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Myth / Philippine Mythology

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Bathala, creating the world.

The islands of the Philippines in Southeast Asia have gone through a long and tragic history. While in the modern-day they are home to multiple different ethnicities with all of them having been converted by the Abrahamic, Buddhist and Hindu religions, this page deals with the mythology of the ancient indigenous people. However, be warned that plenty of stories aren't for people with the faintest of hearts. Please be sure to check out the pages of the Malaysians and Vietnamese to find out more interesting information about the religions and the mythologies of the other Southeast Asian civilizations.


Philippine mythology provides examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: With some exceptions (like the Kapre, the Sarimanok and the Alan Bird), all of the Philippines' monsters are either man-eating demons or soul-stealing ghosts.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In Filipino mythology monsters are usually Always Chaotic Evil, but there are exceptions; The Kapre, for example, is a sasquatch like creature that usually only reveals itself to people because it wants to be their friend (or more) and will follow them throughout life afterward, implicitly protecting the people they like. The Alan, meanwhile is a deformed, mischievous bird-like creature with backward-facing hands and feet, that steals drops of menstrual blood, miscarried fetuses, afterbirth and other reproductive waste...and turns them into human babies that they raise lovingly as their own.
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  • The Fair Folk: In the Philippines, stories of "Engkanto" abound. These elementals come as close to Eldritch Abomination as they do to this trope with the forms they take varying on both witnesses and folklore. They may even take the form of a Humanoid Abomination at times if it would help with preserving their position.
  • Light Is Not Good: Adlaw/Apolaki, the Philippine god of the Sun, fought against his sister Mayari the moon-goddess for supremacy of the world, refusing to share it with her, and even took out her eyes so that he could rule. He's also associated with war. In some versions he "only" takes out one of Mayari's eyes instead of both, but he realizes he's gone way too far and lets her rule the world by night, while he gets to rule in the daytime. Being (part-)blind is why the moon is no longer as bright as the sun.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: The first man and woman are named Malakas ("strong") and Maganda ("beautiful") respectively as they were born on split bamboo.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Tikbalang from Philippine mythology has the body of a man, but with the head and feet of a horse. Its legs are so long that when it sits down, its knees are above its head. Some legends also give it a mane of spikes. They are known for messing with travelers by shapeshifting into someone's relative, but if you find the right one, you can control it and ride it through the sky.
  • Our Dragons Are Different:
    • Filipino mythology gives us the bakunawa, a sea serpent with a mouth as big as a lake (in the Philippines, the biggest one is Laguna de Bay, 911.7 square kilometers, or approximately five times the size of Brooklyn), a blood-red tongue, the whiskers and gills of a catfish, and two pairs of wings: one large and gray as ash, another small and further down its body. The bakunawa is the guardian of the spirit world, but has the unfortunate vice of attempting to swallow the moon causing eclipses.
    • A recently rediscovered Filipino dragon-type is none other than crocodiles. The closest thing to a pan-Filipino mythos is that crocodiles—especially the gigantic saltwater crocodiles roaming the islands—were routinely seen as 1) powerful Nature Spirits or outright Physical Gods (naturally attuned to water), 2) the Reincarnation of tribal ancestors, and obviously, 3) dragons, to the point where the Tagalog word for crocodile (buwaya) was frequently used as a synonym for "dragon" in old texts. A Tagalog myth states that a huge magical crocodile/dragon literally called the Buwaya acts as a Psychopomp, by ferrying recently-deceased souls to the afterlife. In a strange blend of Eastern and Western dragon-types, some tribes believed that crocodiles could Level Up INTO dragons... by means of Human Sacrifice, since they needed a human soul.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The Philippines' mermaid folklore was extremely grim before the Spanish arrived: While some Filipino merfolk are scary-looking Fish People, others are Apparently Human Merfolk, and still others are the standard "top-half-human, bottom-half-fish" variety, all of them are primarily known for eating people. Or sacrificing them to the water-gods, which is no less unpleasant.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Philippines features quite the Rogues Gallery of strange and almost always homicidal mythological beasties. The most famous is probably the Manananggal, a vampiric creature that Eats Babies and can fly by separating its torso from its legs. Additionally, there's the Tiyanak (a vampiric baby that died before it could be baptized), the Kapre (a Sasquatch-like figure that guards people but also likes to play tricks on them), the Alans (mischievous bird-humanoids that like to take care of lost or abandoned children and have backward-facing hands and feet), the Bungisngis (cheerful but dimwitted cyclops-like giants), the Pugot (headless ogres that like to steal women's underwear from clotheslines) and the Aswang (a frightening, shapeshifting predator).
  • Our Vampires Are Different:
    • Malaysian vampire lore includes a truly bizarre creature called a Penanngalan, which looks human by day, but by night detaches its head and flies (trailing its intestines) to people's windows where it uses its long, thin tongue to suck blood. It can be killed by filling its body with glass (so it shreds its organs on re-entry) or trapped with thorns on a windowsill. Notably, this vampire, unlike most mythological variants, is vulnerable to sunlight, but only in its detached form, which is why trapping it until sun-up is a viable way to kill it.
    • The Manananggal detaches its entire upper body and grows bat wings. The Tagalog people use the same word for vampires (of which there are two sorts, the other kind has a long, proboscis-like tongue), ghouls and witches: "aswang", which is closer to "spook" than anything specific.
  • The Phoenix: The Sarimanok, a majestic, rainbow-colored rooster, is prominent in Filipino mythology. Usually appears as a companion to the gods and is said to give good luck to those who capture it. It also played a part in the Filipino creation myth by pecking open the tree that contained the first man and woman.
  • Solar and Lunar: The Tagalog god and goddess of the sun and moon — Apolaki and Mayari — are a brother/sister pair noted for their glowing eyes. After the death of their father Bathala, the siblings quarreled over who would rule. Apolaki wounded Mayari in the eye before their fight ended and they eventually agreed to share duties, which is why the light of the moon is less bright than that of the sun.
  • Together in Death: Magayon was a beautiful girl either married to or who tried to elope with a warrior named Panganoron (whose name means "clouds"). Both died in a battle with a rival suitor, and Magayon's father buried them together. The volcano grew from the grave, with the idea that Magayon became Mt. Mayon and Panganoron became the clouds around its summit.
  • Top God: Bathala is the supreme creator god. He's the primordial male deity which made the whole universe.


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