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Maria Fang-od Oggay in her house in the village of Buscalan, Philippines, May 10, 2017. She belongs to the last generation of her ethnic group bearing a full set of traditional tattoos and is one of the few who remember how they are done. (Jes Aznar/The New York Times)

Buscalan Ink

100-year-old woman is a star tattoo artist in the Philippines

By WITW Staff on May 23, 2017

Buscalan, a remote village in the Philippines has become a hub for tourists — and not only because it is set against a beautiful backdrop of grassy mountains. Visitors near and far flock to the area to get their skin marked by Maria Fang-od Oggay, a 100-year-old traditional tattoo artist.

As The New York Times explains, historically tattoos were a part of the local culture in the Philippines. But when the Spanish arrived in 1521, bringing with them Catholic and colonial sensibilities, the practice was discouraged. Though the Kalinga ethnic group — to which Fang-od belongs — was able to safeguard its practices for centuries, the art of tattooing began to fade by the 20th century.

Consequently, Fang-od is one of few people able to tattoo her customers in the traditional way. After she was featured in a 2009 documentary series, Fang-od became a celebrity of sorts, the unexpected figurehead of a renewed interest in traditional tattooing. Fang-od is herself inked with patterns and symbols — and the names of former boyfriends.

Maria Fang-od Oggay gives a tattoo to a visitor in a hut in Buscalan, Philippines, May 10, 2017. Fang-od, thought to be 100 years old, has single-handedly kept an ancient tradition alive, and in the process transformed this remote mountaintop village into a mecca for tourists seeking adventure and a piece of history under their skin. (Jes Aznar/The New York Times)

Fang-od has benefited from the influx of attention in recent years; her family has been able to acquire 50 water buffalos, a sign of prosperity. But she told the Times that she has yet to receive a visit from the one customer she hopes to tattoo: the Filipino actor Coco Martin, her celebrity crush.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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