Project Breaking Down Barriers: Getting inked by the last Kalinga tattoo artist

Fang-od, herself, prepared what she would be using for the tattooing session – a small piece of metal for drawing, charcoal, a thorn, a stick where the thorn would be attached, another stick that would be used to support embedding the tattoo on the skin, and two stools where she and Tara would be sitting on.

For a moment, I considered getting a tattoo myself, because of how difficult the hike to get to Buscalan was for me.  But, I didn’t want it to be a reaction to the circumstance I was in.  So, I opted not to get one.  I resolved that I would think about it some more, when my mind’s clear.  And, when I do choose to get a tattoo, I’ll just do the hike once more.

I imagined, though, that it must be weird for Tara having a thorn poking at her skin in the rhythm of  two sticks beating against each other.  I asked her, “How are you?”  She replied, “I’m good!”  “It’s not painful?”  I asked.  “Nope.  Not at all.”  Wow.

It was such a privilege being able to witness the practice of this tradition.  Fang-od looked like she was in her own world, barely lifting her head to check what’s going on around her.  She got teary-eyed several times, maybe from the fatigue that her eyes were experiencing while focusing and being precise in her art.

After a two-hour session, Tara finally got what we went here for – a tattoo by the last Kalinga tattoo artist, Fang-od.

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. S a r a h

    SO. Cool! I’m so glad there are people like you interested in indigenous cultures. 😀

    1. monica

      Thanks, Sarah! I look forward to reading more of your works! 🙂

  2. S a r a h

    I look forward to reading more of your posts too. 😀
    By the way, how’d you get interested in IPs? I myself am actually of the Ifugao tribes. You might want to visit the Hapao ifugaos next. ehe. Just a suggestion. 😀

    1. monica

      I did my internship with Task Force 63, which dealt with emergency situations faced by IP communities. As part of the internship, we visited communities in Bukidnon and South Cotabato and I got fascinated with the colorful and intricate and lovely designs of their clothes and accessories. May be superficial for some but, for me, it reflected the communities’ art and culture. I don’t know what was it about the experience but that paved the way for me devoting my life to doing development work.

      My involvement in IP communities, though, kind of stopped after my internship. It was only in November of last year when I finally became clear that I would want to revisit my interest in the communities. But, the interest evolved from being fascinated with the designs of clothes and accessories to wanting to know more about the art, culture, traditions, and the people. Plus, doing something with the IP communities – documenting my visits through writing and photos. With talaga ang ginamit ko. ‘Cos I find spending time with our IP communities a privilege. 🙂

      You’re an Ifugao! That’s so cool! Are you based near the rice terraces? I went there a couple of years ago but we just did a tourist-spots-trip. I want to visit your place again and do a cultural immersion. Maybe you can help me on this? 🙂

  3. S a r a h

    Unfortunately, I’m not. Nung college ko lang naappreciate ang roots ko, actually, so although I’ve visited “my place” when I was a kid, mas meaningful nung college na.

    You might want to try Hapao, Ifugao. They’re one of the tribes I know who are self-aware and still practice their customs. I know this because of my thesis. 😀
    Do you know Kidlat Tahimik? He’s a filmmaker based in Baguio, but he has apparently let himself get adopted into the community. Used to teach in UPD Film Institute, or so I’m told. 🙂

    1. monica

      Naku, sorry naguluhan ako. Which tribe do you belong to? Ako, I’m still looking for mine. 🙂

      I know Kidlat Tahimik. An artist whose family owns Oh My Gulay in Baguio, right? I met him and his son ‘cos a friend is really good friends with the family. Didn’t know about being adopted as part of the community though. That was interesting – thanks!!!

      San yung Hapao Ifugao?

      1. S a r a h

        I’m Ifugao. 😀
        Though my parents are from different parts of Ifugao.
        Hapao is about an hour away from Banaue, if I’m not mistaken. Usually if you come from Manila or Baguio, Banaue ang hintuan. Kung di rin ako nagkakamali, sa August yata yung harvest festival nila.


        1. monica

          Thank you very much, Sarah! Super helpful, esp in planning future trips! 🙂

  4. Bryan Corpuz

    Hi Monica,

    I was just wondering how can I schedule a a session with Fang-od? I mean do uou just go there and asked if she ink me or… I mean she’s a national artist and all. Her schedule might be booked..

    1. monica

      Hello Bryan,

      Thank you for visiting my blog!

      You can request your guide to schedule a session with Fang-od for you. We just gave ours the dates we’d be in Kalinga and told him that one of the things we’d like to do there would be for my friend to get inked by the last Kalinga tattoo artist. He took care of everything, including arranging our visit to Fang-od.

      If you haven’t found a guide yet, you can try ours, Francis Pa-in +63.915.769.0843. He’s very accommodating and seemed to know his way around and the people from everywhere we went to in Kalinga.

      I hope this helps! And, please do share your experience when you finally get your tattoo from Fang-od. I’d love to read about it. 🙂

      Happy travels,

      1. Bryan Corpuz

        Thank you for the guide… I’ll definitely share the experience…

        Step 1. Plan the trip.
        Step 2.
        Step 3.
        Step 4.

        1. monica

          You’re welcome! Enjoy your trip to Fang-od’s!

  5. manonglakwatsero

    Hi Monica,

    Ive been looking for a blog that would give info about this as detail asyours. This is going to be of big help to me as ive been planning to have this really soon. Plan plan plan.. whats your next adventure going to be?

    1. monica

      Hi Emher,

      Glad to know I’m able to help! It was an awesome experience visiting Fang-od, getting to know her, and witnessing the traditional tattooing. It’s like living what would be part of future history. 🙂

      The next adventures I’m currently working on are my trips to Indonesia (so excited to see Borobudur, Prambanan, and the Bali beaches) and Hongkong (it’d be about their art, history, culture, and people). In May, I’m going to Quezon for some beach bumming, Baguio (again) in July, and the next trip to visiting indigenous communities would prolly happen towards the end of the year (I’m looking at visiting the Tagbanuas in Palawan and Atis in Boracay).

      Your next adventures are awesome! I would love to go back again to South Cotabato and visit my friends from the T’boli tribe in Lake Sebu. They said that it would be nice to try their zipline thingie, which we didn’t get a chance to do when we were there.

  6. Hi Monica, I’m a new reader. I love your blog and your interest in IP communities. You and your friend Tara are so lucky 🙂 Looking forward to reading your other posts.

    1. monica

      Hello Mabel,

      Thank you for appreciating my blog! I loved the trip, too! It was a very enriching experience. I hope you can try it some time. 🙂

      I look forward to reading your posts as well.

      Thanks again,

  7. Anna Maria

    It’s fantastic..Bravo.!
    How can someone Get inked by Kalinga tattoo artist?

  8. Thomas

    WHAT! I can’t believe I found your photos. I saw you getting inked. I was with my two friends. We arrived the day before you left. I hope all is well with your travels! Xx, Thomas. (

    1. monica

      Hi Thomas! I remember you! It’s actually my friend, Tara, who got inked. Nice to see you here!

  9. jibmaxatnewroad

    im supposed to go Quirino province, and after reading blogs about Fang Od, i’m suddenly thinking of diverting. and it seems sagada is close. oh im really losing my job real soon.

    1. monica

      Hello, there! I’m not too sure about what’s in Quirino since I haven’t visited the province yet. But, going to Kalinga and meeting Fang-od would definitely be worth your time. Plus, getting there is pretty cheap, too, especially if you relate it to the experience and people you’ll meet. 🙂 So, go!

  10. This is so cool 🙂 went to Kalinga to visit Whang-od to get marked about a year ago 🙂 May i know the meaning behind your friend’s tattoo? 🙂

    1. monica

      Oh, cool! The meaning of my friend’s tattoo? I do not know. Haha! Things got lost in translation. Would you happen to have an idea? And, can you please post here the article you have written about your experience when you visited her, if you have one? I would love to read!

        1. monica

          Weee!!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂 You write really well, ha. It’s very refreshing to read another blog of someone who’s really good at stringing words together. 🙂 So. I followed you. Haha!

  11. heya Mon and readers, It’s Tara writing from Oz.
    Mon, do you remember that i told Fang-od that i wanted to have a family with in a year after meeting her.
    She inked me with a centipede, snake skin, and I’m not sure that francis translated properly.. a pattern that is used in traditional clothing and fertility lines 🙂 All of my ink can be found on her arms except one that is perpendicular to one on her.

    And the snake skin actually looks like snake skin because it has scarred with texture. I’m a fire snake sign so this suits me well.

    Miss you Mon.

    Hope to see you on my turf soon

    1. thebohotravels

      Yeah! That’s really a cool detail, Tara! And, you now have Hawk! Weeee!!!

      I am really grateful that you invited me to experience this journey with you. This rekindled my love for writing and supported me in finding my passion, which is traveling!

      See you soon, yeah? I would love to hug you, Matt, and Hawk (who is such a cutie!). 🙂

      Love from the Philippines. 🙂

Leave a Reply