History Pages: 1 2

The Real Filipino Roots: How we became…
The Malay Archipelago before government and politics and nationalism started/ consisted of only what we know now, as Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Within the vast archipelago these islands was not inhabited yet, only by Pre-historic animals.

FIRST WAVE: The First indigenous people that traveled to explore new homeland was the Aetas (Negritos: which are crossed with Afro-Asiatic and Austro-Aborigines). The Aetas or Agtas or Negritos or Andamanese (of the Andaman Island, India), they are the first to reach several exotic Islands of the archipelago and called it home. This was approximately 15,000-3,000 B.C. (Original indigenous native man of the East Indies and of the island continent which is now known as Australia). Within these times the Aetas where nomadic because of the changes of weather and food resources. They traveled through the vast region of the archipelagos. Going from island to island of the South seas (for instance, the people of Melanesia – FIJI). The Aetas area mix descent of African and Asiatic roots they came from Asia evolving as a new race of human beings. Different from the present day black people of Africa or the present day Asians.

SECOND WAVE: Alongside the Aetas different and diverse civilizations were evolving faster and more advanced than them. This is because of the Malay archipelagos many secluded islands (time seems to stop as primitive indigenous tribes are in seclusion). When the many islands of the pacific were settled by the Aetas. Another wave of intermixed race appeared. These natives came down also from Asia and evolve to another race. They were called the Proto-Malays (Mongol Asiatic descent they are from mainland Asia and are the 2nd to settle in the Malay archipelago). The Proto-Malays were more technologically advanced group (2500 B.C. 2nd wave). They were sea farer’s and farmers, and their advances in to the peninsula forced the Negritos of the land to the hills and jungles. Although, there were a few territorial fights in the beginning of the Proto-Malays settlements. They have live side by side with the Aetas peacefully Within their island homes (exchanging information). Both the Aetas and the Proto-Malays practiced head-hunting and is part of the family Malayo-Polynesian language group.

THIRD WAVE: Third wave introduced civil natives called the Deuteron-malay`s they were crossed with the Proto-Malay natives with India-asiatic, which was Indian, Chinese, Siamese, and later mixed with Arabic. These people brought with them diverse influences. They were more civilize and so, along with the Aetas and the original Proto-Malay natives the Duetero-Malays in comparison was not as primitive. So they overruled the majority of the archipelago. Not until the Spanish overseers came with there guns and forcing there beliefs on the land. And so they were pushed more down south area of the archipelagos.

It was the introduction of the 4th wave that soon put the Philippine Islands into the maps. The Spanish fleet led by Portuguese hero Ferdinand Magellan reached the islands. From there, to make things short and not complicated, short summary: the CASTILLAS the Spaniards, the Conquistadors (the overseers) did as they do and rape and pillaged the land of its gold and of its people, to make it there own. Intermixing to become the fourth wave. The Spanish influence. TO BE CONTINUED…

It was 1998, in the midst of the Polynesian tattoo renaissance; the first Amangs of the tribe went to Hawaii not knowing what lay ahead of them. They wanted to see for themselves the proud people who have been reviving their culture’s tattoo traditions. In some sense, they felt that the spirit of the MANA was present in every turn during their journey because it led them to the most righteous people. It also gave them the opportunity to learn about the Polynesians oral history and folklore, giving them the chance to build a bridge of information that parallels that of the Philippines. As the Amangs shared their information to what they have learned from the elders and their separate researches it would mesh with the research of the Polynesian brothers and to what they have heard and learned growing up with the tattoo culture being practiced. That was only the beginning in furthering their dedication for the revival of the Filipino tattoo traditions.

From Hawaiian big brother’s like beach boy ROY with stories about his tattoos, made tribe members focus more about their own tattoos and how it correlated with their own lives and ancestors. ROY then introduced the first Amangs to two Polynesians from Tahiti, PO’OINO and COCO. It was a great site to see that they too were filled with tattoos that spoke about their ancestors and abundantly celebrated them on their skin without shame or worries about the preconceptions of today’s society and how they look down upon such practices.

It was very admirable that the Polynesians dedication of reviving their traditions went as far as to sport so much tattoos just to make a point about their ancestors way of expressing things through insignias and patterns; reviving things of the past that missionaries felt was savage and primitive was a proud thing to do. The POLYNESIAN people too, have experienced oppression by the Europeans, yet they are pushing to regain the wealth of their tattoo culture that was once extinct. They asked the AMANG’S why aren’t our Filipino people breaking that mental enslavement from the past Spanish rule and join in the revival by getting tattooed with our insignias and sacred patterns? We read so much in books that the Filipino people where very much tattooed in the past but none dare to step to the plate and brake the cycle. Seeing their POLYNESIAN cousins, it was a great example that fueled the creation of the tribe and it’s mission to regain.

However, it didn’t stop there. PO’OINO started a tattoo shop in Waikiki, Oahu called NEW TRIBAL TATTOOS, which brought the very talented likes of AISEA TOETU’U and Filipino brother ORLY LOCQUIAO from San Jose; they became the TRIBES great friends. NEW TRIBAL TATTOO wanted to practice contemporary tribal tattoos, paralleling traditional tattoo designs of the old and weaving it to the person of today. It was a foundation filled with cultural sources. AISEA TOETU’U was the start of the revival… TO BE CONTINUED.


Sometimes called the Forgotten Islands of Southeast Asia, located as they are off the main trading routes, the over 7000 islands that comprise the Philippines host a rich mix of about 80 to 90 distinctively different cultures, ranging from the wild sea gypsies of the Sulu Archipelago, many of whom have never stepped foot on dry land, to intensely independent Kalinga people, who live in the remote mountainous region of Northern Luzon.

Here, where the terraces are close and the slopes are steep, age-old traditions are not easily changed. The few roads through the area are supplemented by narrow footpaths which wind their way along terrace edges up the jutting stepping stones of the terrace walls and through mountain passes to connect the villages and barrios. Everything, including new construction materials when needed, must be borne on human backs and heads.

But one of the constants that are part of almost all traditional Filipino cultures is tattooing, with styles that range from intricately delicate swirling designs to bold and simple silhouette motifs. Tattoos have long been so much in evidence that part of the Philippines was dubbed “La Isla De Los Pintados” — the Islands of the Painted Ones — by Spanish explores. Sadly, over the last half-century, Filipino tattoo traditions have been slowly vanishing. But that slow cultural suicide will soon stop, if the “Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe” tribe accomplishes its goals.

Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon is an organization dedicated to reviving the traditional cultures and tattoos of the Philippine Islands. Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Translates to Mark of the Four Waves, a reference to the “waves” of immigrants who came to the Philippines over many millennia. The influence, both good and bad, of each of these waves has combined to create the islands’ culture. Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon intends to resurrect the positive, repair the negative, and move into the future while keeping their roots firmly planted in the past. “A people without knowledge of their history and culture are like a tree without roots,” says Amang Hanuno’o, Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon member. Our ancestors are the roots on the tree of life, and all the branches tell their stories. The leaves are our parents. We should all support each other as we grow and reach towards the skies, but so many of our generation are like seeds that have not been watered.”

Tattooing, encapsulating as it does the stories and beliefs of traditional Philippine culture, is a significant part of the renaissance that Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon are working towards. Tribe members help each other to research their ancestors’ history by consulting elders and whatever printed reference material might be available. From that knowledge the correct tattoos are created.

Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon members stress that their tattoos are not a fad or a fashion statement. The tattoos are intended to bridge the gap to their ancestors, and every pattern is sacred. Each Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon member’s tattoos have story lines and deep symbolic meanings behind them. So for a person to copy would be taboo and disrespectful. They can be used for inspiration for your own designs. But it would be so much better, AMANG suggests, to research your own roots and water your own tree. “I know of someone who got a Filipino tattoo which he thought indicated that he was a brave warrior. But what the design actually meant was that he was the widow of three warriors. I didn’t say anything to him about it because I didn’t want to embarrass him. His heart was in the right place. But that is an example that it’s very important for people to know that these tattoos have real power and meaning, and could bring unwelcome things into your life if you aren’t absolutely sure what they stand for, or if you aren’t the person who is supposed to be wearing them.”

For Some of the images, only a surface story can be told of their meanings, since it is believed that telling the in-depth story will diminish the tattoos worth, depriving it and its wearer of its protective power. Other tattoo designs would seem to conflict with traditional Filipino beliefs, AMANG says, Unless you know the thinking behind them.” For example, a lizard is a messenger of death. If a lizard whispers in your ear, you won’t survive the next battle. So you’d think people wouldn’t be wearing a lizard tattoo, but actually the image acts as a talisman. Other messenger lizards of the spiritual world would presume that the message has already been delivered when they see the tattoo and they leave you alone.”

There are different tattoo traditions among each of the Philippine’s main island groups; LUZON, VISAYAS, and MINDANAO. According to AMANG’s research, the mountain tribes in Northern Luzon developed a highly creative culture, and tattooing is still very prevalent among the people who live there. Their tattoos are intricate patterns comprised of curved and straight lines, inked in indigo blue and placed on the chest and arms. ” It would be difficult to find a man or woman from the interior of LUZON who has never been tattooed,” says AMANG. ” But the practice is rapidly disappearing as many people are now discarding their old traditions in favor of the new.”

The Men of the VISAYAS, the people called PINTADOS by the Spaniards, tend to tattoo their entire bodies. The women only tattoo their hands. Both sexes get inked at an early age, as it’s believed that the younger child begins to get tattoos, the easier he or she will find the experience.” Visayas tattoos are extremely elaborate, they look like complicated etchings,” said AMANG. ” They leave only their wrists and feet bare of ink. Basically what they do is cut the designs into the skin and then press soot or ashes into the wound.”

Traditional Filipino women get tattooed to enhance their beauty. Men’s tattoos are markers of their age, accomplishments, and tribal seniority. Some tribes believe that tattoos have magical qualities, particularly images of scorpions, centipedes, snakes, and boats, all of which have especially deep significance to the people who wear these tattoos.

The Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe has about 40 members (then, 100 members now in the present and that does not include all the candidates to join). Most have been tattooed in the modern way, with tattoo machines. Some have gotten traditional hand worked tattoos. The traditional tattooing method involves the tattooist smearing the skin with a mixture of soot and sugarcane juice, Amang says. If sugarcane juice isn’t available other substances such as lard or hen’s dung can be used. The skin is then rapidly poked with the tattooing instrument, which ranges from the pointed metal pieces used by the PINTADOS, to the pieces of sharpened wood used by the kankanay tribe from Central Benguet.

The Most unusual tattooing device was developed by the Isneg tribe from the Apayao Province called the “Igihisi,” it is made from a curved piece of rattan with four or five pins attached to one end. The tattooist places the pins into the skin and then rapidly beats the curve next to the pins, on it’s convex side, until the pins are deeply embedded into the skin.

AMANG HANUNO’O recently discovered that the folklore of how tattooing began in Borneo is very similar to a Philippine tattoo myth. Both are birds, who –as the story goes –fell into a bowl of black ink. Covered with pigment, the bird frantically flew into a warrior, and began to peck at him. Soon the warrior was covered with little black marks that formed a design, and the first tattoo had been inked.

Sometimes I feel like a horse with blinders,” said Amang. “I am so focused on Filipino Things that I forget to look at other cultures. And it is very important to look at other cultures because all are connected. Art knows no boundaries.”

TATTOO Magazine®
May 2004 – Issue 177