Director Brent Foster present this short documentary on Apo Whang-Od that details the changing landscape of the hand-poke tattoo tradition of the Kalinga village in the Philippines.
As the world continues on its trajectory into the future, leaving in its wake all things from the past, elements of traditional culture will inevitable and unfortunately diminish. We (or perhaps not so much for those of us that strap ourselves to a computer screen for the majority of the day) see this most for hand-oriented trades that used to build the world we know today, but with the advancements of technology, have no more standing as an industry. One specific example of this is the ancient tradition of hand-poked tattoo, which dates back as early as 12,000 BC.
Meet the sweet old Apo Whang-Od, the last living Mambabatok, which is the traditional name for a hand-poke tattoo artist from the Butbut tribe, who reside in the Kalinga village located remotely in the mountains of the Luzon province in the Philippines. Whang-Od’s particular tattoo style originated as a symbol of pride for warriors, and a marking of beauty for females from the Butbut tribe. While it’s a thing from the past, it’s still an integral fiber that makes up the human race and the cultures we bring about, so to hear that Whang-Od remains as the last living Mambabatok is heart-breaking, and definitely owed such a homage as Director Brent Foster‘s aptly titled video for his While I’m Here: The Legacy Project video series that quite simply “profile amazing everyday people, while they’re still here.”
The good news that you’ll discover from watching the beautifully shot and edited short documentary is that there’s hope yet for the Mambabatok tradition. Apo Whang-Od, who is estimated to be impressively 99 years of age, is now passing her skills over to a new generation of the Butbut tribe, with close family in tow like her grand-niece. Check out the video in the jump above, and be sure to watch the Behind the Scenes video below.