Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Islas de los Pintados Celebrating the legacy of the Hari ng Negros

- Ritche T. Salgado -

CEBU, Philippines – When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, they were mesmerized by the sight of men with paintings all over their body. This practice was predominant in the Visayas region, the reason why they referred to the area as the Islas de los Pintados or the Islands of the Painted People.

In the late 1500’s a group of Spanish explorers, headed by Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, went around the island of Cebu to survey the region. They reported to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi that they found an island west of Cebu whose inhabitants were of two distinct races, the “Negroes in the hinterland and natives of Malay ancestry who tattooed their bodies.” The island referred to is what we now know as the Negros Island.

But the practice of tattooing was not confined to Negros, apparently the practice was also prevalent in the neighboring islands of Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Samar, Leyte, Guimaras, Siquijor, Bantayan, Mactan, Camotes, Biliran, Panglao, and several other small islands.

Men wore their tattoos all over their bodies, while the women tattooed only selected parts of their bodies. The tattoos were drawn such that it virtually became the clothes of the wearer, and these were complemented by simple cut of clothing and jewelry for accent.

The tattoos reveal a “person’s role and achievement in society.” Thus, the more intricate and elaborate your tattoos are, the higher your standing in society.

To celebrate this ancient tradition, the Hari ng Negros – Ginoong Canlaon 2009 initiated the body painting competition, gathering the best visual artists from all over the island to paint and decorate the 27 candidates of what has become the country’s most prestigious male pageant to date.

The competition was held last June 6 in Canlaon City with the theme Arise, the Phoenix! The candidates became the canvass for the artists as they try to translate the theme into a work that will highlight the revival of the island as a focal place for art and culture. It took three grueling hours for the artists to work on their pieces, and the result was undeniable. If Figueroa’s group were mesmerized by the simple art of the ancient pintados, so much more would they be captivated by the modern pintados, the princes of the Hari ng Negros turned into characters of a fantasy movie.

Allan dela Fuente’s interpretation of the phoenix painted on Jesse Ceniza (Vallehermoso) was judged as the best. Ceniza gave life to the work of dela Fuente as he brought the stage down. Dela Fuente is a native of San Carlos City but is now based in Cebu City. He is known to have produced award winning pieces, including the props used by Lahug Elementary School’s contingent to the Sinulog sa Kabataan. Lahug

Ernesto Bambi Ungganon, who did Arnold Pabon (La Carlota City), paid attention to details with a nationalistic twist as he used the colors of the Philippine flag to contrast the predominantly fiery red body, adding emphasis on the face of the model.

John Rey Gonzalez, on the other hand, took inspiration from the mystical Mt. Kanlaon. He painted on his model, Mark Gargoles (La Libertad), a man emerging from the fiery depths of the volcano and transforming into the powerful phoenix. The touch of feather and glitters added pizzazz to the piece.

The body painting competition component of the pageant highlighted the artistry of Negros’ very own visual artists. It has given them an outlet to showcase their talents using an untraditional canvass to practice an age-old tradition.

The Hari ng Negros is an annual male pageant that draws attention to the artistry and creativity of the Negrenses. More than the candidates, it gives an outlet to the best of the island to showcase their talents. This year the pageant will be directed by award winning choreographer from Sibulan, Dean David Ang, musical score by DJ Rbx of Bacolod City, and special effects by Dumaguete’s pride, DSS Fireworks.

Fire blowers of La Castellana and Air Dancers from San Carlos City will also be showcasing their abilities together with the beat of the drum beaters of La Carlota City.

The Hari ng Negros pageant night is on June 27 in Canlaon City. For more information you may visit www.haringnegros.blogspot.com and get the chance to chat with the candidates.

Source: Panublion, Ateneo de Manila University

vuukle comment











  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with