Filipino Monsters and Folklore 101

Photo by Kleigh Balugo

Filipino mythology and folklore are rich with unique creatures that outshine the Bigfoots of American lore. Some of them are absolutely terrifying, some of them are harmless, some of them are pranksters. Inspired by Kindergarten contributor Bianca’s piece on duwendes, we wanted to delve deeper and share more of the creatures in our culture. 

Bianca Bucu

The Tiyanak

Tiyanak can be one of the most deceiving creatures in Filipino mythology. It disguises itself as an abandoned baby and is often found in a forest or field. Tiyanaks cry to attract people passing by, and when picked up, it reveals their true form. It is described to be a bald humanoid vampiric creature, with bloodshot eyes and sharp teeth. It preys on its victims by biting and mutilating them into pieces. 

I know people have the fear of having kids, but Tiyanaks take it to another level. Next time you hear a random baby crying in the middle of nowhere, it might be best to walk the other way. 

Ash Fuentes

The Tikbalang

Tikbalangs exist to toy with travelers, leading them off their path and pushing them around. These tall intimidating creatures have horse heads with human bodies. They are said to have shapeshifting abilities, pretending to be a familiar face to the victim before revealing their true form in an attempt to get people to follow and trust them. Victims have been lost for days at a time and returned after the Tikbalang they encountered gets bored of messing with them, while others have been lost forever, never to be seen again. Some victims who were able to return have said they smelled tobacco before the Tikbalang revealed itself to them while other victims were only able to mutter incoherently once found. Tikbalang are mostly found in dark areas with thick foliage such as banana groves and forests. If you are ever traveling past a known Tikbalang lair, it’s recommended to loudly ask for permission to pass or wear your shirt inside out for protection. When you travel through densely wooded areas, take the proper precautions. If you ever find yourself randomly sensing the smell of tobacco in the forest, it might already be too late for you.

The Mananggal

A beautiful, enchanting woman by day, but a maneater by night, this vampire-like monster comes with a twist. Its transformation from a kind woman part of the community into the merciless bloodsucking manananggal can only be done by the creature willingly severing its own body into two and growing bat-like wings. The manananggal appears as a severed upper body that flies around on bat wings with its own entrails hanging out underneath it. 

Don’t be fooled by their alluring looks during the day because as soon as night falls, they separate their body and turn into hunters. The creature leaves its lower body behind on the ground, hidden, waiting to be reattached after they hang around the roofs of people’s homes for their hunting hours. Manananggals are known to target their prey, stalking them from the roof of the prey’s home. They go in for the kill by snaking their long, hollow tongues through holes they create in the homes and eating away at the victim’s body. 

Manananggals tend to feast on sick people, newborns, and pregnant women because they enjoy the fetuses fresh from the wombs of the mothers. Their strong tongues allow them to suck out the internal organs of all their victims. If you want to protect yourself from living out these nightmares, you must spend all night locating its lower half and preventing any reattachment. Mission impossible? Good luck!

Tracy Fuentes

The Aswang

Aswangs are probably the most popular, and most feared, creatures of Filipino mythology. They’re all your worst nightmares wrapped into one: they’re shapeshifters described to have qualities of werewolves, vampires, and ghouls. They use their powers intelligently, shapeshifting into humans during the day and hiding their murderous tendencies, then transforming into animals during their hunt, before finally changing into the monstrous forms to consume your blood and flesh.

Quite terrifying, and I think they deserve their reputation as the most feared creature of the Philippines. Are they real or just a story to tell to children to make sure they’re home before dark? I’m not sure, but I don’t think I want to find out either.

The Kapre

Kapres are basically tree giants, standing to about 7 feet tall with a muscular build. The nocturnal Kapres wear a loincloth, and some wear a belt that supposedly makes them invisible to us humans. They only exhibit violent tendencies when the tree they are resided in is under threat of being cut down – they’re the true tree huggers. Rumor has it that they carry magical white stone and if you find it, they’ll grant you wishes.

Kapres can be quite friendly. If they’re interested in being friends with you or pursuing you as a love interest, they’ll follow you around through life and grant you the ability to see them. They’re also known to be pranksters, rustling tree leaves when there’s no wind or using their abilities to confuse people about their surroundings, even familiar surroundings such as their own garden. 

Kapres sound like great company, as long as you respect their homes!

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