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Name: Fatima Raynelle B. Ramos.

Date: 9/15/18

Content Analysis No.2

Title : Whatok (Tattooe): The Aesthetic Expression of Traditional Kalinga Beauty

Author: Lalin Abbacan-Tuguic

Copyright : Kalinga State University

Focus :

The traditional practice of Whatok is firmly anchored to indigenous values on the skin by creating a visual mosaic.
These tattoos not only satisfied the need for display and personal accomplishment; they also embodied religious beliefs
about the relationships between humans, animals, spirits, and the ancestors who controlled human destiny and the
surrounding world.

This study was primarily conceived to identify the Whatok process and tools used in indigenous tattooing; notate
the different Kalinga tattoo designs and determine the cultural significant symbolic implication of the Whatok(tattoo)
motif, because records of Kalinga Whatok are very inadequate and merely make vague statemnts. The study used the
descriptive ethnographic approach, unstructured interviews and documentary analysis of the different designs of
traditional whatok of the Ikalinga.

This study particularly aims to understand the context of Whatok designs in Kalinga. It is essentially the study of
deciphering the aesthetic expression behind the traditional Kalinga beauty and the significance it bears in society.

This study sought answers to the following objectives:

1. Identify the whatok tools and process used in indigenous tattooing ;

2. Identify the different tattoo designs, and its cultural significant symbolic implication

of the whatok motif.


The study mainly inquires about information by a specific group of ethnic people; the Kalinga. They are found to
be the most knowledgeable regarding the ancient tradition of the Whatok tattoo.

The Kalinga tribe resides in the mountains of Buscalan. They are generally associated with head-hunting and is
famous for being a village of fierce former head-hunters. Not much is known about Kalinga people since historically, they
remained rather isolated, having little interaction with the rest of the Filipino people in the lowlands.


This study was limited to the determination of the aesthetic expression of traditional Kalinga beauty with the
application of some basic geometrical figures. The area covered by the researchers was a tribal community and a
landlocked province in the heart of the Cordillera Region, North Luzon, the Philippines.

The paper utilized the descriptive ethnographic method of research Data gathering was done through informal
interviews. The interviews were done in t Butbut dialect for better comprehension of the respondents, ocular observation
and documentary analysis of the tattooed persons in Buscalan, Tinglayan and other tattooed persons in Kalinga were also
done, and records of existing studies and experiences of tattooed individuals, plus knowledge and feedbacks from the
researcher immersion in the locale of the study to substantiate data gathered from

The primary respondent of the study is Fang-ud, a 94 year old and one of the province living traditional whatok
artist or mamfafatok , and other tattooed person in the province. Other residents also deemed to be valuable resource of
information, however, the researchers focused on the elders who practice the tradition or contain important information
regarding the Whatok practice and deeper meanings behind it.

Results/ Findings

The data gathered and were analyzed and interpreted. The researchers discovered the use of Whatok as tools, it is
characterized by the marking, decorating and designing on a material permanently, Whatok is done through hand-
tapped pricking, the traditional method of tattooing done by a manfafatok (tattoo artist) in the village.The hand-tapping
kit is comprised of a coconut bowl to mix a pigment of soot and water, an orange thorn needle (siit) attached to the end
of a small bamboo stick, and another short stick used to tap the thorn into the skin.

The meaning behind intricate tattoo designs and cultural significant implications of the kalinga Whatok was also
deciphered. In the foregoing discussion of the geometric designs and meaning of tattoos, this study does not follow a
mechanistic approach in understanding the signification of tattoos. It focuses rather on what traditional tattoo signifies.
The art of Kalinga whatok is a visual powerful rendering of symmetry and unity of designs. For women, getting a tattoo is
the standard of beauty, while for men, getting a tattoo is synonymous with strength and prestige related to headhunting.
Thus the following are the comprehensive discussion of the different designs of whatok, the geometrical figures present in
every creation and its cultural significant implications to the life of the tattooed individual.

Kalinga tattoo motifs also uses symbols of creatures, such as pythons and snakeskin patterns, to provide camouflage to
enable a warrior to remain undetected and safe from enemies. It also serves as talisman and body armor against enemy
attack or protect the women from the spirit of the enemies of the blood feud (lalapuan ) or enemies of warring groups.
There are numerous symbolic patterns that are used for various things. It is embedded in tradition. What this discovery
tells us is that these are more than

Findings are:

1. Most designs are combinations of natural phenomena and artifacts;

2. The design and amount of man’s tattoo is proportional to his status as a warrior;

3. Tattoos for women are for aesthetics; and

4. Tattoos are for protection, good fortune, well-being and cultural identity just symbols and serves as a way of life to the


The rating of this study would be 8\10. It definitely taught me a deeper understanding about the ancient cultural
heritage of the Philippines that still, but barely, continues to exist in this modern era. Tradition such as this one should be
preserved and maintained with delicacy.

I realized that Whatok artists are composed of elder artists and practitioner. Yes, some of the the youth are training
to become future masters of this art, but very little are training for it. Whatok takes intricate practice and skill because
tattooing is no easy feat. To create a meaningful tattoo, an artist must be knowledgeable of the significant implications of
a tattoo in the chosen individual. Since tattoo cannot be erased using simple tools and methods an artists must deliver
perfect mastery of his work and skills therefore, becoming a full-fledged Whatok master takes discipline, patience,
knowledge, skill, and mastery of tWhatok tattooing.

It is no wonder foreigners from different parts of the world exert so much effort and ardor just to receive a tattoo
from our very own Whang-Od, a well-known master of the Whatok tattoo arts. Ancient forms of living art such as Whatok
is very rare to come across in this modern world, you can say it is one of those one in a lifetime moments, and I believe it is
worth the effort to climb mountains and walk for miles to acquire an exotic tattoo with hundreds of years of practice and
deep spiritualistic meanings.