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The Filipino Tattoo Art

Updated on May 25, 2016
Filipino tattoo style
Filipino tattoo style | Source

Tattoo among the Ifugao

The indigenous group of people in the northern part of the Philippines known as the Ifugao has been practicing the putting of tattoo in the entire body as a sign of spiritual powers and magical qualities which gave them strength and protection. The tattoos on their bodies distinguished them from other tribes’ warriors because their tattoos served a reward after a successful headhunting expedition. The tattoos marked their social status in the community.and command respect from other members of the tribe.The women also received tattoos to boost their beauty, sign of fertility, and as means of clothing to cover their private parts. However, the advent of Christianity and modern civilization began to change the attitudes of the Ifugaos and other tribal communities about the tattoo on their body.

But, tattoos resurfaced as a form of art and not as a symbol for some unknown powers. Several young people in the Philippines, especially those in the millennial generation has become attracted to the art of tattooing. Of course, it was an unwelcome phenomenon for the old and traditional folks who claimed that the body should not bear any mark that can disfigure the temple of the Holy Spirit. I have nothing against the tattoo though I have some unresolved doubts about its nature and purpose.

Joy in Pain

There's a smile on her face while the tattoo maker applies the tattoo on her shoulder
There's a smile on her face while the tattoo maker applies the tattoo on her shoulder | Source

It is no joke to have the needles and blades cut your skin. The pain may be unbearable at the start of the process, but as you become accustomed to it, you will no longer feel the pain. As the Filipino would say, "only the brave and the strong, who bear the pain, can endure the tattoo." Unlike other country's tattoo artists, the Filipino tattoo maker does not apply any anesthesia or pain reliever during or after the process. The recipient of the tattoo cannot ask to stop even for a minute because the skin may swell. Thus, the process of tattooing is a continuous pain enduring exercise. Surprisingly, the recipient remains calm and seemingly enjoying every stroke of the needles on his skin.

What kind of art is this?

Beautiful drawing or a painting?
Beautiful drawing or a painting? | Source

Until now, I am still groping to find the answer. I can understand the reason for having a tattoo on their body. I appreciate the hard work and the patience of the recipient of the tattoo. I admire the finished product and marvel at the creativity of the tattoo maker. They put much effort and endurance to have the drawing of a common image, a name, a figure, or a symbol engraved on their skin. The tattoo stays there until they die. They feel proud and happy every time they look at their tattoos. They display their tattoos for others to see. The tattoo may not have meaning for those who will look at it, but it gives tremendous joy on the person with the tattoo.

They are next in line


Making a tattoo lasts for several hours depending on its size, design, and color. The tattoo artist used two needles to create a thin lining on the skin that serves as the outline. Once he has completed the line, the next step is to put shades in between the line. Now and then he would dip the tip of the needle to provide colors on the tattoo. The next recipient of the tattoo would wait patiently for his turn. He does not care how long is the waiting period. He has only one thing in mind and it is to have a tattoo on his skin before the day's end.

Some of the Filipino meaning for their Tattoo

Yes, for some Filipinos they attached a meaning to the tattoos on their skin. I firmly believe that some cultures that exhibit excellent craftsmanship on tattooing may have similar meaning for their tattoo. I deem it necessary to cite some these incredible tattoos that I found in several Filipino males and females.


The butterfly represents the person's soul
The butterfly represents the person's soul | Source


The lion represents the person's aggresiveness
The lion represents the person's aggresiveness | Source


The star symbolizes power and wish granting
The star symbolizes power and wish granting | Source

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