Xy Aldrae Murillo

 Treasure of the Rice Terraces” might just have been one of the great gateways for Filipinos to delve into the depths of the country’s kept traditions through the 106-year-old Indigenous tattoo artist Apo Whang-Od, who starred in the said documentary about local tattooing culture. 

Photo Courtesy by Treasure Of The Rice Terraces/YouTube

The documentary, directed by Filipino-Canadian Kent Donguines, has released a five-minute trailer that encompasses the director’s continuous connection with the Philippines and its culture, along with Whang-Od herself as the prominent name and face of their heritage when it comes to tattoo culture. 

“As a first-generation Filipino-Canadian, I understand the importance of identity and belonging, and the desire to reconnect with one’s roots. Growing up, tattoos were discouraged in my family, but as I became independent, I found a love for the art form and discovered deeper personal meaning behind each tattoo. I now feel secure in my identity as a Filipino because I get to carry my culture with me wherever I go,” Donguines shared in an interview with Variety. 

The trailer opens with Donguines’ narration saying, “The question of one’s identity and its permanence has always been a complex conversation,” over visuals covering the montages of the Philippines and its majesty. 

Succeeding sections of the trailer features clips of contemporary tattooing, with voiceovers describing the negative connotations associated with tattoos, such as prison time, membership in a crime syndicate, and gang ties. 

The documentary looks at how tattooing, which was once outlawed and opposed in Philippine society, has transformed into a fashionable and sought-after form of body art that gave name, identity, and belonging to Filipinos inside and outside the country. 

Furthermore, the documentary also emphasizes the essence of preserving tattoo culture for future generations, as well as the difficulties experienced by the community in doing so. 

While the full documentary will not be available until sometime in 2024, the trailer can now be viewed on YouTube.