One Tribe founder Murphy Tiotioen Aloda was born in the province of Benguet, Philippines and migrated to Australia in the late 80's where he and his family now reside. Although being Australians, they are still very much proud of their Filipino-Igorot heritage.
Murphy's family are predominantly of Ibaloi and Kankanaey ethnicity but also have ancestral links with the Kalanguya, Ifugao and Bontoc peoples of the mountain provinces, and the Ilokanos of the lowlands. The Ilokanos were skillful craftspeople who also had a rich tattoo tradition but became extinct centuries ago due to the strong Spanish influence in their region.
Murphy's family and ancestors have lived and worked on the lands of Benguet for over four hundred years after migrating from Tinoc, Ifugao. They still practice some of their old traditions such as the "pedot" or "canao" in Ilokano as its more commonly known (a ceremony of feasts, rituals and offerings often lasting for days), the "chepo" (an act of exorcism for when an ancestor spirit wants to communicate with the living, often occurring at a pedot) and the "sangchil" (described as a "death chair" reserved only for a respected elder who has passed away). Murphy's father recalls his mother Siyanang Tiotioen being seated on a sangchil after she passed in 1980. She was seated and tied to the sangchil for seven days and was offered gifts such as tobacco, sacrificed animals, tapey (rice wine) and traditional blankets. Unfortunately traditions such as mummification, headhunting and tattooing, and practices surrounding them have since been abandoned or outlawed, hence One Tribe's fascination to learn more about their culture's vibrant history.
Murphy along with the assistance of his family and relatives from the Philippines has taken part in the revival of a long, lost and rich tattoo tradition of their native land. The One Tribe family are very passionate about their culture and are dedicated to the education, preservation and innovation of the Filipino tattoo art. They have spent a considerable amount of money, time and effort conducting their research through travel, interviews and purchase of books and printed materials. The most reliable information in One Tribe's research has been acquired through numerous travels to their home town in the Cordillera and living amongst the Igorot people. They have spoken to several tattooed elders over the past few years and interviewed family and friends who shared their own personal stories and experiences. They have also liaised with researchers, scholars, anthropologists, tattooists and other One Tribe members to enable them to better understand the culture and art of traditional Filipino tattoos.
"A tattoo is a timeless, physical and spiritual art form which not only tells our life story or what it represents but also those of our ancestors. It is a means of remembering them as they watch over us and give us our identity. I've always been fascinated with our traditional tattoos since I was young and saw one of my Lola's (grandmother) arms covered with tattoos. We had a brief discussion about them but it was only in my teenage years that I started to truly appreciate the tattoo art. We returned home to the Philippines several times but unfortunately many of the tattooed elders from Benguet had passed away without stories of their tattoos being told or documented, and those still living only had vague recollections of the tradition. So we conducted further research, focusing not only on our tattoo practices, but also those of other indigenous groups from the Philippines. We spoke to family and friends to learn more about the art and the culture as a whole, and I also got my first tribal tattoo to represent my Igorot roots. During this journey we came across other Filipinos also wanting to learn about our tattoo traditions or getting a tribal tattoo, and noticed very limited resource was available to assist them. It was then we decided to launch the One Tribe website as an alternative for those searching for answers or needing guidance."
A tattoo is a timeless, physical and spiritual art form which not only tells our life story or what it represents but also those of our ancestors. It is a means of remembering them as they watch over us and give us our identity.