In a small village in the northern Philippines, a 106-year-old grandmother with full body tattoos has made history as the oldest-ever Vogue cover model. Her name is Wang-Od, but she is also known as Maria Oggay, and she comes from the Kalinga tribe, which has been practicing traditional tattooing for centuries.
Wang-Od has been receiving these tattoos since she was 16 years old, using thorns, bamboo sticks, and natural dyes to create intricate designs on her body. For male warriors, such tattoos symbolize bravery, while for women, they represent beauty. Wang-Od is known as the last of the Kalinga tattoo artists and has recently started teaching her great-grandchildren the art of batok, fearing that the cultural heritage passed down through her bloodline may disappear.
Over the past 15 years, Wang-Od’s artistic tattooing techniques have gained fame, attracting tourists to her village and inspiring young people in the surrounding areas to learn the craft. And now, her beauty and cultural heritage have been recognized by Vogue Philippines, which has chosen her as their cover model.
Maria Oggay, as Wang-Od is also known, is one of the few indigenous Filipinos to grace the cover of Vogue and is currently the oldest-ever cover model, surpassing British actress Judi Dench, who graced the cover of British Vogue at the age of 85 in 2020.
According to Vogue Philippines editor-in-chief Bea Ledesma, staff members unanimously agreed to feature Wang-Od as the cover model, believing that she represents the beauty that Filipinos hold dear. Ledesma explained, “Our concept of beauty needs to evolve, and we need to embrace diverse faces and shapes. Our message of beauty is one of humanity.”
In a Vogue Philippines interview, Wang-Od expressed that she will continue to create batok tattoos for as long as her eyesight allows, stating that “the time to stop tattooing is when you can no longer see.” Her story serves as a testament to the beauty and cultural heritage of the Philippines, and to the enduring spirit of a remarkable woman who has made history at the age of 106.