Sunday, June 1, 2008

It Was Written: Projecting Filipino on the surface of skin

On the tip of resonating with our Pacific Islander fam, I've been meaning to post up on the tattoo culture which has been around here in Southern CA for about a decade. One of my students got me hip to an October issue of Filipinas Magazine. The cover story is about Tatak ng Apat na Alon ("Mark of the Four Waves"), a crew of Filipinos who are reviving their Filipino heritage (or "regaining consciousness") through elaborate tattooing. (It must be noted that a prerequisite to getting inked is a sincere effort to read up on Filipino history and culture). This is a beautiful way to express our Filipino-ness. Peep the artwork!

(Images and caption from the group's website)

KRISTIN TANPOCO (Anak) - member of the tribe. Works as a graphics designer and is also a DJ for an internet radio station called Los Marijuanos . Designed by ELLE and tattooed by BIG ROCK.

(As the website states, the "Four Waves" are a reference to four major cultural influences on Filipino people) "THE FOUR PICTURES ABOVE ARE FOUR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE FROM THE ISLANDS OF THE PHILIPPINES. THE FOUR WHO SHAPED AND DEFINED THE IDENTITY OF THE FILIPINO RACE.

From the first wave the "AFRO-ASIATICS" the BLACK Filipinos in their native tongue the AETA`s or AGTA`s. The Second the MALAYO-POLYNESIAN people who is definitely very related to the Polynesians of today. The Third that made the mix different from the south pacific is the Indic and Arabic influence. The Fourth of course is the Spanish blood that ga
ve us names with no meanings."

Tatak group photo for October 2007 issue of Filipinas Magazine

This is an amazing craft and a creative method of consciousness raising. What's really dope is that the artwork is not some generic, watered-down tattoo pattern. The artists make serious efforts to make the patterns reflect each person's story and ancestral history. Whaaat!

The homey Elle is holdin it down. Holla at him if this is something that you're curious about. Here is a little blurb from his myspace:

I am a part of a contemporary tribe called MARK OF THE FOUR WAVES (Tatak ng Apat na Alon TRIBE) We are on a mission to revive traditional filipino tribal tattoo arts that has been dying out ever since the landing of the overseers the spanish colonizations... I been thru so much and i want to dedicate myself to revive the real identity of my people... Check my photos you will see the big difference and changes i went thru, the sacrificize i had to go thru like cutting my DREADLOCKS that i had for 9 years to make a statement, that change is GROWTH


Anonymous said...

Yes, indeed it is a beautiful inscription but I don't think mutilating the skin is definitely not for me. Perhaps, a small design would be nice. Then again, I am not really into tattoos.

Mark, why don't you get one?

MV said...

thought about it. maybe. snoopy or mermaid or something.

Anonymous said...


I hope you are kidding. When I think of snoopy, I think of peanuts. As for mermaid, I think of Ariel. But maybe that's just me.

Why not stars/moon or rainbows or flowers?

Or some waves to represent your "filipinoness expressions"? Yeah?!?

Otherwise, go for it!

Anonymous said...

i am ready to get tatted up! wrist to neck, let's do it. i just hope i can pass the history test.

kiwi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kiwi said...

whuttup yo.

though i do believe in reclaiming our culture and art, and learning about our history, i do have some issues with creating and claiming a "tribe" all the way here in the belly. filipino tribal roots are sacred and i think it's a little problematic when i see fil-ams, with our entitlement and privilege (let's be real here, them tats cost MONEY), posturing and posing with our body art, while the REAL tribal people in the cordilleras (and other places, respectively) are fighting (and dying) against mining companies, developers and politicians for their land and livelihood. this is no different from privileged white folks appropriating third world/people of color culture (take your pick) at the expense of the very people that this lifestyle comes from. who benefits from keffiyehs being sold at urban outfitters? not arab folks. i actually rock some of those same tribal tats, but what i have on my forearm won't do sh*t for peasants in kalinga. beneath the tattoos is a history of resistance, of repression and poverty, of kidnapping and murder, that we must not just incorporate into our teachings, but actually DO something about, if we are to provide our future generations with a comprehensive history of our peole. we owe that to people like macliing dulag (google him!)

in the meantime, check out my dude aleks figueroa's website:

he's one of a few artists that specialize in filipino designs, he works with integrity and honesty, and he won't b.s you. good luck!

Anonymous said...

theres a million ways to express and establish you identity...but then you dont have to go out of your way to affirm your being filipino..we are a unique race..theres no mistaking us for something else..straight up respecting you culture and your roots is good enough..IMHO..learning to speak the language and not losing it is important also