When In Manila, although tattoos are still taboo, I find that no one does it better than the guys at Wild Ones Tattoo. It’s a sad reality in the Philippines that people with visible ink automatically give off a negative impression in the eyes of the rest of society.
You are perceived as a misfit, a miscreant, a former prison inmate, or a gangbanger. In some industries, having a visible tattoo automatically disqualifies you from getting the job because of the stigma. Thankfully, this narrow-minded view is slowly changing, with tattoo shows like Miami and LA Ink educating the public on the art of ink.
I give all that so-called stigma the middle finger and embrace tattoos for what they represent – it is a permanent work of art on your skin that tells the world who you are, what you went though, who you hold close, or what you want to achieve. Also, sitting or laying down for hours on end while a needle continuously goes back and forth on you skin can be quite painful, so wanting to get a tattoo should never be taken lightly.
I had gone to Wild Ones Tattoo two years ago, to get a memorial tattoo for my father who had passed away a year before – an Arabic word on my arm that says habibi, which means darling, and a Middle Eastern star – and have gotten a lot of different reactions – from a curious glace to a full on sermon on how I have permanently ruined my skin. I am proud to wear my heart out on my sleeve, and am thankful to have had such a talented tattoo artist immortalize my love for my father – like Arvin Dela Cruz.
I had been wanting to get a symbol of protection for the longest time, and was inspired by the image of the dreamcatcher (protection from bad luck and bad dreams) as well as the mystical Hand of Hamsa (protection from the evil eye). After a couple of back and forth e-mails about the design with Eric Hotchkiss, the shop manager, I was super stoked to go back and have the same tattoo artist bring my newest design to life.
The Wild Ones Tattoo shop had moved from their old location above Autohan near Tahanan Village, and was now next to the recently opened Zark’s Burgers along Aguirre Avenue in BF Parañaque. It felt more like visiting old friends, as it was still the same solid crew – who had gotten better at their craft. The shop is well lit and very, very clean, thanks to the detail-oriented shop manager. Think about that the next time you plan on getting a piece done at the local tiangge.
Arvin Dela Cruz, has over 20 years of tattooing experience, and specializes in everything from black and greys to portraits. He is my go-to guy for getting inked. Mark “Batas” Rodriguez makes up the other half of the shop’s talent, and is not only an awesome all-around tattoo artist, but a celebrity in his own right – a pretty badass rapper making waves in the local hip-hop scene.
As much as I would’ve liked to get inked by Batas na Pinakamalakas, I remain loyal to Arvin, as the trust and rapport is already there, and I sincerely like his design aesthetic. He works very fast, is extremely patient with those who squirm a lot during sessions and need to take constant breaks, and has a surprisingly light touch with the tattoo machine.
After a short discussion on the size of my ink and where I had wanted it placed, Arvin then proceeded to draw up the stencil design and Eric prepped my left foot, by shaving any hair that might get in the way of the tattoo. Afterwards, the stencil was transferred onto my skin using a stick deodorant. This gives you a darker transfer, which is better for the tat artist.
I like that Eric is a very hands on manager, prepping the tattoo machine and other equipment needed to help out his crew, checking the stencils to see what looks better on the skin, and is very strict with regard to cleanliness (they use purified drinking water to clean their needles when they change from one color to the next). After everything was set up and I was happy with the placement of my tat, I sat back for four hours while Arvin went to work.
The final outcome is beautiful! I love how the feathers move with my foot, and how the anklet with the beads (that are usually found in the dreamcatcher’s web) looks like it’s moving as well. Getting inked on the foot wasn’t as painful as I’d thought it would be – more like incredibly itchy – but Eric, Arvin, and Mark made for pleasant distractions, cracking jokes and keeping me entertained. I am such a huge fan of Arvin’s work that I now have a new tattoo mantra: Only Arvin touches my skin. Bang!
After the session was over, Eric wrapped my foot up for me and gave me a care guide on how to take care of my new ink. Here are a few tips to speed up the healing process:
- Leave the wrap on for until you get home. The wrap protects your tattoo from airborne bacteria, which can penetrate through your broken skin.
- Wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and mild, unscented liquid or antimicrobial soap. Use your hands (and not a wash cloth) and gently remove all traces of dried blood so it doesn’t scab.
- Apply ointment to help with the healing process, a thin layer twice a day, just enough to make the tattoo shine or else you’ll suffocate it. Eric suggested Tetramycin, but I personally prefer to use Vandol.
- Continue washing and applying the ointment until the tattoo heals. Expect an “onion skin” effect on your skin as it will shed and look flaky for a while. Do not pull off the flakes, or else you might pull the ink out. Let them fall off on their own.
When In Manila, don’t be shy to express yourself with ink! Whether you’re thinking of getting your very first tattoo, adding another design to your growing collection, or want to immortalize a loved one in ink, Eric, Arvin, and Batas at Wild Ones Tattoo are the guys you need to talk to!
Wild Ones Tattoo
+63 915 295 9505
Unit-6, J32S Building,
No. 35 President’s Ave., Teoville,
BF Homes Parañaque
Monday – Saturday: 2pm onwards
Sunday: Scheduled appointments only