Is the Philippines Haunted?
Just like the world over, the Philippines is in no short supply of oral traditions. Fables and stories (knowledge) handed down from generation to generation, which describes and depicts long held beliefs of ancestors, some quite unique to particular ethnic groups and indigenous tribes, is respected as folklore. I was first exposed to a plethora of these feared fables when I first lived in Guam, and honestly, some are actually quite convincing. Usually transmitted by word of mouth, these oral traditions are very common and still exist throughout the Philippines.
I recently learned of one of these more regional beliefs that has been well preserved by the people of Samar, Philippines, and is simply known as “Biringan”. The following is an excerpt of a reprint I found, from the Library of Most Controversial Files:
In the Province of Samar, the mention of “Biringan” evokes awe, fear, intrigue, knocking on wood, and innumerable signs of the Cross. What is Biringan? It is reportedly an undefined location somewhere between Calbayog City and Catarman, Northern Samar, where a mythic city(ies) of indescribable grandeur is/are said to exist, unvisited by ordinary mortals, known only by magnificent folk stories that refuse to die despite the advent of television and the internet. Other reports extend its area to as far south as San Jorge, Samar.
Biringan’s “now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t” quality indicates it is not of the usual land and water terrain in which we live in. It seems to exist in a different dimension, which explains why its boundaries can overlap with known towns and cities of Samar island. On moonless nights, seafarers aplenty have reported seeing a dazzling city of light.
In a few minutes, though, the manifestation is no longer visible. Obviously, Biringan is not likely to be shown on any map or atlas. But specialized (infrared, ultraviolet, etc.) satellite mapping photography have reportedly turned up a shining area in the reported general location of Biringan. They say Biringan is the legendary home of the encantos (enchanted ones) and half-encanto, half-human progeny. The encantos are most likely elementals, as old as the mountains and rivers in the area. They are apparently shape changers because they have been reported to appear in whatever form they wish, human or not. But in human form, their distinguishing characteristic is the lack of the philtrum, the indentation below the noseand above the upperlip.
One fabled story goes as follows: Once upon a time, a bus was plying the night route from Catbalogan City to Tacloban City. Somewhere halfway, when the bus had been emptied of its passengers, the driver and conductor stopped to pick up two young lady passengers. Their stated destination was quite off the main route but the driver consented because the two had offered triple the usual fare. When the two mysterious passengers had alighted, and the driver turned the bus around to get back on the highway. But, to his utter bewilderment, he could no longer distinguish the dirt road they had taken just moments ago. Conceding that they were lost, they decided to spend the night at that very spot. At dawn the next day, they were confounded when they found themselves and the bus at a desolate mountain top. A large tow truck had to be sent through rough mountain trails just to bring the bus back to civilization.
What this phenomenom is purported to be or how it achieves the many outcomes that are taled is not fully understood and is difficult to understand what it is that is actually feared! Does it eat you? Or does it turn you into a toad? Or, does it just perform some kind of magical transport via some portal which lands you unknowingly on some mountain top in the middle of the night.
In N. America, we all establish our fears and beliefs as young children at a very early age, usually with the introduction of the “boogeyman”. As we age, we become exposed to the many mysterious tales from the dark side as handed down by generations – all delivered to us during the most opportune moments – from slumber parties to campfire circles in the night – leaving us all with imaginations gone wild. Usually though by the time we reach the age of 20, these oral traditions fade along with the fears that they once generated. Except for those few who are still scared of the dark, and they can’t tell you exactly what it is they’re afraid of!
But in the Philippines, the folklore continues and seemingly without expiration dates or age limits. All filled with big and bad frightening creatures guaranteed to cause fear, terror, and panic among the populace. Check back again soon when I continue the topic of Philippine folklore and the discussion of everything from Aswangs to Wak-Waks. And until then, stay out of the jungle and don’t forget to keep the lights on!
Continue to Philippine Folklore – Part II