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Fil-Canadian filmmaker explores tattoo culture in PH

Rowena Papasin | TFC News Vancouver

Posted at May 19 2023 10:28 AM

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Filipino-Canadian filmmaker Kent Donguines returned to the Philippines to grasp the country's age-old tradition of tattooing and how the ancient art helped define the Filipino identity.

Through his feature documentary “Treasure of the Rice Terraces,” Donguines said he hopes to influence other Filipinos to come back and reconnect with their roots.

"It follows my journey into understanding my own Filipino identity through traditional Filipino tattoos," he said. "We’re also touching on topics like cultural appropriation, the stigmatization of tattoos back in the 70's and also our continued fight for cultural sovereignty."

Travelling to Buscalan in Kalinga, Donguines met the revered tattoo artist Apo Whang-od, the 106-year old “Mambabatok.”

Donguines said Whang-od, who recently graced the cover of Vogue Philippines, is determined to pass on her knowledge to her apprentices.

"She’s the frontrunner of reviving this particular tattoo practice," Donguines added. "She is really focused on passing this onto the next generation of mambabatoks in Buscalan."

Donguines got Whang-od’s signature three dots that signifies the continuity of their tribe from her to her grandnieces Grace Palicas and Ilyang Wigan.

"It's really great that a lot of people are as passionate as me in understanding what our tattoo culture is and the meaning behind it," he said.

Donguines said he also met other villagers in Buscalan who shared with him the secret to a long life.

"I think something that the elders there in the village practice is to really just enjoy life," he said, "and be as less stressed as possible."

Donguines, who co-wrote and directed  “Treasure of the Rice Terraces," plans to hold its world premier in Buscalan next year.