The Inbox

Mambabatok: Kalinga’s last traditional tattoo artist

Text and photos by Aileen Camille Dimatatac, VERA Files

In the small village of Buscalan in Kalinga province, 92-year-old Maria "Pangud" Oggay has been practicing the traditional art of tattooing for almost 77 years now. She is the province’s only living traditional tattoo artist or mambabatok.

Pangud learned the craft from the male mambabatoks by watching them. She uses pine soot for ink, pomelo torn for a needle, a bamboo stick to hold the needle and a hammering stick.

At first, Pangud prepares the ink by scraping the soot from under the pot and mixing it with a little water. Then she readies the bamboo stick in which she will insert the pomelo thorn or gisi (kisi).

Before she starts puncturing the skin, she first puts a stencil of the design which usually starts with two lines to indicate the length and position of the tattoo. Now she is ready to do her masterpiece.

After dipping the needle into the ink, Pangud holds the stick with the needle on one hand so that when the hammer strikes, the needle would be driven into the epidermis and then spring back to its position above the skin. The tapping sound is called tek-tek, which means to hit slowly, hence forming the word batek.

After she finishes one part she rubs the wound with the ink. The amount of time Pangud takes to finish the work depends on the size of the tattoo, but on the average it takes about one-and-a-half hours.

Why do people choose to suffer the pain and possible illness from this kind of art? What do they gain from this? During the early times, the people of Kalinga considered tattoo a form of beauty for women and a sign of courage for men. They started tattooing themselves at puberty, and for them tattoos are an essential form of art that reflects their roles in the society, status in life, tribal identity, eligibility for marriage and, of course, beauty. For women, the absence of a tattoo meant they would be less attractive to men. For men, a tattoo is a symbol they have entered manhood, and for warriors it serves as a trophy after a successful hunt or fight.

The usual intricate designs of Kalinga tattoos are centipede (ginay-gayaman), python (chila or urog) and honeycomb (ufog), which can mean either fertility, long life, protection, and a relationship to their ancestors and spiritual world.

Pangud lives a very ordinary life. Whenever she is not busy tattooing, she attends to her wild pigs and ricefield. But as the only remaining living mambabatok, she is proud of her choosen profession. Although she has been suffering headaches and fatigue, she still plans to continue this unique art and lifestyle that has been passed down to her in order for their culture to remain alive not only for the people of Kalinga but mostly for those whom she marks.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Appeal for convicted Pinay in Indonesia continues – Palace

    The Aquino government is doing everything possible to save a Filipina facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, a Palace official said yesterday.Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government was moving within Indonesia’s legal framework to spare Mary Jane Veloso from death.Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario continues to exhaust all legal avenues to save Veloso from execution, Valte said.The Indonesian Supreme Court on Wednesday denied the government’s …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Bulacan, Bataan are top Lenten destinations

    MALOLOS, Bulacan – With the expected Holy Week exodus of Catholic devotees to various pilgrimage sites in Bulacan, Bataan and other provinces near Metro Manila, local and provincial officials have coordinated with security and emergency response teams to address the influx of visitors.Among the pilgrimage sites in Bulacan that are often visited by travelers are the Divine Mercy Shrine in the town of Marilao; the procession of saints in Baliwag; the Banal na Bundok with the Stations of the Cross …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR , BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options