The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga presents a series of portraits by Filipino photographer Jake Verzosa (born 1979) that lament and celebrate a dying tradition of tattooing in villages throughout the Cordillera mountains in the northern Philippines.
For nearly 1,000 years the Kalinga women have proudly worn these lace-like patterns, or batok, on their skin as symbols of beauty, wealth, stature and fortitude. Applied as part of a painful ritual, the vivid tattoos—abstractions of motifs such as ferns, rice bundles, centipedes and flowing rivers—reflect a rite of passage and a bond with nature. Yet today this intricate form of self-adornment has largely been abandoned. Between 2009 and 2013, Verzosa traveled extensively to document the last generation of women with the batok. His pictures reveal the artistic designs and symbolic functions of the tattoos. Accompanying Verzosa’s portraits is an illustrated glossary of the tattoo types and their meanings.