The Babaylan



Did you know that if other countries have druids, shamans, prophets, seers, sorcerers, and healers, the precolonial Filipinos have the babaylans. A Visayan term, the babaylan played an important role in pre-Hispanic times. They shared the prestige given to datus, for they held the supreme authority on the subjects of healing, spiritism, and religious rituals.

A babaylan can be a priestess, a seer, a healer, a psychic medium, or an officiator of rituals — or all of them. Babaylan are usually women; its male equivalent is called asog, bayoc, bayog, or bayogin, and they are, if not, usually transgender males. According to historical reports, the deities favor women, or with women-like attributes, for them to communicate; thus, most babaylan reported were women or transgender males.

The deities they worship were believed to be classified as the anitos, the diwatas, and the bathalas. According to reports, the religious rituals that the babaylans perform were called, paganitohan or pagdiwatahan.


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®.