Reviving Filipino Tattoo Art Ayla Roda and Ate Wamz’s Cultural Odyssey


In the vibrant realm of Filipino-American tattoo artistry, Ayla Roda stands as a proud practitioner of “Tatak,” the traditional Filipino method of tattooing. With expertise spanning machine, hand-poking, and traditional hand-tapping techniques, Ayla embodies the essence of “Tatak,” resonating with the Tagalog word “mark.”

Ayla’s journey into this traditional art form involved a rigorous two-year apprenticeship on the West Coast, USA. During this time, she immersed herself in the traditions, techniques, and cultures rooted in the pre-colonial Philippines. Her quest took her across the Philippines, Hawaii, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Tahiti, exploring the diverse tattooing practices of the Austronesian people. This rich tapestry of experiences has left an indelible mark on Ayla’s expertise, allowing her to collaborate with individuals from various backgrounds, connecting them with the ancestral ways of their forebears.

The practice of traditional Filipino tattoo art revives lost practices, and fosters cultural pride.

Of mixed heritage, encompassing Ilocano, Ilonggo, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavic roots, Ayla passionately explores ways to interweave different traditions robustly yet respectfully through tattooing. Her artistic pursuits extend beyond tattoo art, encompassing ethnic designs and sacred geometry in paintings, jewellery, and crafts.

Fueled by a profound connection to myths, traditions, and designs from Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, and Polynesia, Ayla’s mission is to honour the old ways of her ancestors. Her dedication revolves around reviving and promoting indigenous and traditional tattoo art, acting as a guardian preserving time-honoured ways of life.

The practice of traditional Filipino tattoo art revives lost practices, and fosters cultural pride.

Another formidable advocate for preserving ancestral traditions is Wilma Gaspili, affectionately known as Ate Wamz. As an indigenous traditional tattoo artist, she firmly believes that artists like herself are the guardians of invaluable ancestral traditions. Ate Wamz is resolute in her objective—to promote cultural awareness and preservation, urging people to proudly reclaim and revive practices on the verge of being forgotten.

Reviving and preserving indigenous tattoo art.

Ate Wamz’s commitment takes centre stage at the Kapatik World Tattoo Expo 2024, where she will be featured as one of the artist exhibitors. For those eager to explore the world of traditional hand-tapped tattooing, Ate Wamz’s booth at the IEC Convention Center in Cebu from Jan. 13 to 14, 2024, is a must-visit. Meanwhile, Ayla Roda will serve as a tattoo judge, infusing the event with her wealth of knowledge and experience in a vibrant celebration of tattoo artistry.

Ate Wamz
is an indigenous tattoo artist,
specializing in traditional
Filipino tattoo art.

Ayla and Ate Wamz’s unwavering dedication to increasing the ingenious art of Filipino tattooing stands as a testament to their commitment to preserving cultural heritage through the profound medium of ink.

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