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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Batok: Traditional Pinoy Tattoo

We have another pride as Filipinos.  The traditional batok (term for tattoo).  Our race originated from Aetas and Malays (related to Polynesians); they shared a lot, exchanging culture and traditions, and even arts.

One of the arts that were shared and taught was pambabatok or skin arts.  Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao have different types of body art just like Baybayin which is distinct to different parts of the Philippine Peninsula.

If you try to look how the pambabatok is done, it is the same like the polynesians do.  Our skin art have deep meanings as well, like the beehive design which means 'unity'.  There are different designs including trees, waves, hagdang-hagdang palayan, and more (all of which have their own meanings).

One of the oldest, if not the only one left, and the most respected traditional tribal mambabatok is Whang Od, a lady who is part of the Kalinga tribe, uses siit (thorn) and hammers it down on your skin.  She had did batok to different tribesmen, mainly warriors for the identity status just like the pintados of the Visayas region.

A certain group of tattoo artists like 'Tatak ng Apat na Alon Tribe' are reviving this vanishing tattoo culture.  It is our pride to have our own face in the art of tattooing that is worth saving.  According to one of the best tattoo artists in Boracay, Dandy Canalita of Inkupuncture, when you want to have the traditional or the neotraditional batok and you are a foreigner, you will be charged at a higher price since originally it was forbidden to have a batok if you are not a pure blooded Filipino.

In the art of tattooing, the considered "father of tribal tattoos" is also a Filipino (too bad I forgot his name), and one of the considered 'best' in Las Vegas is Chris Garcia.
Sariling atin na dapat tangkilikin at ipagmalaki.

Photos by: apat na alon tribe, inkupuncture, dandy canalita, and allan


  1. the guy na nagtatattoo sa foreigner yung nagtattoo sakin bro hehehe.

  2. oo tattoo ka na rin bilis! hahaha

  3. san yung tattoo mo bro?

  4. @arvin: sa kilay bro...gusto mo rin? hahaha. sa likod bro, nakita na ni axl...

  5. ayoko! kung magpapatatto ako sa balls nalang. palagyan ko ng flowers.. hahhaha

  6. @Arvin: Sa balls? sige bro!!! kung kaya mo...ililibre pa kita!!! hahaha

  7. how do i contact this Chris Garcia about getting a tattoo in Las Vegas? or are there any Filipino Tattoo artists in San Diego?

  8. @gabriel: hi, you can contact him through his facebook acct for booking a schedule. you may search the tattoo shop where he's in also to see where the address is. I'm not sure though if there are Pinoy tattoo artists in San Diego...

  9. dude where can i find your shop? great job!

  10. @robert: you can find the shop in boracay and in angono rizal - inkupuncture. are you based here in the philippines?

  11. do the folks at inkupuncture also design the tats based off family roots like the apat na alon people?

  12. @fafe: nope, they are doing the neo-traditional, no family roots, bloodline, or status involved, just the design you want with its meaning. although one of their artists is doing the traditional way of batok by using thorns and hammers it unto your skin, they are not, if i may say, hardcore traditional pinoy mambabatok.

    traditional batok requires research and focus per se, the apat na alon artists are specializing in the traditional batok because they've done the research, have been doing this for so long, and have focused on this art only (they are good). if you want a traditional batok, you can have it done with them, or other traditional tattoo artists who does it. or if you really want it to be done by an authentic mambabatok, go to kalinga and ask the grandchild of Whang Od to do it for you.

    Good day!

  13. Leo Zulueta is the Father of Tribal Tattoos ^_^

    Leo Zulueta was born in 1952 in a naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.He was born into a Roman Catholic Filipino American family.

    Zulueta spent his early years on the island of Oahu in Hawaii and in San Diego, California.He attended San Diego State College in 1970, where he studied arts and crafts.

    During the 1970s he began to explore his interest in Bornean traditional tattooing. In 1976 he met tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy, who encouraged him to become a tattooist.Zulueta started tattooing professionally in 1981.

    Zulueta's style of neo-tribal tattooing has been influential on other tattoo artists. In 1989, he was featured in the RE/Search publication Modern Primitives. In 1992, Zulueta founded Black Wave Tattoo in Los Angeles, California, which he sold in 2000.In 2007, he was featured on TLC's Tattoo Wars with his protégé Rory Keating.

    Zulueta currently resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he operates Spiral Tattoo.


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