Is the Philippines Haunted?
With centuries old tales and the certain descriptive identities of all the monsters known to exist in the Philippines, I’m certain that at some point, everyone will have an “Encounter of the Spooky Kind” in the Philippines. And if not, you can probably make one up…who’s going to not believe you? In Part I of Philippine Folklore, I described the phenomenon of “Biringan”, or the Mystic City of Western Samar that cannot be pinpointed to an exact location, but is better described more like some mysterious portal to a different dimension.
Throughout the Philippines, there are many fables to be told, and re-told…handed down from generation to generation. Folklore that is filled with daunting tales filled with fright and fraught with fear. Horrifying creatures that reside in jungles, in certain trees, and old buildings and some that might follow you around.
If you live in the Philippines or intend on moving here, you should be aware of, at a minimum, the 10 most horrifying creatures in Philippine Folklore.
1. Manananggal – The Manananggal preys on humans and butchers them to feast on their heart and liver. It’s said to be a half-bodied, flying creature with wild, flaming eyes and sharp teeth, hungrily in search of its prey. By day though, the Manananggal is a beautiful female who transforms into a blood-devouring monster at night. It is said that at midnight, especially during a full moon, it applies a special on on its body while chanting a prayer. Fangs, claws, and wings emerge until the Manananggal separates from its upper torso, usually with its guts hanging out.
2. Tikbalang – The Tikbalang is said to be a half-human, half-horse and likes to plays tricks on its victims, scaring them away or leading them astray from their paths. Walking past big, old trees, and suddenly smelling a whiff of tobacco would alert the unwary to the sight of the Tikbalang!
3. Aswang – Have you ever suspected that you were being followed? Beware of strange people following you around, because you’ll never know which one is real (after your valuables) or which one would prey on your guts and organs. An Aswang usually takes the appearance of ordinary humans but are known to be ‘shape shifters’ where they have the ability to transform themselves into a wild, voracious beast once they find prospective victims. They can take the form of a dog, boar, bull or any animal, and they prey on weaker victims like children and old people, but will also attack any single unguarded individual.
4. Tiyanak – When wandering in or near forested areas, be on the alert when you hear the sound of an infant crying. Don’t try to look for it, lest you be the victim of the Tiyanak. The tiyanak is vampiric in nature and begins its monstrous life as an aborted or dead fetus that was not baptized before burial. Evil spirits possess the infant’s body and use it to kill by eating the victim’s inner organs and drinking its blood.
5. Pugot – Stay clear of abandoned structures or old, big trees for you might encounter a freaky monster carrying decapitated heads. Called the Pugot, this monster manifests itself as a self-beheaded ghost, or as a headless giant waiting in lonely places to behead its unlucky victim.
6. Nuno Sa Punso – Never ever play on anthills for you might disturb the Nuno sa Punso. These dwarf-like creatures (duwende or encantado) curse disrespectful passersby who even inadvertently disturb or destroy their habitation. So the next time you wander into unfamiliar territory, tread carefully and don’t forget to ask permission and say tabi-tabi po mga nuno.
7. Kapre – A Kapre is a huge terrifying beast with glowing eyes which is found dwelling in large trees or abandoned houses and ruins. It is usually depicted smoking a leg-sized cigar that never burns out.
8. Mangkukulam – The Mangkukulam’s favorite implements for maiming, torturing and sometimes killing its chosen victims are the karayom at manyika (needle and doll). Similar to the practice of Vodoo in the western world, the doll serves as the effigy of the victim; upon pricking it with the cursed needle, the victim instantly feels pain through the effects of malicious, imitative magic. The Mngkukulam will usually focus on the victim’s heart or vital organs. What sets the Mangkukulam apart from the rest of the ghouls and monsters in this list is that the Mangkukulam is an ordinary human being albeit twisted by evil.
9. Wak-Wak – The Wak-Wak is a bird-like creature that comes out at night looking for victims. The sound the Wak-Wak makes is usually associated with the presence of an Unglu? (vampire); other folkloric sources indicate that the Wak-Wak may itself be a form of the Unglu.
10. Sigbin – The Sigbin is a ghoul in Philippine Mythology that roams for prey at night, sucking the blood off their would-be victims by using their shadows. The creature walks backwards with their heads lowered between their hind legs. The Sigbin is dog-like in appearance so beware of strange dogs!
From the way it appears, folklore and superstitions definitely trump all beliefs in the Catholic doctrine here in the Philippines. Strange as it may seem, many of these creatures exist only in certain locations in the Philippines, or in other words, are region specific. So if one is going to travel from island to island, and in the interest of your own self-preservation, you must know what dangers await you on the next island. But all-in-all, when one must avoid the forests and stay out of jungle habitats, avoid all old and big trees, be weary of beautiful females and be cautious of people who might follow you, be leary of the sound of crying babies, stay clear of abandoned structures and buildings, never stray from your intended path and never walk alone, watch out for dogs, boars, bulls or any other animals, be suspicious of the smell of tobacco or cigar smoke, stay out of all shadows and never play on anthills – if you cannot employ all the necessary defensive measures and if you can’t afford to move about in a personal armored vehicle, it’s probably safer to just stay indoors….forever! At least in the Philippines, you can always have your food and drink delivered.
For your convenience, you can find out more information at Philippine Mythology.