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Filipino Tribal Tattoos
FIlipino Tribal Tattoo
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 suppressed throughout the past by invading countries and empires. 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 7107 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 Filipino tattooing arts. One Filipino 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.
As with other tribal tattooing histories, Filipino 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 connecting with ancestors runs through Filipino tattooing traditions, meaning that awareness of family, past, and oral teachings was very important.
The designs vary among the different Filipino 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.