Monday, December 31, 2012

The Art of Pangud

The best way of passing down one's culture is by engraving it in the body. This is what the last traditional mambabatok (tattoo artist) in Kalinga does. Tattoing is an extremely old art form that has existed among many different cultures around the world. Over the centuries some cultures maintained the practice while others abandoned it.

In a small town in Buscalan lives the 92 year old lady mambabatok namely Maria "Pangud" Oggay who has been practicing the traditional art of tattooing for almost 77 years now. She learned this craft from the male mambabatoks during the early times by watching them. The tools that she used are pine soot for the ink, pomelo torn for the needle and a bamboo stick to hold the needle and a hammering stick. At first, Pangud prepares the ink by scraping the soot from under the pot and mix it with a little water then readies the bamboo stick in which she will insert the pomelo thorn or gisi (kisi). Before she starts puncturing the skin she first put a stencil of the design which usually started with two lines to indicate the length and position of the tattoo. Now she is ready to do her masterpiece.

After dipping the needle to the ink, Pangud holds the stick with the needle on one hand so that when it struck with the hammer stick the needle would be driven into the epidermis and then spring back to its position above the skin. The tapping sound is called "tek-tek" or "to hit slowly" hence form the word "batek". After she finishes one part she rubs the wound with the ink.Pangud finishes the work depends on the size of the tattoo but on the average it takes about one and a half hour.

Why do people choose to suffer the pain and possible illness from this kind of art? What do they gain from this? During the early times the people of Kalinga consider tattoo as a form of beauty for the women and a sign of courageousness for men. They start tatooing themselves at the tender age of puberty and for them tattoos are essential form of art that reflects their roles in the society, status in life, tribal identity, eligibility for marriage and of course beauty. For women if they don't have a tattoo it means that they are less attractive to men. For men its a symbol that they have entered their manhood and for the warriors it serves as a trophy after their successful hunt or fight.

The usual intricate designs of Kalinga tattoos are centipede (ginay-gayaman), python (chila or urog) and honeycomb (ufog). They have different meanings from fertility, long life, protection and relationship to their ancestors and spiritual world.

Pangud lives a very ordinary life, whenever she's not tattooing she busied herself from her wild pigs and ricefield but as the only mambabatok who lives she is proud of her choosen profession.Even though that she has been suffering headaches and fatigue she still plans to continue this unique art and lifestyle that has been passed down to her in order for their culture to remain alive not only for the people of Kalinga but mostly for those who she mark.

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