It’s the time of the year where people would dress up in scary costumes inspired by supernatural beings, go trick or treating, and attend parties. However, this may not always be the case for us Filipinos. We celebrate our Halloween together with loved ones and gather to listen to stories or watch horror movies inspired by our Filipino folklore.
Mythical creatures and supernatural beings from Filipino folklore
From ghosts to engkantos, we talk about our experiences (or the experiences of the friend of your friend) of the supernatural. Often told in the middle of the night, these stories have been passed down from generation to generation, and are usually told to scare the kids into behaving. However, these stories would still give any grown-up the goosebumps.
But for those who aren’t too fond of the supernatural, or try to ignore such, here’s a list of supernatural beings that would definitely give you second thoughts as to whether there are other beings that live among us.
This is probably the most common of Filipino monsters since there are so many different kinds. An Aswang is a vampire-like witch ghoul in Filipino folklore and is the subject of a wide variety of myths and stories. Spanish colonists noted that the Aswang was the most feared among the mythical creatures of the Philippines, even in the 16th century. The myth of the aswang is well known throughout the Philippines. It is especially popular in the Visayan regions.
Other regional names for the aswang include “tik-tik”, “wak-wak” and “sok-sok”. In general, they are shapeshifters who are human by day and then at night turn into a dog, a pig, a bat or a cat. They break into funeral homes and steal corpses. They are also known to enter homes to drink human blood like vampires and can turn people into aswang by deceiving the human to bite them in return.
Duwendes are goblins, hobgoblins, elves or dwarfs (Spanish: duende “goblin, elf, charm”, “duen de [casa]”, owner of the house). They are little creatures who can provide good fortune or bad fate to humans. In the Philippines, duwendes frequently live in houses, in trees, underground, termite-like mound or hill, and in rural areas. They are known to be either good or mischievous, depending on how homeowners treat them. They usually come out at 12 noon for an hour and during the night.
Filipinos always mutter words (“tabi-tabi po” or “bari-bari apo ma ka ilabas kami apo”) asking them to excuse themselves for bothering the Duwendes. Filipinos would leave food on the floor so that the duwende residing (or guarding) the house would not be angry with them. They also take your things and laugh at you when you try to find it. They give it back when they feel like it, or when you tell them to please give it back.
Kapre is a filthy giant who likes to smoke huge rolls of cigars and hide within and atop large trees, particularly the balete and old acacia or mango trees. A Filipino bigfoot, it scares away little children who play at night. If you’re stuck in a place and you keep going around in circles, you said to be played around with by a Kapre. To escape its control, you must remove your shirt/clothing, and wear it inside-out.
Manananggal is an aswang that can fly after separating itself from the lower half of its body. It eats babies and fetuses from a mother’s womb. It eats babies by means of passing their long tongue through a small hole from the roof of a house. The sharp end of the tongue touches the mother’s navel to suck the blood of the fetus or unborn child. This creature’s name was derived from the Filipino word, tanggal, which means “to separate” because of the manananggal’s ability to separate itself from its lower body.
A manananggal is especially hungry for human fetus so some of the more superstitious stories include neighborhood patrols set up in front of the home of a pregnant woman to protect her from wandering stray animals in case they are the aswang in disguise.
Multo, the Tagalog word for ghost, comes from the Spanish word muerto, which means “dead”. Superstitious Filipinos believe that some kind of multo, often a spirit of their former kin, regularly visits them.
The Sigbin or Sigben is a creature in Philippine mythology said to come out at night to suck the blood of victims from their shadows. It is said to walk backward with its head lowered between its hind legs, and to have the ability to become invisible to other creatures, especially humans. It resembles a hornless goat but has very large ears which it can clap like a pair of hands and a long, flexible tail that can be used as a whip. It is said that their feces is gold The Sigbin is said to emit a nauseating odor.
The White Lady
A White Lady (also known as the Mulher de Branco) is a type of female ghost reportedly seen in rural areas and associated with some local legend of tragedy. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband, boyfriend or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line or said to be a harbinger of death similar to a banshee.
Tikbalang or tigbalang (demon horse) is a half-man and half-horse creature. It has a horse’s head, the body of a human but with the feet of the horse. It travels at night to rape female mortals. Raped women will then give birth to more tikbalang. They are also believed to cause travelers to lose their way, particularly in mountainous or forest areas. Tikbalangs are very playful with people, and they usually make a person imagine things that aren’t real. Sometimes a Tikbalang will drive a person crazy.
Legends say that when rain falls while the sun is shining, a pair of Tikbalangs are being wed. Since horses only arrived in the Philippine archipelago during the Spanish colonization (thus, the borrowed term ‘kabayo’), there is a theory that the image of a half-horse, a half-man creature was propagated by the conquistadors to keep the natives afraid of the night. There are stories claiming that the Tikbalang is actually half-bird, half-man creatures, much like the Japanese tengu.
What scary beings from Filipino folklore you remember your relatives have told you? Do you know someone who encountered supernatural experiences? Share your story and other Filipino folklore favorites and leave them in the comment section below.
Are you afraid of the dark?