Michelle Dee plans to get inked by Apo Whang-Od

Michelle Dee plans to get inked by Apo Whang-Od

/ 11:16 AM December 12, 2023



Michelle Dee’s competition gown in the 2023 Miss Universe pageant earned praises, not only for its unique design, but also for drawing inspiration from Apo Whang-Od, the centenarian “mambabatok” (traditional tattoo artist) from Kalinga. And she revealed that she would love to get inked by the living legend.

“Yes, I want to see her, gusto kong magpa-tattoo sa kanya (I want to get a tattoo from her). And I will be flying, hopefully, with (fashion designer) Mark Bumgarner as well,” the Miss Universe Top 10 finisher said at her homecoming press conference that followed her parade at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City on Dec. 10.


Dee said she will leave it up to Whang-Od what tattoo design she will get. She also shared that the designer had met up with the mambabatok months back. “I think that’s how he got the inspiration for the gown,” she said. The beauty queen also revealed that she was also supposed to see Whang-Od before the international pageant, but there was a typhoon on the day of her flight.

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“I’m planning to go very, very soon, maybe in the next few weeks. I really want to thank her for being such an amazing inspiration for all of us. Of course, she has shown so much for cultural preservation,” continued Dee, who had just flown to Bali, Indonesia, to film a campaign.

For her homecoming parade, Dee flaunted another Bumgarner creation inspired by the mambabatok, a white asymmetrical pantsuit with a long train and beaded tattoo patterns from the neck all the way to her right arm. “Of course, we had to pay that homage to Whang-od. And we wanted to do a contrast to my final gown,” she said.

She also revealed that it took Bumgarner only two days to finish the white outfit. “I love him. Thank you so much for the exquisite, perfect gowns that I traveled with. Most of the time, a queen travels with so many back up gowns, but I traveled with two magnificent and perfect gowns,” Dee shared.

The professional model, host, and actress did not only land in the Top 10 of the Miss Universe pageant. She also topped the fan voting, led in the national costume, poll, received the “Spirit of Carnival” award from Carnival Cruises, and was one of the “gold finalists” for the “Voice for Change” initiative by the pageant’s crown provider Mouawad with CI Talks.

Dee told INQUIRER.net that, while she appreciates all the recognition she received in the 2023 Miss Universe pageant, she finds her “Voice for Change” award the most meaningful. “I realized how much good you can do with a platform such as Miss Universe. And that purpose, that drive, my two siblings in the autism spectrum really gave me that greater sense of purpose. Autism Society Philippines, they have given me that greater sense of purpose and that energy to really try my best to represent all of us with the best of my abilities,” she explained. The “Voice for Change” showcased the delegates’ advocacy projects through video presentations.

hang-Od during her homecoming. Beside her is Autism Society Philippines Chair Dang Koe./ARMIN P. ADINA

Miss Universe Philippines Michelle Marquez Dee (right) wears another tribute piece to Apo Whang-Od during her homecoming. Beside her is Autism Society Philippines Chair Dang Koe./ARMIN P. ADINA

“With that platform, I really want to make a positive impact…and the ‘Voice for Change’ is that one award that really focuses on trying to make the universe a better place,” Dee continued.

The Miss Universe Philippines organization (MUPH) is already searching for Dee’s successor, who will represent the country in the 73rd Miss Universe pageant in Mexico next year. Accredited Partners (APs) have been awarded the authority to select delegates from different provinces, towns, and cities in the country.

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TAGS:  Apo Whang-Od, Michelle Dee

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