Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Philippino Tribal Tattoos

Philippino Tribal Tattoos

In traditional terms, the Philippines consist of three main island groups - Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao are steeped in tattooing traditions, many of which have been supressed throughout the past by invading countries and empires.
'The Painted Prince' Giolo, brought to London in September 1691
 The men of Visayas wore such intricate and extensive tattoos that early Spanish explorers called their part of the Philippines 'La Isla De Los Pintados' - meaning the island of the painted ones. The term 'Patik' means tattoo.

Traditional Tattoo Methods

The traditional tattoo methods of the Philippines are said to differ slightly between the groups of the various regions - the Philippines being made up of over 7000 islands. All the methods involve the subject's skin being smeared with a mixture of soot and sugar cane juice, and if these aren't available, substances such as lard or hen's dung can be used. The skin is rapidly perforated by the tattooing instrument, which consists of either sharp metal points as used by the 'Pintados', or sharpened wooden teeth, as used by the Kankanay tribe. The Isneg tribe from the Apayao Province use a curved piece of rattan with four or five pins attached to the end. The curve near the pins is then beaten rapidly by the tattooists while the pins are on the skin, forcing them deep into the subject's skin.


The traditional tattoo revival underway in the Philippines has lead to a renewed interest in the earliest folklore and mythology behind the Philippino tattooing arts. One Philippino tattoo myth bears a lot of similarities with the tribes of Borneo, - it says that a bird fell into a bowl of ink, and, in panic started to fly around desperately, and flew into a warrior, and as it furiously pecked at the warrior, the ink penetrated his skin, and the first tattoo was born.

Tattoo Meanings

As with other tribal tattooing histories, Philippino tattoos were used on men to show tribal seniority, accomplishments, age, and power, as well as acting as talismans in certain cases. For instance, although the lizard denotes death, as it was said to be the messenger of death, lizard tattoos would actually be worn as protection, as it was felt that other spirits, seeing the lizard tattoo, would leave the warrior alone as they would be tricked into believing the message of death had already been delivered. Women would wear tattoos to enhance their beauty, and would limit the placing of their tattoos to hands and feet usually, although there were exceptions. The idea of connetcing with ancestors runs through Philippino tattooing traditions, meaning that awareness of family, past, and oral teachings was very important.


The desings vary among the different Philippino traditions, from the extremely elaborate and complicated etchings of the Visayas, to the Luzon's intricate patterns comprised of curved and straight lines inked in Indigo blue. The designs worn were indicators of blood lines, and ancestors as well as achievements and changes, so designs would have been tailored to the individual, although there were tattoos with specific meanings.

The Philippines now - some facts and a brief modern history ...

The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas), officially the Republic of the Philippines (Republika ng Pilipinas;RP), is an archipelagic nation located in Southeast Asia, with Manila as its capital city. The Philippine archipelago comprises 7,107 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, bordering countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Palau and the Republic of China, although it is the only Southeast Asian country to share no land borders with its neighbors. The Philippines is the world's 12th most populous country with a population approaching 90 million people. Its national economy is the 47th largest in the world with a 2006 gross domestic product (GDP) of over US$117.562 billion. There are more than 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide, about 11% of the total population of the Philippines.

The Philippines was formerly a Spanish then an American colony. The Philippine Revolution was an attempt to gain independence from Spain, and later from the U.S. in the Philippine-American War. The Philippines ultimately gained its independence from the United States on July 4, 1946 after the Pacific War (the Second World War) via the Treaty of Manila. The Philippines then became a fledgling democracy until the authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos led to his overthrow in the People Power Revolution of 1986. Political upheavals alternated with peaceful transition of power on the period that followed.

Today, the Philippines has many affinities with the Western world, derived mainly from the cultures of Spain, Latin America, and the United States. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, although pre-Hispanic indigenous religious practices still exist. There are also followers of Islam. Spanish was an official language of the Philippines until 1973. Today the two official languages are Filipino and English.

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