“I’ve dreamed a lot. I’m tired now from dreaming but not tired of dreaming.” — Fernando Pessoa
Frangelico Domingo knows how it feels to be tired. You can ﬁnd him setting up shop every morning at his sister’s shop, the Best Tattoo Company. Then he comes home to play with his daughter until she ﬁnally falls asleep. “Every morning, every day,” he says. “I come in here and work.” To hear his sister Frances Arbie tell it, she is the only reason he gets things done on time. She is one of the best tattoo artists in the Philippines, female or otherwise, and that did not come easy. The shop is a ring of portable walls near the escalator on the third ﬂoor of the Robinson Galleria. Metal frames shape the outside walls.
The inside walls painted red, with sketches and tattoo pictures. Through the entrance is a modest waiting room. On the right a couch for two, with a small black table and a few books and magazines. “He is a sloth, a slug,” Frances says. “He moves so slow, that’s why I make him do everything before I come in.” “That’s right,” he answers. “I do everything.” I have to do it that way,” she says. “If I didn’t he would take all day and nothing would get done.” Frances knows about hard work. She used her skill in Tae kwon do to attend school, travel the world, and along the way she learned how to surf and tattoo.
Now, she is back at home in Quezon City, Manila. But, that does not mean she is always in one place. When my wife and I found the shop, Frances was out. Frangelico was on the couch with his wife Dane Rodelas. He had ﬁnished a two-hour job and now he was playing with his daughter Franchesca Louise. Philip Carpio also tattoos at the shop. He was standing by the “surfer parking only” sign, a Harley Davidson picture, and a mounted guitar. He and Frangelico began messaging on their phones. It took 30 minutes to track down Frances. When she arrived, it was sudden. Heads turned and there she was in a white t-shirt, gray sweatshirt and ball cap. Tracy and Frances had already started. Frances had removed her hat and sweatshirt. Her tattoo gun was buzzing over Tracy’s forearm near the inside crook of the elbow. Frangelico and I had already discussed my tattoo. When he came in, I sat down for and he shaved my arm.
Then he applied the stencil. When it came off, he turned it over in the light. He started wiping it off with rubbing alcohol. “I’m going to do it again he,” he said. “Didn’t like it?” I asked. He nodded. When the area was clean and dry, Frangelico reapplied the stencil. He turned it over and again in the light, twisting my arm in two rotations. Then he nodded. Tracy had started almost 30 minutes before me and ﬁnished about an hour before I did. She had chosen a Filipino sun nestled in a bed of ﬂowers, and stars at three corners.
I chose a larger Philippines sun with three pairs of matching rays. The image I chose also had three stars, but Frangelico is an artist. He chose stars with a different pattern. He felt and I agreed that this new pattern matched the main image better. When he ﬁnished, we posed for pictures and exchanged Facebook and email contacts. Frances suggested we should go surﬁng.
Written by Seth Singleton
You can contact Frances Arbie at @BestTattooShopManilaPhilippines