Why is learning the regions where my family is from in the Philippines important? The motifs received depend on where your family lineage is rooted in the Philippines. By learning the regions and ethnolinguistic groups you belong to, Manong Lane is able to determine an appropriate palette of motifs for you.
Can people without Filipino ancestry get these tattoos?
Yes! Ultimately, it comes down to intention and why do you as a non-Filipino want to have it.
The practitioner takes into consideration on your involvement in the community, have you been adopted into a lineage or family?Are you in a partnership/relationship/marriage to someone who is from the Philippines? Why do you want to have markings from our archipelago?
There is a story about a cabin boy who the Spaniards thought was a lost cause, and left him behind.
“ A Mexican cabin boy by the name of Juanes actually survived to be recovered by Legazpi in 1566, by which time he was thoroughly tattooed, could speak no language by Waray, and he had sired two children by one of his master’s daughters.” - p. 46, Looking for Prehispanic Filipino by William H. Scott.
What does this say about our people?
It is at the practitioner’s discretion if they will choose to work on someone that doesn’t have any lineage from our islands. Does getting a batok grant me a certain status? No. Due to colonization, westernization, and Islamization of our islands, getting skin markings has become frowned upon. We are working on changing that narrative by doing the work that we do.
Do I get to choose any of the motifs and markings?
No. This is why Manong Lane is considered a practitioner and not a tattoo artist.
An artist has artistic license, it is their art, how they express themselves and their style.
A practitioner doesn’t have the same liberties as an artist, the work that they do are already determined by their ancestors, the motifs and designs are determined, so is the placements on your body, it is a matter of choosing what will be appropriate to the recipient at that point in their lives.
Manong Lane has over 30+ years of continuous research in learning our ancestral ways that is not just about our markings. “To know a facet of our ancestral ways you need to understand the context it comes from”is what Manong Lane will tell us, his apprentices.
Are all Filipino tattoos the same? If so, then why is it inappropriate to get certain patterns? There are motifs and designs that are pretty universal throughout the archipelago and the rest of the Pacific Islands. However, there are also variants that differentiate them from region to region. There are patterns or motifs that have specific meanings behind them, which may be inappropriate for certain participants to receive. If it is not appropriate for you and your lineage, we will not put it on you.
Filipinos were headhunters and I want to reflect that in my batok. Can I do that?
No, you may not unless you have taken a head. Having a headhunter tattoo (known as a Chakrag/Chaklag) is a motif that is meant for a man who has taken a head. It is a sacred marking that entails various rituals and ceremonies that span up to two years.
Apo Whang Od once told Manong Lane that anyone who has this type of marking WITHOUT taking a head will be cursed. Can I get a batok if I’m [insert religion here]? Yes. This is a personal decision that you need to make. Remember, it is your body and your choice.
I’m [insert religion here]. What is the purpose of honoring my ancestors through the batok ceremony if it doesn’t align with my beliefs? Again, this is a personal decision. Receiving ancestral marks is a way of honoring your ancestors. In our old ways, it is believed that the skin markings are illuminated in the underworld and serve as an identifier for our ancestors to recognize us.
My family says that our ancestors didn’t have tattoos. Can I still get a batok? Yes, you can. Anciently, all of our peoples across the archipelago were marked. I want [insert pattern here]. It’s not traditional from my family’s region in [insert Philippine region here]. Can I still get it?
No, that would be an example of lateral appropriation. You want to be able to carry your own ancestral skin markings, not those from another ethnolinguistic group.