Revitalize Philippine Indigenous Tattoo Tradition – Moving Onward to the 3rd International Babaylan Conference


Who Did Your Ink (Article written by JR Guerrero for the Georgia Straight)

What you do – Career Advisor, Culture Worker, & co-founder of Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society

Who did your inkMayo Landicho of Birthmark Tattoos

Why this artist – Mayo Landicho is a personal friend. I’ve known him as a singer, songwriter, graphics designer, mountain climber, environmentalist, and culture artist. His most recent transformation is that of the ink. He has learned from books, peers, tattoo masters, and have won international awards. He promotes tribal tattoo from all parts of the world. To me, getting inked is a personal and intimate bond between the artist and the canvass. Trust is important. I trust who did my ink.

What is the meaning – Mayo’s first tattoos on me (2006) were neo-tribal images tattooed on my collarbone that spoke of water and fire. He inked me with armbands out of ancient Philippine pre-colonization scripts called alibata or baybayin of my surname Guerrero that means warrior in Spanish. A number of years passed on and suddenly I find Mayo Landicho an internationally awarded tat artist!

Mayo made a trek to a remote mountain community called Buscalan in the Cordilleras north of the Philippines in 2011. He paid homage to one of the oldest living tattoo artist in the Philippines named Apo Wang Od who practices the traditional tattoo art of batok or hand tapping.

Mayo inked me in the tribal tradition of commemorating milestones in ones life. Examples of which are a tribal warrior’s claim to victory, a successful journey, rites of passage, or any notable accomplishment. Mayo inked me with:

  • A centipede and spearhead representing leadership,

  • Sinawali or native weaving representing the threading of people and communities together

  • And a lotus leaf representing spiritual awakening

Revitalizing indigenous peoples traditions for me means returning to the land. It’s what helps me make sense of my experience as a visitor here on traditional land of Coast Salish people. I believe that reaching out to the first peoples of Turtle Island through my own sense of indigeneity helps bring healing from centuries of injustice wrought on indigenous peoples worldwide. A unique event that center indigenous voice is the Third International Babaylan Conference 2016 billed as Makasaysayang Pagtatagpo: Historic Encounter of Filipinos and Indigenous Turtle Islanders Revitalizing Ancestral Traditions Together. The gathering highlights the collective resilience of colonized societies in the Philippines and in North America, and a persistent return to indigenous practices believed to bring about healing. I urge readers to learn more about their indigenous identities.

Check out the event here: Third International Babaylan Conference Babaylan is a Filipino term that means shaman or healer representing the healing objectives of the gathering.

What’s next – My body is canvas. It tells stories just like all bodies do. In honour of those who have gone before me in two lands I now call home, my skin will host forever ink I plan to get from budding Haida artist Corey Bulpitt and Filipino-American master tattoo artist and author Lane Wicken.