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The Filipino Art of Tattoo

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The Filipino Art of Tattoo

The history of tattooing in the Philippines goes back nearly as far as the history of the

country itself. There are literally hundreds of ethnic groups in the Philippine island chain, each

of which has their own language, tradition, and history.

Much like Borneo and other parts of Micronesia and Polynesia, tattoos were applied by a

sharpened bird bone or a kind of 'comb' made of sea shells. A hammer or mallet was used to

strike these repeatedly and drive the natural ink (usually made of pine and sugarcane juice)

under the skin.

Back then, getting infected was high. In cases where the attoos covered a large area of

the body, it was not uncommon to die while recovering from an extreme tattooing session.

Sometimes the process damaged internal organs.

However, many people back then still underwent the painful procedure because it was

considered an honor and worth the risk to lose life and limb. The tattoos for them were badges

of honor that is handed out after a brave deed or at a reaching of a significant stage of life.

Among those tribes in the Philippines who practiced tattooing, the most well known are

the Kalinga tribes of Northern Luzon. In days past, the Kalinga were known as headhunters and

cannibals, who would carry out long standing grudges against rival tribes. Kalinga custom

dictated that before a young Kalinga could become a full-fledged warrior, he had to taste the

blood of his first victim. Not only did this define his status as a Kalinga warrior, it also granted

him a long lifespan. Great celebrations were held after a successful headhunting expedition, and

those who passed their trials of manhood received tribal tattoos to mark the occasion. Women

were not left out of the deal, either. In many cases, Filipino women were considered unwanted,

or unattractive unless they received elaborate tribal tattoos. Significant life events, such as

menstruation or childbirth, were also marked with a tattoo.

In Visayas, tattooing caught the eye of the first Europeans who came here that they were

called the Pintados. The art was fairly widespread in Southeast Asia. It is said that the

Indonesian cloth dye-ling known as batic was developed as a substitue for tattooing.

According to the Visayans, these tattoos were considered talismanic. Beasts, patterns

and religious drawings gave them special powers. It was also considered a status marker, a sign

of bravery, a common rite of passage for young men. In the Philippines, no tattoing was began

until some brave deed had been performed. After that, for each one of the parts of the body

which was tattooed, some new need had to be performed.

History of Tattoos

It appear that tattoos have been found on Egyptian mummies dating from about 2000 BC.

They are referred to in ancient writings relating to the Greeks, ancient Germans and ancient

Britons and Romans, who used tattoos to mark criminals and slaves. After the advent of

Christianity, tattooing was forbidden in Europe, but persisted in the Middle East and other parts

of the world.

The origins of tattooing as an art form are to be found in societies all over the world

where it was first used for magical purposes. The finality of being tattooed gave it a seriousness

and an importance that is no longer seen on the globe today. In ancient Egypt, among Native

Americans as well as in Africa and in the Pacific Basin tattooing assured control over the

supernatural, as well as the forces of nature. Both the form and placement of designs were used

to achieve the maximum intended power. The tattooed person's age, marriage status, prowess as

a warrior or membership in a specific group were in this way identifiable in this life. Often, too,

the tattoos were intended as a sort of passport in the afterlife.

The word tattoo, is of Polynesian origin, as tattow. It was introduced into english from

Tahiti, where it was first recorded by James Cook's expedition in 1769.

Polynesian tattooing, as it existed before the arrival of Europeans in the South Pacific,

was the most artistic tattooing in the ancient world. It had evolved over thousands of years

throughout the islands of the Pacific and, in its most highly developed forms, was characterized

by geometrical designs which were added to and renewed throughout the life of the individual

until they covered the entire body. In beauty and complexity ancient Polynesian tattooing rivals

the best work of modern masters of the art.

So where did it come from? And why



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