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An anthropological rethinking of the Pintados and early tattooing in the Visayas, Central Philippines

In this paper, Andrea Malaya M. Ragragio and Myfel D. Paluga recast new light on the historical tattooing of the “Pintados,” or the the name by which the inhabitants of the Visayas Islands (in the central Philippines) were called by Spanish documenters in the sixteenth century. This is one of their two contributions to the South East Asia Research Special Issue Kaagi: Tracing Visayan Identities in Cultural Texts.

Andrea Malaya M. Ragragio and Myfel D. Paluga
01 November 2023
Read the article South East Asia Research

No image of precolonial Visayans is as emblematic as the tattooed Pintados. But this imagery is almost always coupled with notions of warriorship and male valour in scholarly and popular discourses about the early Visayas. Comparing what we know about Visayan tattooing with customary tattooing in southern Mindanao and other tattooing traditions in the Austronesian-speaking world has opened methodological queries on how to re-read the historical materials used as basis for portraying tattooing as the domain of warriorship and masculinity. Such associations should not be treated as historical or ethnographic givens, as they greatly narrow our understanding of tattooing as a social practice. A more cautious re-evaluation of Visayan tattooing shows that it was a more broadly accessible custom used to various degrees with many significations. Specifically, we revisit the dimensions of tattooing as rite of passage, as protection, and for beauty, proposing anthropologically grounded and elaborated readings for each as starting points for more socially and culturally embedded interpretations of early Visayan tattooing.

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