I spent a whole damn lot of time thinking of what tattoo design to get once I get back to Kalinga. You see, I will not only be carrying a piece of an incredibly beautiful art; I will also bring a part of history and tradition with me to my grave.
Traditionally for the Butbut, ink on women symbolizes beauty. In the old times, parents would spend an entire fortune just to get tattoos for their daughters. The more ink, the more desirable a woman is.
There are still women in the tribe who carry stories of this tradition on their skin. To them, their tattoos are ‘accessories’ they could take with them even after death. Of course, this standard of beauty has already been altered by the modern times. I still, however, found that empowering.
The tribe’s tattoo designs reflect things found in their surroundings like mountains, trees, river, animals, etc. They are represented in minimalist patterns. Each design is symbolic of the tribe’s beliefs.
I personally chose to get the pattern called “river flow.” I’ve personally seen Apo tattoo this before and I may have been unconsciously fixated with the design for years.
I envied the river that flowed through the village’s mountains (Chico River). I remember spending a lazy afternoon on the riverside with my brother and a couple of friends years back and telling myself, this is a literal line that connects this place with other parts of the country. The water is ever flowing. It gave them life, and if I may say so myself, it tastes amazing!