The Legacy of the Patik

Patik: a permanent skin marking depicting valorous feats; a tattoo.


Did you know that the precolonial Filipinos practiced the art of tattooing, inking their skins with symbols of bravery, prestige, and power; and the Filipinos have a special word for this — the patik.

Patik comes from the Cebuano language, the lingua franca of the Central Visayas, that means to tattoo, to mark, or to print. In the 1500’s, when the Spaniards sailed on the Visayan waters, they described that the natives of these islands were black with tattoos. Thus, they called the islands of the Visayas as the Islas de los Pintados or the Islands of the Painted People.

It was not only the precolonial Visayans practiced tattooing, for up in the mountains of the island of Luzon, the Igorot people or the Cordillerans, have this similar practice; and in the Kalinga province, they call this the batok.

In precolonial times, for men and women, having a patik or a batok was no easy feat — one has to earn it. These skin-arts were treated like precious pieces of jewelry or medals of honor that announced their rank, valor, and social standing. The more tattoos they have, the more experience they had, therefore, the more respect they receive.

These regional tattoos may be geometric shapes that represent powerful or poisonous animals such as pythons, crocodiles, eagles, dogs, centipedes, and other cunning creatures. Thus, a warrior with a full body tattoo that depicted these creatures was a very, very dangerous and powerful man. There are also decorative and flowery tattoos such as lilies, lotuses, and hibiscus.


Currently, the ancient Filipino-inspired tattoos are now easily purchased from tattoo artists — not requiring heroic feats or village raiding — and they are sadly classified as tribal tattoos or the fad tattoos, yet upon understanding patik or batok, we can appreciate that:

  1. The precolonial Filipinos have a system of awards and recognitions through these valuable tattoos, the patiks or the batoks.
  2. These regional tattoos are earned through bravery, hard work, and service to their community.
  3. These patiks and batoks are cultural treasures from the precolonial Filipinos that we can be proud of.


  • Kintanar, Thelma B. and Associates (1996). Cultural Dictionary for Filipinos. Quezon City: University of the Philippines.
  • Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo De Manila University Press.
  • Artwork Information: Detail from a painting located at the National Museum of the Philippines.

This is a public service, an educational campaign drive of Datu Press®.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s