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‘Los Pintados’ – Our Philippine Tribal Tattoo History

The Philippines is an ancient Archipelago

Long before the Spanish land grab and unification of all islands under the name ‘Las Islas Filipinas’ (the islands that belong to Philip), there was rich culture, art, commerce, traditions, language, writing systems with localized political units and organized kingdoms.

 

Selection of Gold jewellery, treasures and artifacts, c.10th-13th Century, from the Ayala Collection. Courtesy of Inquirer.net

Selection of Gold jewellery, treasures and artifacts, c.10th-13th Century, from the Ayala Collection. Courtesy of Inquirer.net

 

Many belief systems and traditional practices have been forgotten or adapted over the years, through Islamic migration and enforced Christian conversion to mass waves of migration of people from Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Mainland Asia, Europe and the Americas to over 400 years of Colonisation.

Throughout the centuries of mass migration and cultural upheaval, certain aspects of regional and indigenous culture have survived and that sets us apart from many Spanish Colonies.

We have over 150 dialects spoken in the Philippines, with 13 indigenous languages spoken by at least 1m people. We have indigenous martial arts systems practiced throughout the islands, our writing systems have survived even though it is not taught in formal Philippine education, we have regional dances that are still practiced today, festivals with roots in naturist beliefs and we have our own style of tattooing.

 

'Los Pintados' image from the Boxer Codex c.1590

‘Los Pintados’ image from the Boxer Codex c.1590

 

Mainly due to the Spanish colonial occupation, did a negative stigma arise regarding the practice of tattooing, in fact, when the Spanish first arrived on the islands, they named us ‘Los Pintados’, the painted ones.

 

Global Cultural Revival

Recently we have seen a revival of traditional Filipino tribal tattoos among the Filipino diaspora, those of Filipino heritage born or brought into life away from the Philippines. These people long to identify with their heritage and amongst comparable diaspora from India, China, Korea, Japan and Thailand, feel that the Philippines too has as much of an indigenous and traditional culture to offer. We too have our own cuisine, our own arts & dances, our own martial arts and our own writing system.

With the emergence of Polynesian tribal tattoos coming from people Maori, Samoan and Hawaiian heritage, to name a few, this too struck a chord with Filipinos, as migration through the Philippine Islands affords the Philippines and Polynesia/Austronesia/Oceania a shared history.

 

Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-Od. Courtes of BBC

Kalinga Tattoo Artist Whang-Od. Courtes of BBC

 

There are global visionaries such as world famous 90+ yr. old Whang-Od, one of the last remaining traditional Kalinga tattooists in Luzon, Elle Mana-Festin, co-founder of the ‘Tatak ng Apat na Alon’ (Mark of the Four Waves – signifying the 4 main waves of migration through the Philippine Islands) Tribe from LA, godfather of the current Polynesian revival Aisea Toetu’u, a Tongan / Filipino from Hawaii credited for bringing tattooing back to Tonga after 200 years of Christian censorship, Aisea also serves as a mentor for the aforementioned Elle. Another notable personality is the famous Bong Tatau of Humble Beginnings in San Jose, CA, a specialist in Polynesian tattooing, increasingly he is incorporating Filipino designs and symbolism into his work. These people are helping to raise the profile of the practice of tribal tattoos.

 

Native Representation

Just this month, New Zealand had its first female MP; Nanaia Mahuta, Labour MP for Hauraki-Waikato, with a traditional facial Maori tattoo, ‘Moko’, present in Parliament. This is a beautiful moment for the indigenous people of New Zealand, this is not cultural appropriation as we have seen with the ‘Haka’ in New Zealand Rugby, this is a native person exercising her freedom of traditional expression while making a difference in her country.

 

Nanaia Mahuta, Labour MP, with her Moko facial Tattoo. Courtesy of MaoriTelevision.com

Nanaia Mahuta, Labour MP, with her Moko facial Tattoo. Courtesy of MaoriTelevision.com

 

In the Philippines, many have long discussed what representation means. How can the country move away from Oligrachs and the biggest and most wealthy families continuing to run the show? When the elite are so far removed from the masses? A big part of that process is by affording the native and indigenous peoples of the Philippines a platform and a voice. Hopefully we will find our own Nanaia Mahuta.

 

Join Us this September

This September, is the annual London Tattoo Convention, which brings together artists and practitioners from across the globe to London. This year, Elle Mana-Festin, Co-Founder of the ‘Tatak ng Apat na Alon’ Tribe will be visiting the UK to meet his international peers and has agreed to giving a talk and presentation in partnership with Philippine Generations on the 26th September, venue TBC. Just as we brought you Kristian Kabuay and Baybayin in 2013, we will be enabling Elle to share his knowledge and experience from more than 20 years of research and practice of traditional Filipino tattoos!

 

Elle Mana-Festin with leaders of the 'Tatak ng Apat na Alon Tribe'. Courtesy of BBC

Elle Mana-Festin with leaders of the ‘Tatak ng Apat na Alon Tribe’. Courtesy of BBC

 

Please watch this space, as we will soon announce where this talk and networking opportunity will take place.

If you would like to find out more about ‘Tatak ng Apat na Alon’, Philippine Generations or Traditional Filipino Tattoos, feel free to get in touch.

 

By Adrian Williams

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Filipino Word Search

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Our students enjoying Filipino word search in class on Sunday. Most finished in 5mins! They asked for more word search next week. #filipinoschoollondon #Filipinolanguage #sundayclass  #filipinoclasslondon #wordsearch #tagalogclass #sundayschool #filipinosundayschool #pimlicoacademy #Philippinegenerationssupplementaryschool #supplementaryschool #philgenuk

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8 years of Philippine Generations

It was a bright and sunny August day in 2007 when 5 young second generation Filipinos, the children of migrant workers, formalised an idea into an organisation. Present were signatories at the inauguration; the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Chairman of the Westminster Partnership for Racial Equality (WPRE) and the Deputy Chief of Mission from the Philippine Embassy,

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The idea behind it all was to give a generation of under-represented young Filipinos a voice and to provide a vehicle for future generations to educate themselves, to be inspired and to feel empowered to make a difference. The legacy of this for Philippine Generations are the people we have inspired and enabled to make a difference. The organisations that have grown and those we have collaborated with since 2007 are testament that the decision to focus on the community in the UK was the right one.

Kapihan Sa Pasuguan with Philippine Generations 6:30 on Thursday, 19th November 2015 at the Philippine Embassy, 10 Suffolk Street, London W1Y 4HG

At our first AGM in 2008, we reported on our first year’s activities, our financial position and we had 3 fantastic speakers talk about their experiences as Filipinos in the UK; Peps Villanueva spoke about his migration to the UK from the Philippines and proactivity in the community and the need for young Filipinos to be seen and heard. Omar Shah described his hard work in establishing his restaurant and growing up in the UK as a second generation Filipino. We finally had Rina Atienza talk about her experiences as a young Filipino who lived through the transition of moving to the UK at a young age.

This year we will have speakers once again sharing their story as well as a few announcements from the PG team and a review of what has happened this past year.

We invite you all to attend and share some stories of how our community has grown and developed over these past 8 years! Please RSVP here!

 

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Keeping hope afloat in Dulag

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Last month, Philippine Generations were very fortunate to work with some great people - the folks behind Hope's Afloat - in putting on a charity film screening of 'Metro Manila'.Metro Manila charity screening at the Prince Charles CinemaWe've been keeping in touch with them since

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Upcoming Events!

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Well, we here at Philippine Generations are quite excited, because there are a few things coming up that we think you should also be excited about.Why all the excitement? PG exists to help promote a greater awareness of Filipino identity through culture and community; everything

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Typhoon Haiyan: PG recommends local organisations on the ground

We are overwhelmed by the support of the international community, and it is humbling to witness such generosity. The big charitable organisations have mobilised their staff to maximise relief efforts in the affected areas, and reinforcements from countries’ armed forces have also been sent to provide manpower and resources. It is fantastic and heartwarming, and makes us believe in the goodness of humanity.

Each person, community group or organisation is looking for ways in which to help, and we at Philippine Generations would like to help you do so by actively identifying local organisations which you can support and by making this information available to you. We have already listed a few which you can see on the Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda tab above. This is a list that we will be updating from time to time as we learn about more organisations. 

Let us know if you have other organisations you would like to recommend by sending us an email on info@philippinegenerations.org

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