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Breaking stereotypes: Three Pinays turning pain into power

by RepublicAsia

TATTOOS are meant to be seen. They have stories to tell. It is often perceived as symbols of rebellion or skepticism. For many years, tattoos have carried a stigma, not only because they’re associated with gangs, bikers, and rebels, but also with individuals deemed unproductive or unbeneficial to society.

In celebration of Women’s Month, are you also tired of being labeled as “bad people” or “dugyot” because of having tattoos on your skin? 

Pette Cabahug, Clarisse Furio, and Ghail Diola are among the women proving that despite the stereotypes, they are empowering indeed. 

Pette Cabahug

Photo Courtesy: @pette.shabu | Instagram

Meet the trans rapper celebrating her femininity

Rapper and DJ from Quezon City, Pette Cabahug (@pette.shabu), also known as “Pette Shabu”, the twenty-three-year old shares about the liberation of getting tattoos and the declaration of her body autonomy as a practice, along with her transitioning experience. 

Getting her first tattoo when she was 19, it was also the same time she applied for her first job and started to collect paychecks. 

In terms of making the design choice, she usually searches it online and sees what attracts her the most. She shared that she is in awe of oriental designs that leans into flowers, mostly anything that is feminine. 

The term “oriental tattoo style” refers to a type of tattooing that combines traditional designs and symbols from several Asian cultures, such as geishas, samurai warriors, dragons, and koi fish. This is a widely used phrase for body art that comes from Asia, from China and India to Japan and other places.

Among all her tattoos, Pette’s favorite is the bug placed on her neck. She said that it has no real meaning to it, she was more intrigued by the placement of the tattoo and how it will translate in her overall physical appearance since it cannot cover her neck. “It was traumatizing,” she said. 

Photo Courtesy: @pette.shabu | Instagram

“As a person also who is blossoming into the woman that I am and started transitioning, everything aligned,” she told republicasia. She described it as magic because she grew fond of just looking at these tattoos with visual appeal. She expressed that she found meaning in everything when she started becoming one with herself more.

People who have tattoos in the Philippines are still being judged, especially women and queer people. “I personally feel like I have hundreds of eyes around me because of my gender and my tattoos when I’m in public,” when asked if she encountered negative situations with tattoos. 

Pette believes that besides her tattoos looking good, it improved her confidence in many ways. She finds it empowering to use her body as a vessel for artistic expression, emphasizing the sense of autonomy and the determination it brings her.

This rapper started getting tattoos during her pre-transition years and it started to make sense to her because she’s starting to achieve a life she wants for herself. She said that this type of change is so fulfilling.

When asked for her advice to women who are considering getting tattoos but may be hesitant because of societal pressures and stereotypes, Pette has a message: “Once you know that you want one, you should really get one. To scratch the itch. I feel like that will do more good for you than bad because there is nothing wrong with getting what you want. Do it.” 

Clarisse Furio

Photo Courtesy: @clarissefurs | Instagram

Meet Clarisse, a corporate fashion stylist from Mandaluyong City

Twenty-five-year old freelance stylist Clarisse Furio (@clarissefurs), got her first Vance Joy album artwork tattoo on her left arm. She loved that album so much that she ended up putting it on her body. 

It’s basically two people wrapped around each other’s body — feeling the love and affection. Furio’s tattoos are basically just the things she loves and adores, and the mirror of who she is as a person. 

When choosing the design, sometimes she tends to check flashes from the tattoo artists she admires and she’s friends with, their art and process inspires her a lot, and she mostly wants to get a tattoo from them. 

Her current favorite is her latest tattoo that she got from AlagadngSining on her shoulders. She shared that she loved how Alaga made the sketch customized for her, the tattoo artist’s getting to know her, the placement, the meaning, and the whole tattoo process with the ritual made it so special. 

Alagadngsining, also known as, John Nofiel, a visual artist and illustrator from Cavite, is a surface designer who “highlights the flora and fauna that can be found in the Philippine archipelago.” (Source: wonder.ph) 

Photo Courtesy: @clarissefurs | Instagram

Furio revealed that she has a tattoo inside her lip that reads “Venus”, and she specifically wants it done in that placement because as mentioned by her, the planet Venus is the planet of Love and to her interpretation, everything she says or comes out of her mouth is entirely rooted from love. 

Just like Pette Cabahug, Furio is also influenced by floral designs in general. She grew up fascinated with florals and plants especially in the province, where her grandparents plant a lot of them and until now, she resonated and finds inspiration in her daily life.

Since this freelancer is in the industry where almost everyone has a tattoo, she has always felt nice and comfortable about it. However, she recently noticed something different in an event where most people attended looked really neat and looked clean. Furio felt out of place. 

Fortunately, nobody criticized her, and a few even praised and complimented her tattoos. This made her breathe easier as it also boosted her confidence and allowed her to fully enjoy the occasion. 

In the words of Lady Gaga, “I’m a free woman,” Clarisse thinks being herself plays a huge part of who she is as an individual. She consistently views tattoos as a reflection of one’s individuality and their creativity. 

She articulated, “Societal pressures and stereotypes will always be there but the question is, would you let that affect you to live your life?” 

For Clarisse, having tattoos empowers her by being able to go out and be proud of having them adds a lot of positive effect on her self-esteem and her way of thinking. 

Ghail Diola

Photo Courtesy: Andreah Ghail Diola | Facebook

Meet HolyGhail, a Cebuana multimedia arts student 

Born in Cebu and raised in Subic, Andreah Ghail Diola, also known as “HolyGhail” online (@holyghail), is a twenty-two-year old multimedia arts student studying at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde — where she finds her way in Manila for both work and school.

She explained, “The tale behind my first tattoo isn’t exactly what I envisioned.” This serves as a marker of her teenage naivety, a decision she made during a challenging period. 

According to her, the designs she chooses are a snapshot of the present, a commitment to a moment in the future she won’t regret.

Ghail believes in the mantra, “whatever happens, happens,” while embracing spontaneity as a big part of who she is. Among her inked treasures, the wings on her back stand out. Beside being aesthetically pleasing, they represent a significant accomplishment and a testament to her resilience.

Photo Courtesy: Andreah Ghail Diola | Facebook

As she recalled a light-hearted story, she had a peaceful sleepover with her cousin and friend and was disrupted by the unexpected presence of three rats in the kitchen, the moment was followed by laughter and screams. To commemorate this quirky incident, she got three ribbons tattooed; symbolizing the rats and the memory from it. 

Inspired by Korean tattoo artists, Ghail finds solace in the simplicity and the “chaotic” expressions of their work. She looked up to celebrities and musicians where she thinks the idea of getting a tattoo is never a big deal. 

In terms of encountering stereotypes or misconceptions about women with tattoos, Ghail said that navigating them [societal stereotypes] has been challenging. In this generation that glorifies “clean girl look”, people often perceive women with tattoos as if they don’t care about their bodies. 

When being in a negative situation, Ghail shared that she occasionally covers her tattoos whenever her friends tell her that their parents can’t handle it, but Ghail responds by simply obeying them. 

“I firmly believe that kindness transcends appearances, and I won’t compromise my authenticity to meet unfair standards.” 

Contrary to conventional expectations, her personality doesn’t neatly align with the stereotype associated with big tattoos. She said that she embraces the accomplishment of getting one. Similar to Pette and Clarisse, tattoos are a celebration of breaking boundaries and refusing to conform to a singular standard. “It’s a reminder that I can be whoever I want, regardless of my appearance,” she elaborated. 

Enduring the physical discomfort, she gained confidence — it’s an empowering aspect that lies in her painful journey. For her, each tattoo serves as a visual reminder symbolizing her authority over her body and decisions.

To women contemplating tattoos but may be hesitant because of discrimination and societal reassures, her advice is simple: “Go for it! Stay true to yourself, break free from stereotypes, and remember that your body is your canvas. Your choices are yours alone, and you’re more than enough just as you are. Embrace it, and you’ll undoubtedly look fantastic!” 

With reports from Nicole Thomas
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