In those days, unmarked women were considered imperfect, undesirable. One of the most enduring ullalim, a form of epic poetry that is chanted by the village bard, is the story of the warrior hero Banna who falls in love with the beautiful Lagunnawa. In the pre-colonial tale, their tattooed bodies are celebrated as badges of honor, wealth, beauty, and bravery.
When the American Catholic missionaries came and built schools in Kalinga, village girls were made to cover their arms with long sleeves. Being tattooed became a point of shame when women ventured to the city, and eventually fewer girls from the succeeding generation continued the tradition as Western concepts of beauty and respectability began to permeate the culture.
from "Apo Whang-Od And The Indelible Marks Of Filipino Identity"
VOGUE PHILIPPINES, April 2023 Cover Story
GUYS. GUYYYYYYYS. I don't know how many of you will be interested in this, but please allow me to share the latest Vogue PH issue. Because I am floored.
The woman on the cover is Apo Whang-Od, the oldest and, until just recently, the only remaining mambabatok (traditional Kalinga tattooist) in history. And now, at 106 years old, might also be the oldest person to be on the cover of Vogue.
In the last decade, Apo Whang-Od has been heralded to national treasure status in the Philippines for keeping a significant part of her people's culture (the Butbut tribe of Buscalan, Kalinga) alive, even through years of Western colonization and modernization. Through her, an art form and custom that was on the verge of being lost to history has had a reemergence, and allowed a lot of Filipinos to rediscover and reconnect with our roots.
I am just so pleasantly surprised and impressed that a thousand-year local tradition was perfectly captured in the cover of a fashion magazine. The portrait itself (photographed by Artu Nepomoceno) is such a good one, too. Allowing Apo Whang-Od to be the symbol of strength and beauty—in ageing, in culture and in being Filipino. Three cheers for this profound moment in representation, Vogue PH! THIS IS HOW YOU SEEEEERVE!
SCHIAPARELLI Couture Spring/Summer 2023
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