Friday, October 28, 2011

a treat on Philippine folklore

it's Trick-or-Treat season again, and a long weekend in the Philippines (yay!). we don't really celebrate Halloween in the family, but my son and i will be trick-or-treating this weekend. and just to share with you, there is more to Philippine folklore than encantadas (fairies) and higantes (giants). most creatures from Philippine myths are actually evil, and they plagued my childhood. here are some of the creatures which were used by our parents to scare the wits out of us.

Aswang - they are entrail eating creatures that disguise themselves as humans, but can shape-shift into a big raven or bear-like dog. they have long tongues and like to feast on unborn fetuses (ewww). i remember during the peak season of the aswangs was in the '90s where tabloids were even spreading news that there was a captured manananggal (see below) in Manila. but it was never proven. my lola (grandmother) has often said to encounter an aswang close to their house when my aunt was pregnant. a huge dog was standing near their house but when she scared it away, it leapt on a high wall which was impossible for an ordinary dog to leap for. then when my lola looked at the other side of the wall, the dog was no more and a man was walking away from where the dog could have landed.

Manananggal - this is like a variant of aswang, usually a lady who can separate her torso from her lower portions and sprout big bat-like wings. they were also in vogue during the '90s and favorite meals also include fetuses.

Tikbalang - if Greeks had centaurs, the Philippines has tikbalang, a man with a horse's head. they are also said to be entrail eaters. my great grandfather once saw a tikbalang while going ome from the rice fields, though the creature did not harm him.

Dwende - we also had elves, and they were called dwende. black and red meant evil dwende, and white meant good. evil ones often meant harm and/or bad luck to humans, while whites were said to bring good fortune.

Syokoy - a humanoid fish, or fish-like human, whichever you prefer to describe it, the ugly male counterparts of mermaids, they drag men to the sea to eat them.

all illustrations by Ea of Popkingarb

Kapre - hairy giants who reside in balete (indian rubber tree) or other big trees and smoke tobacco. they sometimes kidnap maidens to wed them or play pranks on people, but are generally shy creatures. a wife of a friend was once introduced to a kapre, and she said he was indeed tall, and that he made and recited poems.

these are just some of the creatures of stories i have grown up with. i'm proud that i got to know them, though only from afar (i don't think i'm ready to mingle with them), and i will also pass the stories to my son because it's part of our rich yet endangered culture.


  1. Yes, I can see why these myths would be scary!! The illustrations are cute!!

  2. I think the stories and folklore are important to share with the younger generation so they are not forgotten. Your folklore creatures are really interesting. This was new to me!

  3. i love learning about other cultures. i would be scared of these creatures too if i were a kid!


  4. yes, imagine hearing stories about these creatures during a blackout! that was how my mom used to tell us these myths


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