Apo Whang-Od – The Last “Mambabatok”

CYMERA_20160718_063129.jpgWhang-od ( born c. 1918) is a Filipina tattoo artist from Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga, Philippines She is considered as the last mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut Kalinga people and the oldest tattoo artist in the Philippines. Her tattoo ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a calamansi or pomelo tree. This ancient technique called batok that dates back a thousand years before her time is relatively painful compared to other conventional techniques.She uses designs found in nature and basic geometric shapes.Due to her status as the last mambabatok, many netizens are lobbying her to be one of the National Artists of the Philippines.Instead of National Artist, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago urged her colleagues in the Philippine Senate through a resolution that Whang-od should be nominated as one of the National Living Treasures or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan, which is equal rank to National Artist. Read more

Apo Whang-Od  is featured in an ongoing art exhibit in Canada.From the Musée du Quai Branly in PariS.The exhibition called “Tattoos: Ritual. Identity. Obsession. Art.” is open from April 2 to September 5, 2016. It “explores the 5000-year-old multifaceted world of tattooing, showcasing a visual history of body art and markings, ancient tools, and commissioned tattooed silicone body reproductions, inked by some of the most respected tattoo artists in the contemporary world.” It was developed and produced by the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris where it was first staged.


(Photos courtesy of KayLeen B. Kwet, Facebook, April 4, 2016.)

This event is one of the unforgettable and meaningful travel experience I had so far. In this event I got my first tattoo – It was inked by the legend mambabatok Apo Whang- Od . The experience is amazingly painful – The whole trip is full of adventure, a long drive with a wonderful scenery, with fun travel buddies and new friends. The locals of Buscalan Village are kind ,helpful and funny , they have tons of jokes and games that you will surely enjoy . And the kids are lovely, don’t forget bring some goodies for them,  like candies , toys and schools supplies .

Here are some of our pictures .




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How to Get There

From Manila

  1. Ride a PUB via Tabuk. Victory Liner on Kamias Road, along EDSA and just across GMA Network in Kamuning offers daily trips bound for Tabuk. Fare is between Php 720-820, depending on the type of bus available during the scheduled trip. Travel time is about 10 1/2 hours. Bus has two trips daily that leaves at 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM.
  2. Get off in the town of Guadalupe and ride a jeepney bound for Tinglayan. Travel time is approximately an hour and a half to two.
  3. Get off in Tinglayan and ride a jeepney bound for Butbut.
  4. From Butbut, you may now start to trek. Depending on how fast or slow you move your bottom, the trekking time is recorded to last for about an hour and a half to two.

There are a few locals who would offer a motorbike (habal-habal) ride from the jump-off point up to the farthest valley of the mountain. Fare is Php 100 per head. Availing this offer would cut down your trekking time into an hour.

Note: The first jeepney in Guadalupe bound for Tinglayan departs at around 6:30-7:00 AM. If you came a little early, you may opt to get off at Victory Terminal in Tabuk where you could rest and have coffee. You may ride a tricycle bound for Guadalupe for Php 20.

 Tour guide rate : Php 1000/ 5 pax/ day. Same rate if you are travelling solo.

  • Registration fee in Buscalan Village : Php 75/ head.
  • Accommodation will be taken cared of by your chosen tour guide. Rate is Php 300/head. This includes: shared toilet and bath, possible shared accommodation with other guests, a pillow and when you get lucky a blanket or a mattress would be provided, unlimited Ifugao Coffee, cooked Ifugao Rice daily, electrical outlets for recharging of your gadgets.
  • Pack enough clothing to combat the cold weather in the village. Preferably, these should be lightweight as you will be carrying them in going up and going down the mountains.
  • Bring emergency kit and medicine as no pharmacy was sighted.
  • Canned goods of any type or bottled water for your entire stay. **optional** The village has potable drinking water and accommodation includes daily supply of almost all edible plants and crops in the area.
  • Flashlights can be handy as locals turn off their lights at night.

Want to visit Apo Whang- Od ?

Travel with us, Like my page in Facebook : Byaherang Barat

or text/call me at 09167020281 –


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