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102-Year-old Tatooist Whang-Od Keeps Kalinga Tradition Alive

On the Philippine Island of Northern Luzon, within the Buscalan community lives Whang-Od, a Centenarian who is keeping the ancient tradition of Kalinga body art alive. This is a solo crusade for 102-year-old Whang-Od, who believes in the long, rich history of authentic Indigenous body art.

Kalinga body art is an important connection to the life, society, and culture of ancient Indigenous communities. The most notable difference between modern tattoos and ancient Malinga body art is the representation of social standing. For Kalinga men, such tattoos would stand for valour and bravery, whereas for women, tattoos would signify them coming of age, ready for marriage and motherhood.

A practice so pure and strong can only stem from a tribe as strong as the warrior Malinga tribe. Known for defending their community till death, the tribe would count kills through such body art. Designs mostly consist of snakes or rice terraces, descriptive of what they see around them. Despite the practices significance, this is unfortunately a dying custom. Aside from Whang-Od, it is rare to find someone who carries out the practice. As the years go by, it will not be long before Kalinga tattoos, as a tribal art form, are no longer to be seen among the indigenous people.

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