How RJ Deles' tattoos help him cope with his feels

Barry Viloria on Sep 08, 2015 06:09 PM
How RJ Deles' tattoos help him cope with his feels
“These tattoos are my way of feeling connected to my roots. This is my way of coping with hardship and loss." (Photos taken by Pat Mateo for Chalk Magazine)

Tattooed athletes are not uncommon. In the NBA (Dennis Rodman, Chris Andersen, Monta Ellis, etc.), in the UFC (Scott Jorgensen, Brock Lesnar), in football (David Beckham), in boxing (Manny Pacquiao), or in whichever league or sport, these resident badasses easily stand out with their intricately inked skin and the intriguing tales that wrap their skin art.

In the NCAA, CSB Blazers' RJ Deles is one who has a pretty interesting story behind his tattoos. Stories, actually. He has four. Found on the most prominent parts of his body, each of these tattoos bear something very “family-related and culture-related” to the squad's shooting guard.

Filipino-American RJ, 23, hails from Orange County, California. He left for Manila right after high school, and has been playing in the NCAA since. The Arts Management student is now down to his last playing year. And for the most part of his tertiary school and collegiate basketball career, he has lived alone. Yes, he admits of feeling sad and lonesome, with his parents and brother based abroad and his sister living all the way in San Mateo, Rizal. At those times is when his tattoos come into play—as permanent reminders of his loved ones from far away and his roots that have defined him as a person.

“These tattoos are my way of feeling connected to my roots. This is my way of coping with hardship and loss,” RJ—a pretty serious-sounding guy, if you ask us—says.

RJ’s first tattoo was a cross on his chest, which he had when he was 14. He kept it from his parents, who only found out after his senior year in high school. The artist behind this tattoo and the rest that followed is Alfred Guevara, founder of Dutdutan, a festival among tattoo artists and enthusiasts in the Philippines. RJ likes how every skin art he has had with the guy is a collaboration.

“We both believe that tattoos should be unique, they should be different from one another. It shouldn’t just be the ones labeled on the wall. It should be freehand design, and it should be catered to your characteristics and the way you see life or the way you are as a person,” he declares.

From his chest to the left part of his arm is an elaborate art that shows a fish peeking in the middle of the waves—a symbol of his both his Californian and Filipino roots.

On RJ’s right arm is a picture of the sun, surrounded by “Ifugao-styled borders, the clouds and the sun, intertwining one another, like the heaven.” Written under the multi-rayed sun are the names of the “first ladies” of RJ’s life: his grandma and older sister, who both have passed way back.

On RJ’s back is another cross, wrapped by the quote: “Father, forgive me for what I’ve done.” It’s his way of asking forgiveness for the small faults he has done.

The tattoo that has the most heart-tugging meaning, however, is on RJ’s right forearm. It reads: “You will forever be in my heart.” It’s for a “dear friend” who passed away because of a miscarriage.

“I got really connected with that person because of the fact that I was there saying ‘You’ll be okay, you’re fine, don’t worry about me. You don’t need a guy, and stuff like that.’ I got close to her. It came to a point where I was willing to take on the responsibilities that the guy didn’t do,” he says. –With an interview by Danielle Oris for Chalk Magazine

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