‘Tatak’ Tales: Ayla Roda and Wilma Gaspili bridge heritage through traditional Filipino tattoo art

Guardians of great ancestral traditions.
Guardians of great ancestral traditions.

Independent Filipino-American tattoo artist Ayla Roda proudly practices the art of “Tatak,” or the traditional Filipino way of tattooing. Ayla’s expertise extends across machine, hand-poking, and traditional hand-tapping techniques.

“Tatak” resonates with the Tagalog word “mark,” and for Ayla, it encapsulates the essence of traditional Filipino tattooing.

Having undergone a rigorous two-year apprenticeship on the West Coast, USA, she delved into the traditions, techniques, and cultures surrounding the vast world of the pre-colonial Philippines. Her journey extended to the Philippines, Hawaii, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Tahiti, as well as the various tattooing practices of the Austronesian people, leaving an indelible mark on her expertise. Ayla collaborates with people of various backgrounds, fostering a connection for them to embrace the old ways of their ancestors.

Being of mixed heritage, including Ilocano, Ilonggo, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic, Ayla is passionate about exploring ways to intertwine different traditions in a powerful yet respectful manner through tattooing. Her artistic pursuits transcend tattoo art, as she explores ethnic designs and sacred geometry in her paintings, jewelry, and crafts.

Driven by a deep connection to myths, traditions, and designs from Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and Polynesia, Ayla strives to honor the old ways of her ancestors. Her mission encompasses the revival and promotion of indigenous and traditional tattoo art, preserving traditional ways of life.

Guardian of ancestral traditions

As an indigenous traditional tattoo artist and advocate, Wilma Gaspili, otherwise known as Ate Wamz, believes that indigenous tattoo artists are guardians of great ancestral traditions. Her objective is clear—to promote cultural awareness and preservation, encouraging people to proudly reclaim and revive practices lost or at risk of being forgotten.

Ate Wamz’s commitment to her mission of preserving ancestral traditions is showcased at the Kapatik World Tattoo Expo 2024, where she will be featured as one of the artist exhibitors.

If you are interested in venturing into the world of traditional hand-tapped tattooing, Ate Wamz’s booth is a must-visit during the two-day event held from Jan. 13 to 14, 2024, at the IEC Convention Center in Cebu. Ayla Roda will serve as a tattoo judge, bringing her wealth of knowledge and experience to the vibrant celebration of tattoo artistry.

Ayla and Ate Wamz’s dedication to proliferating the ingenious art of Filipino tattooing is a testament to their commitment to preserving cultural heritage through ink.


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