means more to me than I can ever grasp."

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