Since I was 12, I remember being a massive fan of everything about the 50s – 60s. I loved rocking red clothing, red lips, cat eyeliner, Elvis Presley and everything rockabilly. Basically red, polka dots and skirts was my aesthetic. So when I told my mom and dad that I wanted a Sailor Jerryesque tattoo when I turn 18, they weren’t really shocked. So 2015 arrives and you guess it, the first thing I do is research places to get tattoos.
My very first tattoo was a tribute to my mom. Although very simple, it’s actually very symbolic. I got it done at Cloak and Dagger by the lovely Luke Jinks. Firstly, instead of using the traditional ‘mom’ in a heart tattoo, I used ‘mama’ as that is what I call her. Then I had flowers added to it as my mom loves gardening and is obsessed with flowers and lastly a swallow that is of great importance. As I have mentioned, I’m half Filipina and half English. I grew up in The Philippines but moved to the UK when I was 13. A swallow tattoo usually represents how much a sailor has travelled, one swallow equates to 5,000 nautical meters. The distance of The Philippines to the UK is 5,792 nautical meters equating to one swallow.
My second tattoo was actually done on the same day as my first one and it is just the words GRL PWR. I know, it is a very well known and popular tattoo but I found it really pretty. Also, being a massive feminist I just had to get it!
The rest of my tattoos were done by a lovely French lady named Fiona (@inkyfiona on
Instagram). She works in Clapham Ink, a lovely tattoo studio at Clapham. My third tattoo is a cute little cactus. Fiona was working as an apprentice then and was offering tiny tattoos for free as practice. Looking at her work I instantly fell in love (that’s why I kept coming back). My fourth tattoo is a bunch of pretty flowers, again done by Fiona. These two aren’t really as symbolic as the first one, I just thought they were cute.
My fifth tattoo is a pixelated heart, this was done when Fiona started doing much bigger tattoos. This one is when my geekiness comes in. It is inspired by pixelated games but most especially The Legend of Zelda games. When I was young, my mom used to give us coins to play on arcade machines but the arcade machines in The Philippines were quite similar to how a Playstation worked. They had Metal Slug, Mario, and even The Legend of Zelda. I remember wasting my summer days, in the heat, with a cold coke next to me playing different video games with my brother. So I, of course, had to get a lovely pixelated heart to remind me of when I was a young girl.
I didn’t actually get a tattoo for a long time after the pixelated heart, mom and dad were getting annoyed that I was getting so many tattoos. I waited almost a year to get another one.
So 2017 comes, I’m at uni and I’m looking through InkyFiona’s Instagram (because I am her biggest stalker) and I see this beautiful mermaid flash that she has drawn. I message her as soon as I get paid from work and book an appointment. I finally get the mermaid done, this was probably the most painful tattoo I have had done as it’s inside my arm, Fiona (being the babe that she is) talks to me whilst doing my tattoo and even lets me eat a couple of Oreos to distract me from the pain.
My seventh tattoo was actually done on the same day as the mermaid. When Fiona was doing cute little tattoos she drew a flash of this beautiful conch shell, I fell in love with it but at the time she wasn’t doing tattoos behind the ears or fingers. I talked to her beforehand and she agreed to do it behind my ear, this one is another very symbolic tattoo for me. Do you remember putting a conch shell on your ear and hear the ocean? Well, that’s why I got the conch behind my ear. I grew up in Manila in the Philippines but would always go back and forth between the city and Ilocos Sur, my mom’s hometown where my grandma lives. Our place in Ilocos Sur was right next to the beach so I’d spend half of my time pretending to be a mermaid. Having the conch behind my ear means that I am never far away from the ocean, it is always with me wherever I go.
So far that is all the tattoos I have done. However, I have no plans to stop (although mom and dad really wish I do). I have so many plans and flashes noted in my head but I just need to find the right artists and the money to do them. My next tattoo idea is a floral garden on my leg with little bees (drawn by my sassy friend, Emma). I love tattoos not because they are ‘cool’ but because it is a way of expressing myself, it makes me happy seeing all these beautiful art on my body. It gives me the confidence to show off my skin!