The road to Dutdutan 2014 is a sweltering midday commute. Monster-sized billboards at the World Trade Center silently scream of the annual tattoo convention that is currently on its 14th year. The gates are spread wide open to welcome people from all walks of life – male and female, young and old, rich and not-so-rich, inked and not, and even PWDs. Patrons flock to the venue, clad in their favorite Dutdutan shirt for those who have attended the event in previous years, or in their favorite band shirt, or in their revealing tops that expose those parts of their skin that have been transformed into works of art.
Going through security check is like going through airport security. Items that could possibly ignite or be used in a riot are forbidden to be brought inside – lighters and cigarettes, sharp objects like pens and knives, and firearms, to name a few. These items should be checked in the baggage counter or surrendered to security personnel, else they will be confiscated once inside the venue and will not be returned. Everybody entering the venue is frisked, and bags are inspected carefully. Muscular bouncers and snappy K-9 units warily man the entrance as tattooed patrons pour into the inner sanctum of the World Trade Center.
An orthodox man’s nightmare, this gathering of burdados.
The cool air immediately greets the sweaty and eager patrons at the hall entrance. The stage is the first thing that catches the eye, with its hypnotic lights and thundering music. Whatever is happening on there – bands rocking their guts out, hip-hop artists rapping at full speed, scantily clad women shaking their booties, almost-naked tattooed contestants walking down the ramp, flaunting the art works on their skin – is being blasted through the speakers and being flashed on the large-screen displays.
The exhibition hall is abuzz with music, talk, and especially the whirring of tattoo machines, which never leaves the ear no matter where one goes inside the venue. Every now and then, during transitions from one performer to another, when the giant speakers fall silent for a few seconds, the collective drone of tattoo machines fills the aural void as needles hit skin at thousands of revolutions per minute. The hall is one big buzzing beehive, each booth a honeycomb where tattoo artists birth their masterpieces, with human skin as their canvas.
[quote_center]The hall is one big buzzing beehive, each booth a honeycomb where tattoo artists birth their masterpieces, with human skin as their canvas.[/quote_center]
All 141 exhibitors from all over the country and abroad offer walk-in sessions if a patron wishes to have a tattoo right then and there. Some exhibitors also offer body piercings, which usually go hand in hand in most tattoo shops. Each booth is like a mini tattoo shop, with tattoo chairs and tables or makeshift ones to accommodate willing patrons, tattoo machines ready to drill into fresh skin; tarpaulins hanging on the booth walls, bearing the exhibitors’ names and photos of previous works; merchandise for sale like shirts, accessories, and body jewelry on display; and calling cards, stickers and other ephemera being given away to curious patrons.
Michael Morrissey of Ink-eeze of Newbury Park, California, was one of the more welcoming exhibitors, enthusiastically answering questions and chatting with patrons. His whole upper body and arms are covered in Macabre-themed artwork, all done in black ink. He relates that it took three years, on and off, to complete his tattoos, which are representations of death.
The late comedian and artist Arvin Jimenez, more famously known as Tado, is very much alive in LimiTattoo, which is now being run by his wife Leiz Jimenez. The business, which was originally a clothing line called Limitado, was started by Tado in 2007 because he did not like the T-shirt designs he was seeing so he made his own brand of shirts, said Leiz. Now the business has branched out into other merchandise like accessories, art pieces and the tattoo shop. Tado was one of the passengers, along with other artists, who died after a Florida Trans bus fell into a ravine in Mountain Province earlier this year.
Various paintings and sculptures by tattoo artist Jose Manansala are displayed in his booth. Descended from the Manansala family of artists, Jose, 23, from Macabebe, Pampanga, incorporates realism into his tattoos, which look like paintings.
Ryan “Bones” Dizon of Quezon City-based Chronic Ink specializes in colored tattoos. He puts a modern twist to traditional tattoo designs, says his style could be classified as new-school tattoo. Dizon won first place in last year’s Dutdutan for Best Female Tattoo. This author is fortunate to have a piece done by Dizon a few years back.
Any goody-two-shoes parent would probably faint at the thought of their son or daughter going to this mecca of skin art. “Alam ba ng mga nanay n’yo na nandito kayo?” Jun Sabayton, one of the hosts, jokingly said to the audience.
Every year, this celebration of skin art becomes grander, and more and more people attend. This is probably one, if not the only, venue where tattoo artists and collectors can proudly brandish the permanent art works on their skin.
Now that tattoos are becoming more and more acceptable, with more and more employers allowing tattooed applicants into their workplaces, it seems there is no stopping the juggernaut that is this once-undesirable skin art from achieving general public acceptance. The increasing number of people showing up at Dutdutan every year is a sign that tattooing is making a comeback to society, but not as marks of social status, of battle prowess or of deviance like in the old days, but as an avenue for self-expression for both tattoo artists and collectors.
Photos by: Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan