Whang-od has not left her village in a very long time. She lives in Buscalan, deep in the mountains of Kalinga province in northern Philippines. Every day, she farms, cooks, and raises her pigs, just like the rest of the Butbut tribe.
Unmarried at 95, Whang-od is the last of her tribe’s tattoo artists.
While younger tribe members do not seem too keen on having the full-sleeved tattoos of their elders, Kalinga’s batok tradition is far from disappearing in Whang-od’s hands.
It is, instead, taking new form.
People from all over now make the grueling trip to Buscalan for her tattoos, spawning a new generation of Kalinga art bearers. Whang-od, who has scarred warriors returning from battle, now hammers age-old tradition into the skin of the future, dispersing their culture of batok from her humble village into the world.
This project was produced in completion of the scholarship grant received for the 2014 Mentorship Program of The Invisible Photographer Asia.
All images © Nikka Corsino