The Pictorial Key to Manos: Suit of Hands

  • by The Cartellino Team

The First of the Los Indios Filipinos Minor Arcana

Common reception toward the tarot is split in two. Either it is a means to plumb the depths of the unconscious mind, have it manifest, and map the Querent’s road ahead, or it is of another order altogether, in the company of reading tea leaves and bones, a way by which each card is an expressive component of a fluid whole.

This pictorial key for the suit of Hands takes into consideration the latter; its symbolisms are allegories to present Philippine society: its politics, plight, and the forms of worship tangled thereto. In the old as in the new suits of the tarot, there are ten numbered cards and a Court tetrad. Manos, Spanish for “Hands,” finds a connecting thread in our colonial past, while the imagery draws its force from recent events, notable figures, and everyday occurrences.

Like the Pentacles suit—also called “Coins” or Deniers or Money, all prototypes of the modern Spades—the cards of Manos pertain to worldly affairs: material and sensual pleasures, success, and prosperity, as attained through its associated element, Earth. The cards reveal Conditions of Life: one’s surroundings and, indeed, how one makes do with the resources available. On more esoteric terms, the iconography of hands extols the existence of other people, their various modes of exchange, and the ways through which sociality manifests by these actions.

Like all forms of divination, the tarot is concerned with problems of the future. In turn, this suggests a specific philosophy of history. When read separately or in a numerical sequence, Manos envisions the future as that of disquiet, in which there are set classes and roles in an unchanging hierarchy. When read synchronously—that is, together, spontaneously, as in spreads during a reading—the organization is reshuffled, and the tarot comes to resemble more closely a game of hazard, the cycle exemplified by the ouroboros, the dragon eating its own tail. 

With the conditions set by the “Earth,” agents rise to an occasion, fuse or assemble into groups, and then disperse; the totalizing principle is impartial to whom. It is a game of hazard by which a performer takes a seat in office, or a man claims his right to divinity. The charitable man today may, in other circumstances, steal tomorrow. It becomes less a question of what one has and more about what any one person can do. It is this suit’s primary characteristic: how, like a hand, one can reveal as much as conceal, divert by sleight, or issue freely.

Ace of Hands Iya Regalario
Ace of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

Ace of Hands

A single hand emerges from a colorless sky, issuing riches freely available. Providence: as if every beam of light had been chased into these mineral prisms and glass beads, exhibiting colors so radiant they pale and soften the sun. The barren land recedes from sight at this fortune; this fortune so grand it awakens the dead.

Divinatory meanings: New ventures, promises fulfilled, rejuvenated health

Reversed: void ambition, lost opportunities, abuse of power.


Two of Hands Iya Regalario
II of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

II of Hands

A barefoot woman cradles her child as she requests for alms. Though she is astray, the lush lands of her origin beckon just past the horizon; the sun watches over her, as does the cerulean sky. Two hands raise before her in even disposition; it is unclear as to whether the gesture is to dismiss, halt, or provide aid.

Divinatory meanings: reassessment, material trouble, vagrancy

Reversed: suspense, delay, abuse of power


III of Hands Iya Regalario
III of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

III of Hands

Hovering at the topmost of this card is a winged eye, but it is the snakes who hold vigil. The scales tip in favor of the hand who has plenty and the hand that wields it. The object is not to achieve balance, but to manage the act; at the bottom, twined snakes lie in wait for the one that does not check its excesses.

Divinatory meanings: normalcy, security, regulation

Reversed: exaction, material or sensual poverty, abuse of power


IV of Hands Iya Regalario
IV of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

IV of Hands

A wide, barren domain extends and shapes the horizon; a red sun glows sickly. A dry season. The keepers are in a preparatory stage, working individually to prime the land. One may stumble upon a chance discovery.  

Divinatory Meanings: Luck, noble service, self-sufficiency

Reversed: Poor strategy, sterility, abuse of power


V of Hands Iya Regalario
V of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

V of Hands

Five hands raise uniform salutes to complete a crest or shield, signifying an imposition, a new order, or ruling.

Divinatory meanings: Compliance, fear, (rare) loyalty

Reversed: violence, imposition of regimes, abuse of power


Six of Hands. Iya Regalario
VI of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

VI of Hands

A queue of hands drags their paraphernalia rapidly, each designated for the dragon’s accursed hoard. A gatekeeper is stationed between them to inspect motives.

Divinatory meanings: A reveal of power, bureaucracy, a perilous journey

Reversed: hoarding, assimilation, abuse of power


7_Manos Iya Regalario
VII of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

VII of Hands

Seven hands occupy a vehicle interior, with each a designated space. Four fasten themselves as a form of durance; two pay their wages. A reversed figure 8 lays by the entry, suggesting a covert connection, an endless bond.

Divinatory Meanings: Conviviality, movement, service

Reversed: meagre profits, a gradual dwindling, abuse of power


VIII of Hands. Iya Regalario
VIII of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

VIII of Hands

Hands of the land’s forcefully buried dead rise in obstruction of a wheeled apparatus set to excavate and harness the earth.

Divinatory Meanings: A past conflicting with the present, restlessness, a haunting dead

Reversed: modernization, land theft, abuse of power



Nine of Hands. Iya Regalario
IX of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

IX of Hands

An abiding citizen draws his head as he is assailed by hands from every direction, forcefully leveling his decisions in equal measure and worth.

Divinatory Meanings: Inner strength, proper judgment, discernment

Reversed: Bribery, indecision, abuse of power


X of Hands Iya Regalario
X of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

X of Hands

Hands of the card colligate like torches for a mob; its burning fires create an impenetrable smokescreen. Two eyes penetrate. They glare.

Divinatory Meanings: mass fear, misdirection, fascism and qualities thereto belonging

Reversed: purchased fealty, disinformation, abuse of power


Page of Hands Iya Regalario
Page of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

Page of Hands

The Page of Hands tightens his grip, examining, quietly, the rigidity of his cage. Behind him are a group of shadowed, masked figures. He looks forward: it is through a narrow gap between the steel bars that he ponders his future.

Divinatory Meanings: Foresight, precocity, an awakening

Reversed: truncated ventures, stunted development, abuse of power


Knight of Hands Iya Regalario
Knight of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

Knight of Hands

The Knight of Hands stands atop higher ground, his cleanliness, delineated by the diamond frame. He holds a bag of relief goods steadily above the mass of hands before him. He is in no hurry. He looks beyond their thin frames. A prospector, he rests his view on the lay of the land.

The Knight of Hands is one who offers aid when the need arises, or when convenient.

Divinatory Meanings: Discernment, charity, Help from Higher Places

Reversed: Reluctance, inaction, abuse of power


Queen of Hands Iya Regalario
Queen of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

Queen of Hands

With one hand resting on her hip, the other outstretched into a fist, the Queen of Hands attributes admiration with sensual pleasure. Clad in scant clothing, her appearance distracts from her pursed lips. Her brazen personality may be mistaken for integrity and truth.

Crafty and driven, the Queen of Hands appeals to pathos, often twisting and contorting her words to suit a power that she herself does not wield. Her back is turned so she may face her audience; her duty is to elicit reactions.

Divinatory Meanings: Widespread favor, influence, social ascent

Reversed: False testimonies, prevarication, abuse of power


King of Hands Iya Regalario
King of Hands. Pyrography and ink on paulownia wood. 7.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (unframed); 11.8 x 15.75 inches (framed). 2020.

King of Hands

A spiritual successor to Midas, the King of Hands stands between his subjects and the white sun. Through mighty gestures, the King of Hands summons storm clouds and conjures gold out of thin air unto the hands of his believers; the shadows he casts expands his aspect. Dressed in simple garb, he inspires pious modesty. Closer inspection reveals a formal tie that connects beneath his robe, suggesting an enterprising, possibly deceptive personage.

The Querent should be wary of promises made by the King of Hands. This is a man who performs miracles to undo the disasters he himself orchestrated. Gifts from him are bargains in disguise. His claim to divinity is theater.

Divinatory Meanings: Providence, material prosperity and abundance, transient security.

Reversed: Delusions of grandeur, obsession with wealth, abuse of power.


About the Artist

Iya Regalario is a visual artist based in the Philippines focused on illustration, wood pyrography, installation, and public art. She considers her art as an expression of socio-political and cultural environments that continue to shape her identity as an artist. Her art practice strives to maintain a creative balance between studio work, research, and community to be able to imagine concepts around philosophical thought and current social issues.

She had her first solo exhibit entitled Don’t Forget to Breathe in 2014 at Altro Mondo Contemporanea, which was followed shortly after by De Anima in Kaida Contemporary. Her next solo shows were Purveyors of the Preferred View (2017) and Naïveté (2019), which were held in Altro Mondo and Metro Gallery, respectively. She has also joined several group shows in the Philippines and has participated in several local art festivals, including the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival (2013-2016), Manila Biennale (2017), and the Ibagiw Art Festival (2019).

Learn more about Iya through her website.

Iya Regalario’s exclusive release of Manos: Suit of Handscontinues until January 15, 2021. For inquiries, click here.

All images courtesy of the artist and Cartellino. Notes by Elo Dinglasan.