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Research and Documentation of Traditional Tattoos of the Philippine Cordilleras (2018)
January 1, 2022

group of people
Program Title: Research and Documentation of Traditional Tattoos of the Philippine Cordilleras
Program Year: 2018
Grant Amount: $21,000
Awarding Agency: Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Project Summary:

The grant involves an in-depth study of traditional tattooing among the seven major ethnolinguistic groups in the Cordilleras region, namely: Bontoc, Ifugao, Ibaloy and Kankanaey, Tinguian, Isneg, and Kalinga. These groups represent all six provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region: Bontoc, Ifugao, Benguet, Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga, respectively.

The project will conduct extensive archival research on traditional tattoos as documented by the early travelers to the Philippine Cordilleras at the turn of the last century, and will digitally repatriate these archival collections to source communities and academic institutions in the Philippines.  The project will also document the narratives of the remaining tattooed elders in the Cordilleras through anthropological research and fieldwork.  Discussions on the different rituals performed before the actual tattooing, the profiles of the culture bearers (i.e., tattooed elders), and current and planned efforts to revive the practice will be included.

The output of this project will be a manuscript, which, among other anthropological interests, will examine the various and changing meanings ascribed to tattoos in the context of ethnic and Filipino identity formation, and determine how tourism and modernity has influenced local cultures, particularly the younger generations of “Igorots.”

The project is expected to be completed by June 2021.

(Photo citation: Elderly tattooed women, on an afternoon tengao (rest day) in Bontoc, describe their tattoos as having fine and crude lines.” From Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities: Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Kalinga Society, North Luzon, Philippines (Fig. 25, p. 74), by A.V. Salvador-Amores, 2013, Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press. c2013)