There is no doubt that tribal tattoos have proved to be one of the biggest trends in the modern world of tattooing which is ironic to some extent because these contemporary designs actually emulate some of the oldest body art on the planet. The art of tattooing can be traced back centuries however it has actually been in existence for millennia and its origins go back to ancient civilizations and tribes, many of whom no longer exist. There are also those tribes that are almost close to extinction so body art designs that incorporate their style of tribal artwork are welcomed by many as they are keeping the tradition of this ancient practice alive. While many of today’s body art designs are created with the most widely requested tribal artwork in mind – such as Maori, Celtic Samoan, Polynesian and Hawaiian – there are some more unusual imagery like the Filipino tribal tattoo, that are considerably rarer used which makes them a much more unique and individual choice.
In the Philippines, like many civilizations around the globe, tattooing was widespread among tribal members in centuries past for both men and women, to denote such things as rank, status and clan as well as a mark of personal attributes such as beauty or bravery. Symbols would be etched on the individual’s body from puberty onwards using pintados – small pieces of sharpened metal that are heated in fire – and a black powder made from a combination of suit and sugar cane which was rubbed into the flesh. In some instances lard, gall and even the excrement of live stock was also used to make the ‘ink’ substance. Differing tribes also had different placement priorities and while some male members were often inked all over the body with the exception of the hands or foot, women mostly had just their hands tattooed. The style of artwork used for Filipino tribal tattoo designs also varies from tribe to tribe but the most common imagery used today is that favored by the Ifugaos which was quite distinctive in that the pintado used had three points. These were used to make distinct patterns of wavy lines, leaf patters and celestial bodies such as the sun or stars used to ink female members. Many of these designs were very elaborate in comparison to some of the more simplistic design used by rival tribes. These women would often be inked in intricate patterns from their hands – including the knuckles – right up to their elbows, with designs covering almost every part of the skin’s surface.
In our modern society, many of those who opt for a Filipino tribal tattoo choose to do so to pay homage to their ancestral roots as a cultural tribute to the land of their birth. This allows them to express their pride in their heritage in a very up to date manner with their choice of body art thus bridging the gap between the old world and the new. These designs are popular for placement on areas such as the back, leg and chest however full or half sleeve tattoos are also very popular and work well with this geometric shapes and imagery which is similar in style to some of the popular Polynesian artwork widely requested today.