I have to admit I do not know much about the tribe culture here in the Philippines. The most tribal I can get is that I have a barely sufficient amount of knowledge on Philippine Mythology and that tapis is for women and bahag is for men; but while I was scrolling through Tumblr I saw this video called "The Last Tribal Tattoo Artist". It was enlightening. I felt like I unearthed something that has long been there but has been tucked away in a sea of clutter.
Let me share with you this feeling, dear reader. Below I introduce to you the culture of the pintados.
The functions of these tattoos are not limited for aesthetic reasons. The tribes people believed that the tattoos possessed spiritual and magical powers that give strength and protection to the wearer. Tattoos on the body, even on the owner's own face, are used to intimidate opponents during combat. After a successful hunting, the headhunters, as in people who hunt for people's heads, would come and get their tattoos as a symbol or reward for their triumph. It also marked their social standing in the tribe.
For women, they would usually get their tattoos by puberty. Tattoos for women signified acceptance into society and the start of adulthood, which completely goes against what society believes in today. Some tattoos are even believed to increase their chances in fertility.
From the video, the last Kalinga tattoo artist, named Maria Whang-Od, uses dried grass first to trace the tattoo on the body. Usually tattoo artists would use a small sharp object, bone, wood, or a thorn that is repeatedly tapped into the skin to apply the ink.
Below are some examples of tattoo designs on the Cordillera people.
Across the Internet, there are videos of today's youth seeking out the master tattoo artist and last traditional Kalinga tattoo artist Maria Whang-Od. One of the people who went out of their way to find her was Heather Fassio and her group of multi-national friends. They created The Pintados Project to seek out our forgotten culture.
Is it shameful that it isn't the native Filipinos that have taken interest in Philippine pre-colonial culture? I don't think so. I think that as long as that there are people who are willing to open the rest of this country's eyes on how rich our culture used to be, then there is nothing wrong with that. The fact that there are Filipinos who did not grow up in their own soil and are dedicated into tracing their roots just proves how there is still so much hope in our people.
That's why I call to you readers to take action. Take interest. People say that our country is a melting pot of different culture but let us not forget our own in the midst of things. Let us not forget our identity. Better yet, let us not let our identity go to the grave.
Sources: 1, 2, 3
click the photos for their sources