For males, this meant being minted as a headhunting warrior. A bikking, a chest tattoo with patterns that crawled up the shoulders and down the arms, may take days to complete and would value a big pig or a number of kilos of rice. Ladies had been tattooed for various causes, primarily for fertility and beautification. The tattooed elder girls of Kalinga typically say that once they die, they’ll’t take their beads and gold with them to the afterlife. They solely have the markings on their physique.
Whang-Od has tattooed extra girls than warriors, as headhunting was banned by the People within the early 1900s. The picture of the Kalingas as bloodthirsty savages was perpetrated by the colonial ethnologic photographer Dean Worcester, who in 1912 printed images of Cordilleran tribes in National Geographic, describing them as each unique and terrifying in an try to justify American management of Northern Luzon, or what he referred to as “No Man’s Land.” However actuality was extra nuanced. Headhunting, as practiced, was part of ritual warfare that had non secular implications. Cultural tattoo practitioner Lane Wilcken explains within the ebook Filipino Tattoos: Ancient to Modern (2010) that headhunting functioned to revive the stability and justice between communities in battle. The marking of the warrior was thus a ceremonial and sacred exercise, finished in a number of levels over virtually two years.
In these days, unmarked girls had been thought of imperfect, undesirable. Some of the enduring ullalim, a type of epic poetry that’s chanted by the village bard, is the story of the warrior hero Banna who falls in love with the gorgeous Lagunnawa. Within the pre-colonial story, their tattooed our bodies are celebrated as badges of honor, wealth, magnificence, and bravado.
When the American Catholic missionaries got here and constructed colleges in Kalinga, village women had been made to cowl their arms with lengthy sleeves. Being tattooed grew to become a degree of disgrace when girls ventured to town, and finally fewer women from the succeeding era continued the custom as Western ideas of magnificence and respectability started to permeate the tradition.
“Conventional tattooing is seen as archaic and painful by the youthful generations of the tribe,” wrote Kalinga elder and former NCIP official Natividad Sugguiyao within the intro to photographer Jake Verzosa’s The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga (2014). “Although the apply has fully ceased, it stays important that it ought to by no means be forgotten.”
The apply could have died out among the many Kalinga, however exterior forces have once more exerted their affect, this time in serving to revive the apply of batok and reworking it into one thing of a hybrid artform. In 2007, Dr. Lars Krutak spent two weeks in Buscalan filming the Philippine phase of his Discovery Channel sequence Tattoo Hunter. There he met Whang-Od, who was almost 90 on the time and nonetheless working the rice fields daily.
Mambabatok can solely go on their craft inside their bloodlines, and Whang-Od by no means had any youngsters of her personal. Grace Palicas, her 10-year-old grandniece, was chosen to be her apprentice, although initially a reluctant one.