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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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Maraming Salamat! Thank you!

Lantern "Parol" making

Lantern “Parol” making

To all those who turned up to help us make the Parols for day 1 and 2 of our Lantern “Parol” making session, MARAMING SALAMAT! We have such lovely parols of all colours and sizes hanging up at the Museum of London Docklands! #‎parol2015‬

lantern "Parol" making

A big well done to all the participants, families and children who put in a stellar effort this year. Thank you to all who got involved and the volunteers who made the event run smoothly! All the media who came, Rose Eclarinal from TFC for covering it once again and Sonny Laragan from Pinoy Radio UK.

Day one of the Parol ‘lantern’ making event hosted by Philippine Generations at the Museum of London, Docklands.A big…

Posted by Philippine Generations on Sunday, 6 December 2015

Day two of the Parol ‘lantern’ making event hosted by Philippine Generations at the Museum of London, Docklands.A big…

Posted by Philippine Generations on Sunday, 6 December 2015

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Lastly…a massive thank you to all our amazing volunteers who helped make‪#‎Parol2015‬ a raging success this weekend! A special thank you to our photographer Lawrence Carlos who took amazing photos on both days. We couldn’t have done without all of your help and support, Thank you!

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Making a Filipino Christmas – PG’s Annual Parol Workshop 2014

Parol Workshop 2014

Christmas is nearly upon us, and that can mean only one thing: the return of PG’s ever-popular Parol Christmas Lantern Workshop!

Every year, this free event has welcomed young and old, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, friends, families and strangers to come buy one of our easy-to-use Parol kits and create their very own Filipino Christmas lanterns.

Evocative of the Star of Bethlehem, a Parol will add a distinctly Filipino touch to any Christmas – so do come join us and partake in our rich cultural heritage!

The details of this year’s event are below:

Date and Time: Saturday 6th December, 12pm – 4pm
Location: St Saviour’s Church Hall, St. George’s Square, Lupus Street, SW1V 3QW
Prices: Entry is free, but Parol kits will be available to buy on the day
Food and drink will be available to buy on the day

For more details, do check out our Facebook event which we will update as we get closer to the big day.

As Christmas is a time of giving, we at PG are teaming up with What You Do Matters for their Christmas Appeal 2014. They are aiming to fill up 200 shoeboxes filled with children’s gifts to distribute to disadvantaged and homeless families in Newham, in coordination with Community Links. So please do bring along anything you can spare, as well as those unused shoeboxes you may have cluttering up your home!

Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us as we, you, your friends and family make Parols – as simple or as complex as you want – using our starter kits as well as the expertise of our helpful volunteers to create a wonderful decoration for the home.

PG love,
The PG Committee and Directors