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The following is an excerpt from the Tattoo History Source Book:

The Philippines
Prince Giolo

In September 1691, a fully tattooed South Sea Islander was brought to London to be exhibited as a curiosity. He was a slave whose owner went to great lengths to promote his public appearances by arranging to have two full-length portraits engraved and published as illustrations for an elegantly printed pamphlet which introduced him as "Giolo, the Famous Painted Prince".

Prince Giolo tattoos
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"He was painted all down the breast, between his shoulders behind; on his thighs before; and in the form of several broad rings, or bracelets, round his arms and legs. I cannot liken the drawings to any figure of animals, or the like, but they were very curious, full of great variety of lines, flourishes, checkered work, etc. keeping a very graceful proportion, and appearing very artificial, even to wonder, especially that upon and between his shoulder blades. By the account he gave me of the manner of doing it, I understand that the painting was done in the same manner, as the Jerusalem Cross is made in men's arms, by pricking the skin, and rubbing in a pigment. But whereas (gun) powder is used in making the Jerusalem Cross, they at Meangis use the gum of a tree beaten to a powder called in English, Dammer, which is used instead of pitch in many parts of India. He told me that most of the men and women of the island were thus painted, and also that they all had ear rings made of gold, and gold shackles about their legs and arms."
(William Dampier, Giolo, A New Voyage Round The World, 1697)

Giolo, didn't want to visit London, but was promised to be paid well for his public appearances and told that he would be allowed to return home to his native Philippines. Giolo became ill during the trip to England and soon died of smallpox after his arrival.

Traditional Cordilleran Tattoo Practices in the Philippines

(Note the three paragraphs below are part of an excellent article by Lars Krutak titled - Return of the Headhunters: The Philippine Tattoo Revival

Early Philippine tattooing and tattoos
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The people of an ató (one of the political divisions of a Bontoc village) could only tattoo when some person belonging to that ató had taken a head. In 1900, the people of Bontoc village maintained "that tattooing may not occur at any other time, and that no person, unless a member of the successful ató, may be tattooed." Tattooing instruments were made from a piece of wood or water buffalo (carabao) horn about 10 cm long and 2 mm thick. At about a sixth of its length it was bent at a right angle and, in the shorter arm, three to five needles were affixed. The needles were laid on the skin and driven in with blows of a wooden hammer at the rate of 90 to 120 taps per minute. Soot from resinous wood such as spruce was used for pigment and rubbed into the wounds, causing the flesh to rise in great welts, which sometimes became infected.

Visayan "Pintados" (the Painted Ones) Boxer Codex, 1590Like the Kalinga, in every Bontoc village there was at least one man or woman who was the tattooist (manbatek, Kalinga). One traveler noticed in May 1903 that "there are two such in Bontoc - Toki, of Lowingan, and Finumti, of Longfoy - and each has practiced his art on the other. Finumti has his back and legs tattooed, and the designs were simple. A large double scallop extends from the hip to the knee on the outside of each of Finumti's legs."

Like other tribes in neighboring Borneo and New Guinea, Igorot tattooing was considered a serious religious experience. The flowing blood attracted spirits (anito) which could protect or destroy a community if the proper sacrifices were not made. In the eyes of the people, all diseases, sicknesses or ailments, however serious or slight, were believed to be caused by anito and sometimes these malevolent spirits were not completely satisfied until they were offered a human trophy head that would come to hang in the rafters of the ancestral ató.

Tattoo Museum Bibliography, Resources and Links

Asia Tattoo Map See all Asian Tattoo Culture Articles here

More Resources:

Ancient tattooing explored

The Kalinga Batok (Tattoo) Festival

The Last Filipino Head Hunters

Tattooing: A vanished art among the I-Kalinga?


Reviving Filipino Tattoo Traditions

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