28 January 2010

Body modification in Mindanao

I found the photo above while searching for something totally unrelated.  Unfortunately the accompanying text at the link is in ?Romanian.   All I can discern is the place names of Mindanao and the Philippines, and some words that look like "modify" and "rudimentary instruments."  A TinEye reverse-image-search doesn't help, and Babelfish doesn't offer a Romanian-to-English option.  And I can't find anything relevant with the googling.

The lady's lower teeth look to be intact, and black probably from betel juice.  But the upper ones are incredibly carved.  I've seen photos of modern dental modification in which the teeth are abraded into saw-like points, but this lady's dental work is the most elaborate I've ever seen.

TYWKIWDBI gets a couple thousand visitors a year from the Philippines, a couple hundred of whom log on from Mindanao, so perhaps some reader will recognize this process.  Or perhaps there's an academic dentist out there.  If anyone has information (or a link?) that would help explain this photo, please leave a comment.

p.s. - somewhat related is the Mesoamerican "King of Dental Bling."

Addendum:  It never takes long on this blog for someone to come up with answers to the most arcane questions.  Conor found a Google translation of the page in question, and Mlle Titam found this explanatory video:


  1. A Google Translation of the section yields the description:
    "The teeth of predators and foot Lotus

    Sharpening teeth is a very painful form of change that the tribes of South Asian women have endured it for many years. It is considered the ultimate form of beauty in those parts. Women Bagobo of Mindanao, the easternmost island of the Philippines, must have spent many hours grinding of teeth rudimantare using various tools such as stone and wood."
    The entire page, translated into English, is here:

  2. Here is a video of a British doctor who visited the Mentawai tribe in Indonesia to learn more about body rituals such as tattoos and teeth sharpening. When asked how and why the tribal women endure the pain, often for days, the answer was simple: beauty. link

  3. Two hat tips! Post amended. Thank you!

  4. @ Minnesotastan

    here's the basic link to google translate, that can be used for just about anything.


    (I have this bookmarked for just such occassions) :)

    The cool thing is, this particular link is set to auto-detect the language you are trying to translate, and convert it int English. You can change this to whatever you want, but this setting makes it simple.

    All you really need to do is copy either the text in question, or the actual webpage address onto your clipboard, and then past into the text window, and...voila...instant understanding!!!

    (It's really fun to find some bizarre passage, and translate it back and forth a few times and see how badly mangled the phrase actually gets.)

  5. a double hat-tip to fishead for a link I have completely missed out on!

  6. I think it's part of their culture and we respect that.



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