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UPDATE (7pm, Feb 5): Miming Leung Yin-Baker posted an update on Saturday night, Feb 4, to say that hallelujah! Whang Od has recovered from her fever! Another well-meaning traveler, a foreigner she says, messaged Yin-Baker to share the good news, photos and all. What great news!


Going viral is a well-meaning Facebook post by Miming Leung Yin-Baker.

“We were asked by her family to post on Facebook about her health condition. Wala silang signal sa bukid,” begins her post that strangely became something of a tip sheet.

Anyway, according to Yin-Baker, Whang Od, the venerable mambabatok is sick. She’s weak and frail and can’t accommodate the tourists who went up to Buscalan for an ink.


Yin-Baker, who is among th tourists up in Kalinga this week, reports that the 95-year-old Whang Od has been coughing up phlegm and that she’s having a hard time breathing. “We think she has pneumonia,” she says.

“Even though she was too weak to get up, she tried her best to talk to us and even asked what tattoo we wanted from her. But it was clear that she doesn’t have the strength to do so,” continues her message, which she posted on Facebook on Thursday, Feb 2.

Apart from posting on social media, Whang Od’s family also asked Yin-Baker if she could send a message to Lars Krutak, a tattoo anthropologist, who wrote about Whang Od and became her good friend along the way.

Lars Krutak with Whang Od. Photo from Heartbeat Ink
Lars Krutak with Whang Od. Photo from Heartbeat Ink

Yin-Baker posted two other videos on her Facebook—now on private—that show how weak and frail Whang Od has become.

It was a little a lot disturbing but we’ll say thanks to Yin-Baker anyway for bringing Whang Od’s health to everybody’s attention.

While she mentions there are about 10 other tattoo artists in the village who can still ink you, a level-headed netizen Maria Ligaya Muyuela Abanto has a better suggestion: “postpone your trip and let Apo Whang Od recover first. She needs to rest and her grandchildren to attend to her and not to tourists who want their tattoos done.”

If you’re already OTW and happen chance upon this story, maybe you can pass by a barangay clinic and bring up a doctor to Whang Od. An idea little far-fetched we know, but should be worth the effort. We mean, you’re already going to see her anyway.

Whang Od is something of a national treasure. She is the last Kalinga tattoo artist who can do the “batek/batok,” a fast-dying tattoo tradition in the Philippines.


Headline photo: Wikipedia



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