April 13, 2014 | Sombrero Island, Batangas
We were in San Jose, Tarlac to for the Abelling Tribe’s Anito Festival. Rituals have been going on for a week in one house to transfer the Anito from an aging tribesman to a younger host. During this afternoon, the elders were chanting, dancing, and performing other rituals. But just right next the small crowd were kids running around, playing with their phones, and mocking the elders’ dances.
I saw this girl sitting in the same spot facing the wall. I sat behind her to wait for a good shot. While I was waiting, kids in the house started gathering behind me. They probably noticed that my camera was facing towards the sitting baby in front of us so they called her. For a few minutes they called, “Angel, Angel.”, but still she wouldn’t budge. Then a girl came in and turned her around. After a few clicks people stopped walking in between, and I got this shot.
Aside from the final photo, what I liked more about this photo was how she got to pose and what was happening right next to her. After years into photography, the most important thing I learned is that the story behind the photo is what makes it meaningful.
March 23, 2014 | San Jose, Tarlac
Chaz and Dominic at a vulcanizing shop. We did a 70 kilometer bike ride around Jala-jala. The roads were bad and we got flat tires twice. Luckily, there were a lot of vulcanizing shops along the route.
March 15, 2014 | Mabitac, Laguna
Vendors outside Quiapo Church the night before the Feast of the Black Nazarene that draws in millions of devotees from all over the Philippines. It is said that if you are able to touch the Black Nazarene statue or the rope pulling its trolley during the procession, your wishes will be granted.
January 8, 2013 | Quiapo, Manila
Two ways to explore beneath the waves: with a SCUBA, or with just your skin.
January 15, 2014 | Panglao Island, Bohol
Found a turtle today.
January 16, 2014 | Balicasag Island, Bohol
A Kalinga Woman and the Mambabatok
They were preparing for a community celebration during this afternoon, and ended up singing and dancing until the next morning. It was serene waking up to their old tribal chants with the sun rising over the mountains in Buscalan This scene bordered on mystical, really. It was another world, far from the rush of city life. It was broken when they started playing karaoke hits followed by reggae music from our house.
We went up there to get tattoos the traditional way from one of the last remaining Kalinga tattoo artists, Apo Fang-od (Our guide told us of another elder tattoo artist in a different tribe, but he doesn’t work on outsiders). She’s been making tattoos on those with money to spare for several years. This is the only way the art is being preserved since getting tattoos just fell out of fashion among the Kalinga, the young finding no need for painful marks on their bodies.
Tattoos are applied by pigmentation of coal soot mixed with water using a pomelo thorn being hit by a stick, a process called Pambabatok. Depending on the part of the body, it can be very painful because the skin is literally being wounded. Rituals are performed before a tribe member gets a tattoo. Men get tattoos on their chests once they have killed someone as a mark of their strength and bravery. Women get tattoos to show that they are capable of childbirth. The older women say that the more tattoos a woman has, the more beautiful they become. Their arms are marked by snakeskin patterns because this is what they say is the most beautiful skin.
But today in Buscalan, the younger generation bear no marks while the older ones cover them up. I woman from the town of Sagada in neighboring Mountain Province told us that she is scared of Kalinga because of their head-hunting tradition. Though the last incident she said was back in the 1960’s, there is still a stigma towards the Kalinga as an unfriendly bunch among the people of the Cordilleras. The mountains were the reason for their growth in isolation. But since they’ve become more accessible with roads, the Kalinga have come into contact with people from the lowlands and overseas who have come to trade, teach, or for the novelty of an authentic Kalinga tattoo.
Tattoos made on outsiders are only individual designs, unlike those on the older Kalinga whose entire bodies, and even faces, are marked. But the imperfect and humanistic appeal of the batok as opposed to the modern and mechanical tattoo needle has been drawing in the more adventurous crowd. Hopefully, the younger generation of Kalinga will recognize the value of their tattoos and revive their tradition. I’d like to walk around their towns one day and see more men and women wearing sleeveless shirts.
December 29,2013 | Buscalan, Kalinga
To read more on the Mambabatok: Blurred Lines on Kamusta? Magazine