Told through expressions of people who are using ancient traditional practices to revive Filipino culture, preserve the legacy of their ancestors, and redefine their own contemporary cultural identity, The Pintados Project follows the collaborative journey of Filipina-American photojournalist Heather Fassio and her multi-national friends as they travel to the Philippines in search of her mother’s ancestors and her legacy. With each step, they discover that her own family tree is a map that leads them back to a time when, centuries ago, the greatest loss of culture began when the Spanish first encountered her ancestors, a tattooed tribe of warriors that earned the islands their nickname Las Islas de los Pintados - Islands of the Painted Ones.
Crisscrossing the bustling cities, remote villages, eclectic towns, and stunning wilderness peppered across the 7,107 islands of the Philippines, the Pintados Project adventurers drive, boat, walk, swim and hike from the chaotic capital city of Manila to the remote northern mountains of the country to discover what remains of this striking visual marker that the Pintados once bore and see for themselves how their warrior past is still present today. Their journey takes them deep into a remote mountain village, accessible only by foot, to seek out the last living tattooist of the Kalinga headhunting tribe, a 94-year-old woman named Whang-Od. Etched upon her face are lines that trace Whang-Od’s more than 80 years of tattooing people from all over the world – an artistic ritual that could potentially die with her.
Their quest into the Filipino spirit is an intimate exploration of identity through the eyes of individuals who are reviving indigenous traditions to express modern Filipino culture. It celebrates the desire to live life to the fullest tempered by the acceptance that these experiences will become forever imprinted upon us in unexpected ways. Time and again, we discover that with the wind comes new hopes and new beginnings.