Kalinga Native Filipino Tattoos

bigcave_358Kalinga tattoos

Most of the Kalinga women from Leg leg’s generation have these full sleeve traditional tattoos.

The younger people do not express any interest in keeping this tattoo tradition alive.

Kalinga TattooCharcoal is made into a paste and then thorns from the calamansi trees were used as needles to decorate their bodies.

Picture at left of traditional full sleeve tattoos from wrist to shoulder.

Kalinga TattooSome women have a tattoo necklace in addition to the full sleeves as does guide Francis Pa In’s mother.

Kalinga TattoosShe is a kindly old woman that tends a sari sari store at the bend in the road just before you get to Tinglayan.

Francis Pa In with his mother in Tinglayan. I met Francis 14 years ago at the Pines Hotel in Bontoc when he was based as a freelance.

Francis cell phone number 09157690843

Woman from Tinglayan selling beads – native tattoos on forearms.

Kalinga Filipino Tattoo

Leg Leg pictured below


Native tattoos on the forearmsKalinga woman from Tinglayan.

Kalinga TattooKalinga woman with traditional tattoos

Tribal Tattoos

If you ask around at the hotels Francis will appear and be happy to show you around for a few days. He is a cheerful guy that speaks the mountain languages so you flow through the villages easily.

Traditional Kalinga Tattoos

Chico River The mountains between Bontoc and Tabuk along the Chico River do not see the heavy tourist pressure that Sagada and Banaue do and are really worth the effort to visit.

Traditional Kalinga TattoosKalinga woman smoking pipe

bigcave_300.jpgI went over to Sagada to get some of these pictures developed so I could bring a few back to people.

traditional tattoos

Question from reader A.M.

hi! looks like you’re well travelled, anyway i am from Manila, i have a lot of tattoos but ive been longing for a real authentic tribal tattoo… do you think there’s a likelihood that they give me one should i go up at kalinga for my b-day?

also is it true that if they dont like you, they will cut your head off?

Hi A M,

I don’t think that they will cut your head off but I did have the pleasure of knowing one one of the last head hunters that lived near Tinglayan. He died about 4 years ago.

There is an interesting picture in the Bontoc museum of a muscular warrior being transported like a pig on a bamboo pole minus his head. He also had slash marks on his body and leg. It’s quite a powerful photo. I think it is one of the old Masferas collection.

I don’t think you could get the tattoo in one day. They use a thorn from the Kalamansi tree and a charcoal paste for pigment and the extensive tatoos take quite a while.Update – ( There is a woman in the hills near Tinglayan that does do small ones in a day.) contact Francis number 09157690843 – It is a bit of a walk getting up there but that gives it more realism and will make you appreciate that tattoo more!

Francis Pa in contact number He is quite a character and being Kalinga himself he will smooth the way.  cell  09157690843

Usually only the women get full sleeves and the men just get abstract tattoos in no particular style. The new generation shuns the tradition and I have never seen a younger person with the traditional tats.

If you want a good guide to the area check with Francis Pa In. He can be found hanging around the Churya-a Hotel in Bontoc. I have known him for 10 years. His mother has a full sleeve kalinga tattoo and a necklace tat. She was a noble woman in her day but is in advanced years now.

That tradition will eventually die out I believe.



Hi Dutchpickle!

alright… not really after a full sleeve but just be marked by them.. its my bday on maty 19th and i plan to do charity and help out in the community. are you from manila? do you think a 4 day leave from work would give me a good 2 days there?

also, with francis, how much are we looking at having him as a guide? or better yet, if its not trouble, can you give me a rough estimate of the costs i’ll incur?

thanks so much! im so excited. ive been travelling alone but where ive been going are the commercialized ones, only now am i going to a place that’s really “native”, would you recoomend travelling alone?

Hi A.M.

Francis works cheap – maybe 1000 pesos a day depending on where you want to go.

Tinglayan is right on the road system so you can get there by bus and jeepney from Manila but it will take about 1 1/2 days each way. The mountain people are leery of strangers passing through on their own and Francis knows the ropes. He speak Kalinga and has the trust of the locals.

He is also the foremost authority on the tribes in the area.

I don’t have the number of the Churya-a Hotel in Bontoc but that would be your best bet if you want to make advance arrangements.

You might be able to do it in a 4 day time frame but it would seem kid of rushed. That area by the Chico River Canyon in the Cordillera mountains is one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines. The jeepney stops for water breaks alongside the road and everyone gets out and fills their water bottle from the stream alongside the road.

Kalinga woman with tattoosThe air is clean and fresh and there are no pesticides used on the crops in Tinglayan.

I suggest taking some time to spend in the mountains with the people and then get to know what different tattoos mean. Then choose what is meaningful to you.

If you want to make a big circle you could return to Manila via Tabuk.

have fun!

Picture of Francis Pa In and his mum in Tinglayan – year 2010

cell phone number 09157690843

Traditional Kalinga Tattoos

Feb 28, 2007 www.dutchpickle.com

19 responses to “Kalinga Native Filipino Tattoos”

  1. I did a tracking with Francis too and it was great! Seen this woman, met his mom and been to Maria Fung-ud who gave me a fantastic souvenir, a Kalinga tattoo.
    One of the best travel experians of my life!


  2. Hello dp,
    First above anything, I want to say thank you for posting your blog. I found it via google search for filipino tribal tattoos. I am on this journey to find out more about my family history. My family is from the Visayas (Iloilo & Negros Ocidental) and Luzon (Bicol). I got a tribal poly by Orly of Humble Beginnings and wanted to get more of a traditional filipino tattoo. I want the filipino tattoo to be accurate though, since each different tribe has a diferent style of tattooing.
    Do you have any suggestions to point out to me on my journey back to my roots? Where can I find more information about the areas my family is from? I was born in Manila, but my parents left the PI when I was only a baby. The last I visited was when I was 3… I’ll be 22 this year. Any and all help to help me reconnect to me roots is greatly appreciated!!!

    Thank you!

  3. Maybe in a few years I can save enough money to go to the Philippines…My journey is definately a long one ahead of me, but keep me posted with beautiful blogs on your website…I will be reading!!! It’ll help me stay focused on touching back with my roots.

    I clicked on the link that you posted…just for future reference how would I get a hold of that guide?

  4. Hi,

    We’ve been to Kalinga first week of March & had a tattoo by Fang-od, the last known Kalinga tattooist. It was a great experience! Our trip wouldn’t be possible without Kuya Francis, our tour guide. He invited us to his place for breakfast before we hiked to Buscalan where Fang-od lives. I have his contact number. We’re going back to Buscalan by June 5, 2010. =) If you need his number, just send me an email. Come to the Philippines, you’ll have a great time!!!

  5. hello,

    i am trying to find more tribal tatoos from the Bontoc area. my father is always says that he is from bagiuo, but when we visited there in 2000 i found out that he is actually from Bontoc, i think. i am thinking about getting another tatoo but i want something that has some history to it. so i am trying to get pictures of tribal tatoos.

    by the way we stayed at the Pines Hotel in Bontoc. Food was great and the beer was cold as ice.

    i would appreciate it if anyone has any pictures of tribal tatoos from Bontoc, they could get them to me especially if there is any known history to them.



  6. Hi,
    I came across this site and am very interested in searching tatoo history of Filipinos.

    My grandparents are from the Cebu and Bohol.

    I will try and locate Frances Pa , hopefully I would have the opportunity to visit his family in Tinglayan.

  7. Hey dp I am currently going ifugao to get a kalinga tattoo in April and I was wondering if there was anything I should do or know about when i go. Just let me know if you got some info too help me out thanks.

  8. Hey DP!

    Thanks for all the great info! I am looking at setting up a trip to get a Kalinga tattoo and try and have a truely authentic experience. Is then number you provided for Francis Pa In still current? Also, because I am not in the Filippines yet, is there any other way to get in contact with him to maybe set up dates (I am on about a week and a half time crunch)?
    Also, how much time should REALLY be given to have an even more meaningful experience?

    Thank you so much!

  9. Hi dutchpickle,

    My friend and I are planning to head going to the north for a Kalingan souvenir next week. With so many links and facts I’ve got from the net, I think your blog is the most helpful one can get. Two queries: How do we get to Tinglayan itself from Manila? Also, was that the woman they called fang u’d? I would really appreciate ur help,

    Thanks so much!


  10. Hi DP,

    Your blog is a big help for me, I’m planning a surprise trip for my tattoo artist friend and he’s dream is to meet the traditional tattoo artist.

    Any idea where is the best place to stay or if we will come from baguio any better routes from there to tinglayan?

    Thank you so much!


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