The Javanese 'batík' — the word and cloth that travel well globally, for textiles whose intensely-wrought patterning is executed by either block-stamping with hot wax or drawing with a hot wax-dispensing, pen-like instrument — is verily an Indonesian flag.
Still, the word 'batík’ belongs to greater island Southeast Asia. It is the same word, batëk, or batók, everywhere in the Philippines for tattoo. Batík is speck. Batík -batík is spotted, spotty, marked with dots.
-tik or, indeed, -tëk brings up an onomatopoeic idea of pagtitiktík, to tap lightly. Exactly how a tattoo would be done, particularly with thorns. Or how a bird’s beak raps against a tree.
‘Batikán’ (in Tagalog), or batíkan (in Cebuano) which today says ‘veteran’ or ‘famous person’— earlier it signified a heroic character — would have been a tattooed person. Indeed an impressively tattooed person.
Batik, batok, batëk belong to a tight cluster of meanings around the notion of marking, both verb and noun. ‘Markado’, the Hispanicized colloquialism for tattooed person, brings the idea to today, however losing the sound reference of -tik, or tiktik (which for some reason is also the modern word for ‘spy’.
Hence it belongs to the global class of art executed as reserve or resist dyeing: batik, tritik, and plangi, which are executed on already woven cloth; and ikat, which is executed on threads (warp threads for warp ikat, weft threads for weft ikat, and both warp and weft threads for compound and double ikat) before weaving.
Tritik obliges the dyer/embroiderer to cut or otherwise destroy perfectly well-executed embroidery after dyeing, to reveal the un-dyed sections beneath.
Such categories of art were never widely known; nor who made what, necessarily clear. José Rizal only bracketed as Mindanao, a number of articles he collected and which were subsequently acquired 1880 by the Ethnologisches Museum (Museum für Volkenkünde), Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Germany.
Tritik pieces credited to the Bagobo reside in the collections storages of the Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology of University of Pennsylvania; the Fowler Museum of the University of California in Los Angeles; the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, among other American museums. The Museum für Volkenkünde of Leiden University, the Netherlands, aside of that in Berlin, Germany, are among the European museums that own Mindanao tritik pieces. A few pieces are owned by a handful of private collectors in the Philippines.
Rizal was accepted into the Royal Anthropological Society of Berlin in the 1880’s, when this piece was acquisitioned into the city’s ethnographic museum. The 19th century intellectual as scientific collector was inaugurated as Filipino in this passage of these materials to the museum.
Rizal is the ancestral figure to a long line of Filipino aesthetes-scientists-humanists who imagine nation, among other modern imperatives, as people available to study—the less studied, the better. Indeed Rizal himself mused about offering his brain for study to the Royal Society.
The Filipino, a creature born at the end of the 19th century as modern, is only now beginning to palpate archaic notions of marking (-tik) on bodies (batek) and clothing (tritik). Such inquiries are complicated by the widespread use of the word budbud or bëbëd for all reserve dyeing processes. Nevertheless it should be safe to indulge a happy conjecture: that, sans writing, Philippine peoples construed these body and cloth marks as a system of meaning.
Explore items in Exhibit
"Banda para llevar al niño" (cloth for carrying an infant). Label copied from the packing list that Jose Rizal sent with the box of items he was donating to according to the notes of José Rizal, who collected the piece and donated it in…
Hemp cloth. "Kulaman" sleeves for Bagobo woman's bodice.
Tritik-dyed upper garment and pants for male use
Men's trousers. Saruar.
Men's trousers. Saruar.