Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bronson: "Tribal Tattoos of the Philippines"

Tribal tattooing has been a tradition in the Philippines since pre-Hispanic colonisation of the Philippine Islands.When the Spanish first landed in the Philippine Islands, they where met by the tribal people of the Visayas, who had full body tattooing, the Spanish dubbed these Islands as "La Isla De Los Pintados" or "The Islands of the Painted Ones".Tattooing in the Philippines is a tribal form of rank and accomplishments, some tribes believed that tattoo's had magical qualities.

The more famous tattooed Filipino Tribes where the tribal peoples of the mountains of North Luzon, especially among the Bontoc Igorot, Kalinga, and Ifugao peoples, which where infamous for Head-hunting. A tribal member received a tattoo (known as a "Chaklag") which meant they have taken the head of an enemy tribe or warrior. The traditional tattooing among the former headhunters of northwestern Luzon is nearly extinct. Today, you can only see traces of the indelible art in all of its splendor among the Kalinga and maybe one or two other groups living in the area. But back in 1900, just before American authorities outlawed headhunting, tattoo was to be seen everywhere, especially among the Bontoc Igorot, Kalinga, and Ifugao peoples.

The Bontoc Igorots recognized several kinds of tattoos and very often the amount of designs worn by a man was directly related to the proportion of human heads he had taken in the headhunt. The chaklag, usually running upward from each nipple, curving out on the shoulders and ending on the upper arms, indicated that the man had taken a head or, as one writer put it in 1905, "The indelible tattoo emblem proclaims them takers of human heads, nine-tenths of the men in the pueblos of Bontoc and Samoki wear them."

Among the neighboring Kalinga to the north, successful warriors (maingor) had tattoos placed at the back of their hands and wrists after their first kill. These striped designs were called gulot, meaning "cutter of the head."

Kalinga men who killed two or more men had elaborate patterns applied to their arms and chests called biking, comprised of khaman ("head-axes"), ufug ("centipede scales") and bodies of the centipede (gayaman), which were protective and spiritually charged symbols.The khaman design also covered portions of the torso, back, and thighs and centipede scales crossed the cheeks of the most successful warriors.

Sometimes, a human anthropomorph was tattooed just above the navel and small crosses adorned the face, indicating a warrior of the highest rank. Other more simple markings had therapeutic value and were placed on goiters, tumors and varicose veins. Among the Kalinga particular arrangements of centipede scales were believed to ward off cholera.

Tattooing was considered a serious religious experience. Tattooing was a sign of Rank and power in the tribal community, many Tattoos could only be attained by accomplishing a task, or passage of rites. Women in Filipino tribal society also traditionally tattooed themselves, and tattooing was seen as a form of beauty among women. Notably women of the Luzon mountain tribes received full arm and chest tattooing, whilst in the Visayas and Mindanao they typically only tattooed their hands and wrists.



  1. fresh post bronsy! dope pictures too! thats heaps hectic about how they can only be attained through completing a task or through some religious ritual. out of 5 stars i give this post a pretty awesome!
    from chris

  2. bronson we have to stop taking myspace pictures of ourselves...GEEZZ!!!!