Text, photos and video by VINCENT GO, VERA Files
What started out as a gathering of a few tattoo artists at a small garage in Malate district in Manila twelve years ago has grown to be the biggest tattoo exposition in the country.
Called Dutdutan XII, the expo brings together some of the best local and foreign tattoo artists in two days of competition.
Now considered one of the best parties this side of town, the event features two days of music and a tattoo competition in various categories and gears that have attracted major sponsors.
Dutdutan comes from the Filipino word "dutdut," meaning "to jab," as in the act of jabbing at the skin and piercing it to create art.
Indigenous groups in Northern Luzon made tattooing instruments from pieces of wood attached with three to five needles that driven into the skin with jabs of a wooden stick. Soot from resins wood was used for pigment and rubbed into the wounds that would often times become infected.
The practice dates back to the time long before the country was colonized by Spain in the 16th century.
Today, Filipinos are seeing a resurgence of tattooing, with the skin once again becoming a canvass for self-expression.
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)