WATCH: Couple Shares Unforgettable Tattoo Experience With Apo Whang-Od

I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo. I love and appreciate people with tattoos because most of them have inspiring stories to share. Just like this story, I stumbled upon on Facebook: it’s about a couple who went on a 17-hour road trip and an hour of trekking to have their couple tattoos done by the legendary “mambabatok” artist Apo Whang-Od.


(L-R: Kristine, Apo Whang-Od, and Jasper Lim) Apo Whang-Od is the oldest and the last original “mambabatok” or hand-tap tattoo artist.

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Kristine narrated their experience and the meaning behind their tattoos on her Facebook page.


According to Kristine, apart from the privilege of meeting Apo Whang-Od, the people were accommodating and generous despite their status in life. She also shared that there was “zero mobile connection.” Indeed, a great place for Internet and gadget detox.

busculan village

Photo by Edrex Clyde Sanchez of ECS Films

Busculan Village at Tinglayan, Kalinga.

Furthermore, she confirmed that after 17 hours, 1 hour of trekking, and years of contemplating, finally, she and her husband decided to get their tattoos done. Watch the video below:

Credit: Edrex Clyde Sanchez of ECS Films

Read the full story below:

17 hours road trip (with some challenges along the way) and 1 hour of trekking and hiking; WORTH IT.

I’ve contemplated on getting a tattoo done by Apo Wang Od for hundreds of times and i always end up with the same answer: ‘DO IT’. Why? For one, i know that this is something i will never regret. I’m a Filipino and proud to be one. Also, i know getting a tattoo done by Apo Wang Od, with meanings deeply connected to my individuality, is a great honour and privilege. And as always, i don’t care about how conservative people will react to my tattoo because i know that most of the time, those covered with them are the kindest people you will ever meet…………………………………….. 1f609😉

When we arrived in Buscalan, i felt calm and relaxed. Everything was so simple. We slept at one of the houses owned by a local. There was zero mobile connection and i was thankful that my phone never made any noise during the whole duration of our stay in their humble village. The food that we ate are the same as theirs and its simplicity made me feel so nostalgic. Immersing ourselves with the locals and their culture was one of the best part of our trip next to our experience with The Mangbabatok.

The tattoo done by Apo Wang Od on my left wrist means so much to me. It serves as my permanent post it note.
The 1st two symbols both means “the traveler”. The 1st symbol was derived from Mindanao motifs; representing my father and his origin. The 2nd is the Ilocano symbol of it; representing my mother and her origin. This symbol also represent the ‘kappi’ or the small blue edible river crab depicted in Ilokano woven textiles. It also represents the god Lumauig (the one who hooks / the one who fishes). Placed in a row, they symbolise rivers but can also be called, ‘binekbeklat’ which means “resembling a python”. Python in the Philippines are well associated with ancestor spirits and canoes. Great care was taken not to harm snakes so as to not inadvertently harm or offend one’s own ancestor. These two symbols not only represent my parents but me, as well, as a traveler and an adventurer.It simply connotes the idea that they made me who I am today and who I am going to be in the future.

The 3rd tattoo that goes around my wrist represents the well established river (PADOK) winding its way through the land of Benguet. This type of water design also has been seen on mummies found in the region so it evidently has been tattooed for several hundred years. It was formerly tattooed on men, but now is found only on a few elderly women on the region. This symbol means continuation of life. It also represents my husband and the people around me who always reminds me how wonderful life is and that it must go on no matter what.

Now…I’m sure you’ll ask me if getting the tattoo was painful. YES. VERY. But like what i said… It was all worth it.

BIYAHENG BUSCALAN was Founded by Abot LangitMountaineers. THANK YOU to everyone who’s part of this group. You guys rock.

PHOTO and VIDEO by Direk Edrex Clyde Sanchez. D’rex. You’re the best!

After reading and watching the video posted on her Facebook page, it made me more appreciative of tattoo art and culture. I would love to have one soon.

If you were to get a tattoo, what design would you like to use and why? We’d love to hear thoughts about this.