Tattooing in the Philippines: Artistic Artists

Arts have a significant impact on culture and history. It’s possible that current culture may lose interest in learning how their predecessors made sense of the universe and how those ideas are carried forward today if they don’t have access to great historical works. For example, tattoos have long been a component of tribal culture in the Philippines. Although, in recent years, it has been incorrectly associated with criminals.

Tattoos were viewed as more than just a form of body adornment throughout the pre-colonial and early Spanish colonial periods. Instead, tattoos were seen differently depending on the location as a show of courage, a mark of social status, and a rite of passage.

More than just a Body Ornament

Pintados were Visayan warriors who were covered with tattoos. According to Ocampo, each tattoo engraved on the warriors’ body represents social class and bravery.

In the Northern Luzon highlands, pagbabatuk, or tattooing, was mostly done on hunters and warriors. Tattoos were like medals for the ethnic tribes of Bontoc, Ifugao, and Kalinga. It denotes the number of foes they have dispatched.

The Kalinga men’s body tattoos correspond to the respect and privileges they are afforded. It was also reputed to protect warriors during violent battles.

Contrary to how they were portrayed in the self-learning program, Tattoos are an essential part of Philippine culture and history.

Batok is a cultural inscription on the body that might focus on religion, politics, combat, or rites. They are also regarded as a reservoir of memories, experiences, and knowledge. Tattoos document a person’s biography as well as the community’s complicated culture. It represents a group’s ethnic identity.

Apo Whang-Od, the Philippines’ Last Kalinga Tattoo Artist

Whang Od, the oldest Filipino tribal tattoo artist, is the person who best represents the rich culture of Kalinga, a province located in the extreme north of the Philippines. Some even claim she placed Kalinga on the map of must-see destinations in the Philippines for both locals and visitors from other countries. Many people endure the freezing weather and the 10-hour drive to the highlands only to get tattooed by her.

Whang-od Oggay is the last mambabatok (Kalinga tattooist) from the Butbut tribe in Buscalan, Kalinga. She has been tattooing for the last 80 years, including indigenous tribal head hunters at the start of her long career.

Head hunters were warriors from their tribe who would murder their foes to protect their towns. It is a sign of bravery and courage for them. She also tattooed the skin of tribal women, as tattoos are seen as a symbol of beauty and grace.

Whang-od embodies the tribe’s Batok (hand-tapping) culture. Tattoos with various meanings and styles cover her body. After her body was covered, she described how her father delighted and slaughtered a pig to commemorate the achievement. Whang-od is now inking international and Filipino tourists who visit her after 80 years of tattooing.

Whang-Od’s Traditional Tattooing Style

The tribal tattoo ink used by Whang-od is composed of charcoal and water. It is then tapped into the skin using a thorn from a citrus tree, either calamansi or pomelo. The thorn is then connected to a 12-inch bamboo staff, and Whang-od begins pounding it deep into your flesh.

She offers sample designs, so you may select the one you like. The locals or your tour guide will then gently communicate your request to Whang-od, and she will begin tapping your chosen design from there.

Getting tattooed by Whang-Od requires a certain amount of bravery because the session might be unpleasant, depending on your body’s tolerance. Visitors are also invited, as a courtesy, to bring in some donations for your host, such as food, medication, and matches, which are necessary for their day-to-day survival.

Top Tatoo Artists in the Philippines

Tattoos are beautiful pieces of art that you may wear all the time. Aside from being ‘decorative,’ many tattoos have meaning for the person who has them. Some represent a key portion of their life, some commemorate memorable moments, and others serve as special reminders. Though it may be simple to locate a tattoo parlor, selecting the right artist for your new tattoo is a different story. After all, each artist has their skills, so choosing one should be based on your needs.

Jonti Balbuena

Jonti Balbuena is the man for the job if you want realistic or surreal tattoos. His outstanding portfolio demonstrates a track record of flawless performance. We really like the Mayon Volcano work he produced for a Whiplash Tattoo customer.

Photo Credits Instagram: jontibalbuena

Annie Concepcion

Your delicate tattoo fantasies may finally be a reality thanks to Annie Concepcion of 55 Tinta. Her lovely line artworks are ideal for tattoos, especially if you desire a simple pattern. So if you’re wondering who did Heart Evangelista- Escudero’s tattoo, you’ve come to the right place!

Photo Credits Instagram: theuncannie

Emao Clemen

Emao, who works at P&P Poblacion, specializes in portraiture and one-of-a-kind tattoos. Emao is the perfect person to create a memorial for a loved one. When it comes to tattoos, his attention to detail and color is unrivalled.

Photo Credits Instagram: emaoclemen

Jhay Colis

Jhay Colis of Ink Collective has a fantastic portfolio if you enjoy weird tattoos or animation. Aside from the oddity of his past works, he also has major surreal works that you may view.

Photo Credits Instagram: littlekapitan

Charm Pastrana

Charm is the person to see whether you want a fresh tattoo or an outstanding coverup for an existing one. She works at Moth and Machines Tattoo Studio, where she specializes in line work, watercolor, and coverups. She even has a hashtag dedicated to her coverup work!

Photo Credits Instagram: charmth

Myke Sambajon

Myke Sambajon, one of the founders of the Philippine Tattoo Association and a well-known figure in the business, is no stranger to the limelight. If you’re curious who his clientele are, you can view his work on them. He also judges tattoo competitions, so you know you have a discerning eye when it comes to your own tattoo.

Photo Credits Instagram: mykesambajontattoo

Mark “Tootsie” Nemis

Tootsie is a well-known tattoo artist, as seen by his vast portfolio. He also has several accolades to prove that he is an expert in his profession. He is one of the artists whose work can be seen at Highclass Tattoo.

Photo Credits Instagram: tootsienemis

•Ann Savage

Ann Savage and her husband, Joe Black, run a tattoo parlor. Ann Savage’s passion for tattooing has driven her to master her technique and establish a name for herself in the predominantly male-dominated tattoo business. Many locals and tourists go to Cebu specifically to get tattooed by her since she specializes in meticulous detail.

Photo Credits Instagram: annsavagetattoo


Apo Whang-Od is the last but not least on this list. Even if you can just get a tattoo from her in Kalinga, the journey is well worth it. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts bestowed the coveted Dangal ng Haraya Award (NCCA). The 102-year-old has been called the “last and oldest mambabatok.” Many Filipinos and foreign visitors go to Kalinga to acquire Whang-od tattoos and have a piece of history tattooed on their bodies.

Photo Credits Facebook: CJ Gregorio Felicia

Getting a Tattoo in the Philippines

There are still no tattoo regulations in the Philippines, although most businesses adhere to the Department of Health’s safety guidelines and safeguards (DOH). If a store admits clients under the age of 18, you should take a step back because this is generally a red sign.

Effective Communication

If you are a foreigner visiting the nation for the first time, you may wish to learn a little Filipino. If that doesn’t work, you can always bring a Filipino buddy with you. Explain your chosen design thoroughly to avoid misinterpretation with the artist since you may become confused in language; better safe than sorry!

The Tattoo Parlor should be DOH-Accredited

To guarantee that the tattoo shop can be trusted, verify and triple check that it is DOH-accredited. Of course, the establishment itself must have a business license.

Don’t Settle for a Low-Cost Tattoo

This is sound advice to follow no matter where you are in the world. If you’re from the United States or Europe, you’d be amazed at how inexpensive tattoos are in Asia. But it doesn’t imply you should settle for the cheapest option. In the Philippines, a decent 1×1 black tattoo starts at Php 1,500, but it is up to the artist to determine according to the design.

If Necessary, Conduct Research about your Tattoo Artist

The rise of social media makes it possible to stalk your artists online instead of travelling to the shop to check. Trusted tattoo businesses have Facebook profiles, and artists generally have their own Instagram accounts to showcase their work. Familiarize yourself with the artist’s speciality, which might be text, realistic, minimalist, or coverups, among other things.

Make Sure they are Using Fresh Needles

While setting up, the artist will show you a brand new box of needles to demonstrate that they are indeed clean. Check to see if they’re using an unopened pack of needles, as you don’t want recycled needles in your system.

Reasons for Getting that Tattoo

In this day and age of information, acceptance, and respect, getting a tattoo is no longer an ethical, moral, or cultural problem. Everyone nowadays gets a tattoo.

It’s no different from deciding whether to wear cosmetics or shave your head. A tattoo will not harm your prospects of finding a job, having a successful career, or winning society’s respect.

Your Body is your Canvas

Some artists compose music, and some paint images. You like to create art on your body rather than on a canvas. Some individuals work out in order to sculpt and enhance their bodies, but you like tattoos. It’s another way of showing the world that art is everywhere.

Honor a Loved One

Tribute tattoos are among the most popular tattoos in the world. When you deeply love, cherish, and connect with someone, it is only natural to give them a permanent home in your heart and body. People are getting tattoos to honor their parents, idols, personal heroes, and even pets, in addition to significant partners.

Form of Expression

Tattoos allow you to wear your expressions. So, with a powerful tattoo, you may convey your love, belief, admiration, respect, and interest. Your ink can also represent your interests, such as travel, music, cuisine, and dogs!

Cover a Flaw

Transform imperfections into captivating works of beauty. Scars and markings that you wish hidden or removed can be readily covered up with tattoos. Cancer survivors transform their mastectomy scars into beautiful tattoo masterpieces in a rebellious and productive gesture.


A tattoo is more than just a mark on your skin; it is a whole process that includes choosing a design, locating an artist, and going through the hard and painful tattooing technique. It’s a thrilling and life-changing experience for you and your body.

Being Different

You are a one-of-a-kind individual, a nonconformist, a rebel, and you don’t want to be a template. Standing out makes you unique from being the odd one out. With a tattoo, you may express your uniqueness.

For the Confidence

With so many people having unfavorable attitudes against tattoos, what better way to rebel and be free than to get one? Tattoos may help you feel more secure and accept your body and personality and overcome the anxiety of being criticized or the pressure of not being good enough for society. In addition, tattoos make you more daring and adventurous.

Just Because

People are under a lot of pressure in society’s standards to adhere to particular norms, and things like tattoos are shrouded in myths that control people. When you get a tattoo, you discover that they aren’t such a big deal and that you can use them to disprove other silly notions and be yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it permissible to get a tattoo in the Philippines?

A: Yes, it is perfectly okay to have a tattoo in the Philippines; as long as you have done some research, you are good to go.

Q: Is a tattoo artist in the Philippines required to have a license?

A: No one shall tattoo or run a tattoo studio unless they meet the requirements required by the Department of Health.

Q: How much does a tattoo cost in the Philippines?

A: It is entirely dependent on the tattoo parlor you visit, the artist, the tattoo shop, and the complexity of the design. Tattoo services range in price from P1,500 to P3,000.

Q: What may tattoo pain be compared to?

A: In reality, getting a tattoo feels like someone is scraping a hot needle over your skin, which is exactly what is occurring.

Final Words

Whether it represents heroism or just an aesthetic appeal for today’s youth, tattooing has such an established cultural value that it has endured 400 years under one of history’s greatest and most brutal colonial regimes. Perhaps that is the actual definition of an authentic masterpiece: it lives eternally – not just on paper or paint, but under the skin of people renowned the world over as one of the most lasting and tenacious races to ever walk the earth’s surface: the Filipinos.

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