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Indigenous Filipino woman becomes Vogue cover model at age of 106

She is seemingly the oldest person to grace the cover of Vogue.
Apo Whang-Od.
Apo Whang-Od.imagegallery2 / Alamy Stock Photo
/ Source: TODAY

The newest cover model of the latest issue of Vogue Philippines is making history. Apo Whang-Od, also known as Maria Oggay, is an indigenous Kalinga woman and legendary tattoo artist. She's also 106 years young.

Hailing from a small mountain village called Buscalan, the centenarian is known for her traditional tattooing technique, called batok. Using a sharp stick and charcoal soot, Whang-Od has been practicing her art since she was a teen, the magazine reports.

The story outlines how Whang-Od's popularity helped keep her town on the map, drawing tattoo fans and tourists to her rural outpost. She's also trained her grand-nieces — Grace Palicas, 26, and Elyang Wigan, 23 — to follow in her footsteps as a mambabatok.

“Apo Maria ‘Whang-Od’ Oggay symbolizes the strength and beauty of the Filipino spirit,” Vogue Philippines wrote in a tweet. “Heralded as the last mambabatok of her generation, she has imprinted the symbols of the Kalinga tribe signifying strength, bravery & beauty on the skin.”

Though Whang-Od nowadays only gives her three-dot signature sign-off on her grand nieces' tattoo work, she told Vogue she plans to keep up her art as long as she can.

“When visitors come from far away,” Whang-Od she told the outlet in the Butbut language, “I will give them the tatak Buscalan, tatak Kalinga for as long as my eyes can see.”