Apo Whang-Od’s protégé on ‘Vogue PH’ cover story: ‘The future looks good for Filipino culture’
Grace Palicas, the grandniece and protégé of Buscalan-based “mambabatok” Apo Whang-Od, is elated by world recognition bestowed on the revered tattoo artist over her cover story for a fashion magazine featuring the country’s ancient tattoo heritage.
Whang-Od graced the cover of Vogue Philippines’ April 2023 issue, which was hailed by several local and international celebrities, among them Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell and Gigi Hadid. Following the cover, CNN International named the indigenous tattooist as the “oldest person ever” to be featured in the forefront of Vogue’s titles, a record previously held by English actress Judi Dench.
Palicas herself was featured as one of the few remaining “mambabatok” artists that are continuing Whang-Od’s legacy.
In her Facebook page on Monday, April 3, Palicas said that it’s been a “journey” to see Whang-Od’s story being told to a wider audience. She also recalled an encounter with American anthropologist Lars Krutak, who visited their Buscalan village where “life was hard.”
“In 2006, we had the chance to receive [Lars Krutak] in our village, at that time the houses were small, life was hard, the people went everyday in the rice field to work and bring little money to the family, my grandmother (grand-aunt) was the only tattoo artist in Buscalan and it was my first step as apprentice to follow her path in our tradition of tattoo,” she said.
“Seventeen years later [in] 2023, Apo Whang-Od is on the cover of Vogue Philippines. What a journey! Who could imagine that,” she further added.
The tattoo artist then spoke about Apo Whang-Od’s enduring legacy in local culture, as she noted her determination to keep their “tradition going” with the “new generation of artists.”
“Year after year, [you come] to visit us here, to claim your identity as [a] Filipino, to claim your mark as a tattoo lover and tradition keeper. Year after year my [grandmother] is getting older but our tradition [keeps] going [with the new] generation of tattoo artists who follow the pathway,” she said.
Palicas also noted that the future “looks good for Filipino culture,” as she hoped that her grand-aunt’s story would serve as an inspiration to preserve the country’s ancient tattoo heritage
“[Seventeen] years ago I couldn’t imagine [what my future would be like]. Now I believe I can tell you the future looks good with all of you around us, looks good for the Filipino culture. I can make a list of @ to say thank you to all of you guys but my post will never find an end. Take care of you. We love you all,” she said.
Apo Whang-Od’s also spoke about the feature in a separate post last March 30, saying it was a “pleasure” to be featured in the fashion magazine.
“It [was a real] pleasure to participate [in] this feature with my grandmother and Vogue Philippines. Thank you to all of [you] guys for your appreciation. The future looks good with all of you around us, around the Filipino culture. Love you all and take care of you,” her caption read.
The 106-year-old tattooist was named as the magazine’s “next of skin,” as the focus of its beauty special. EDV