Philippine mythology, folklore and superstitions
Philippine mythology include a collection of tales and superstitions about magical creatures and entities. Many Filipinos, even though heavily Christianized, still believe in these tales. The prevalence of belief in the figures of Filipino mythology is strong in the provinces.
Because the country has many islands and is inhabited by different ethnic groups, Philippine mythology and superstitions are very diverse. However, certain similarities exist among these groups, such as the belief in Heaven (kaluwalhatian, kalangitan, kamurawayan), Hell (impiyerno, kasamaan), and the human soul (kaluluwa).
Philippine folk literature
Philippine mythology is derived from Philippine folk literature, which is the traditional oral literature of the Filipino people. This refers to a wide range of material due to the ethnic mix of the Philippines. Each unique ethnic group has its own stories and myths to tell.
While the oral and thus changeable aspect of folk literature is an important defining characteristic, much of this oral tradition has been written into a print format. It should be noted that all the examples of folk literature cited in this article are taken from print rather than oral sources.
The stories of ancient Philippine mythology include deities, creation stories, mythical creatures, and beliefs. Ancient Philippine mythology varies among the many indigenous tribes of the Philippines. Some groups during the pre-Spanish conquest era believed in a single Supreme Being who created the world and everything in it, while others chose to worship a multitude of tree and forest deities (diwatas). Diwatas came from the Sanskrit word devata which means “deity“, one of the several significant Hindu influences in the Pre-Hispanic religion of the ancient Filipinos. Below are some of the gods and goddesses of the ancient Philippines:
Ancient Tagalog Deities:
- Bathala– the chief deity of the Tagalogs.
- Lakampati (Lacapati/Lacanpate) – the major fertility deity of the ancient Tagalogs. Farmers with their children brought offerings for her/him at the fields and invoke her/him to protect them from famine. Some sources also said that foods and words are offered to her/him by her/his devotees asking for “water” for their fields and “fish” when they set sail in the sea for fishing. Lakampati was a hermaphrodite deity. S/he is identified to the ancient Zambal goddess Ikapati although s/he also has a characteristics similar to other Zambal deities such as Anitong Tawo, Dumangan, Damulag, Kalasokus, and Kalaskas. S/he is the mother of Anagolay and wife of Mapulon. In some myths, s/he is listed as the wife of Bathala himself, before the world was created.
- Pati – According to Ferdinand Blumentritt the Igorots call the rain Pati and look upon him as a merciful divinity to whom they directed their prayers. According to Dr. D. Sinibaldo Mas, the anito of the rain is called Pati by the Ifugaos.
- Lakambakod (Lachan Bacor) – a phallic god who was the protector of the growing crops and healer of diseases. His name literally means “great/noble fence”, from Lakan (a title of nobility) + bakod (fence) according to Diksyunaryo-Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles by J.V. Panganiban. Some sources claim him to be a protector of houses. One of his identifiers is his penis, which was said to be as long as a rice stalk.
- Idiyanale (Idianale) – the goddess of labor and good deeds. Natives used to call for her guidance in order to make their works successful. She married the agricultural god Dimangan and had two offspring.
- Amansinaya (Aman Sinaya) – the patron goddess of fishermen, she was appealed when the fishing net were cast. She is identified as one of the primordial deities of creation, existing alongside Bathala and Amihan during the creation of land.
- Amanikable (Ama ni Cable/Ama ni Coable) – the patron god of hunters. Sometimes identified as the god of the sea, known for his ill and frightful temper.
- Diyan Masalanta (Dian Masalanta) – The goddess of love, fecundity and childbirth. Daughter of Anagolay and Dumakulem.
- Apolaki (Apolaqui) – the ancient Pangasinenses worshipped him as their supreme deity addressed as Ama-Gaoley or Anagaoley(Supreme Father) whom they invoke for various matters such as war, trade and travel. They offered oils, incenses, and other aromatic herbs to his idol/images, slaves and pigs was also sacrificed in his honor. He was Identified to Suku a deity of ancient Kapampangans which associated him to the sun. Based on historical records, there is no hard evidence that he was also worshiped by the ancient Tagalogs, he is often not listed (just like Mayari) to the pantheon of anitos that ancient Tagalogs worshiped. In some informal and modern folktale version based on Pampangan Mythology his sister was Mayari a Zambal deity and their father was Bathala which is a Tagalog deity, this probably caused the misconception. Some sources list him as the son of Bathala and brother of Hanan, Mayari and Tala, but other sources list him as the son of Anagolay and Dumakulem, brother of Diyan Masalanta.
- Mayari/Malyari (Mallari) – She/He was worshipped by the Negritos of Zambales as their chief deity in which the “bayoc” (high priest) was the only one allowed to make offerings and sacrifices to him/her. Mayari seems to be the only one represented by an actual idol among the Zambal pantheon, a wooden head with a straw body and arms, constructed and clothed by the bayoc for the occasion. Based on historical records, there is no hard evidence that she/he was also worshiped by the ancient Tagalogs, so as Anitong Tawo and Dumangan. In Pampangan mythology he/she was a sibling of Suku, he/she was also associated to the moon based on that mythology, in some informal and modern folktale version based on the said myth his/her brother was Apolaki a Pangasinense deity and their father was Bathala which is a Tagalog deity, this probably caused the misconception. The ancient Tagalogs do venerate the moon, however there is no recorded evidence that they deified it as Mayari. She was considered the most beautiful of all the gods.
- Lakambini (Lacambui) – An obscure deity often called by the Spaniards as “abogado de la garganta” (the throat advocate). It is also known as the pure maiden.
- Mangkukutod (Mancucutor) – the patron god of a particular class of ancient Tagalogs, but the traditions were very obscure.
- Anitong Tawo (Aniton Tavo) – the god of the wind and of rain of the ancient Zambal. The name literally means “man god or demigod”. He received the most important sacrifices among the deities invoked for good crops.
- Kabunian – One of the gods to some tribes (Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey) in the Cordillera mountain range, specially in Benguet Province. Benguet Kankana-eys – Many years ago, some old folks believed that he resides in Mt. Kabunian (in Bakun, Benguet) while Ibaloi and Kalanguya believers say he resides in Mt. Pulag (straddling the boundaries of Benguet and Ifugao) together with the spirits of their ancestors and anitos.
- Ginoong Ganay (Unmarried Lady) – according to Luciano P.R. Santiago (To Love and to Suffer) the goddess who was believed to inhabit the “calumpang tree” was the advocate of single women. Her presence in the tree was heralded by the fact that its pretty flowers drove away their insect suitors by releasing a rank scent.
The Story of Bathala
In the beginning of time there were three powerful gods who lived in the universe: Bathala, who was the caretaker of the earth, Ulilang Kaluluwa (lit. Orphaned Spirit), a huge serpent who lived in the clouds, and Galang Kaluluwa (lit. Wandering spirit), the winged god who loved to travel. These three gods did not know each other.
Bathala often dreamt of creating mortals, but the empty earth stopped him from doing so. Ulilang Kaluluwa, who was as lonely as Bathala, liked to visit places, and the earth was his favorite.
One day the two gods met. Ulilang Kaluluwa, seeing another god rivaling him, was not pleased. He challenged Bathala to a fight to decide who would be the ruler of the universe. After three days and three nights, Ulilang Kaluluwa was slain by Bathala. Instead of giving him a proper burial, Bathala burned the snake’s remains.
A few years later the third god, Galang Kaluluwa, wandered into Bathala’s home. He welcomed the winged god with much kindness and even invited him to live in his kingdom. They became true friends and were very happy for many years.
Galang Kaluluwa became very ill. Before he died he instructed Bathala to bury him in the spot where Ulilang Kaluluwa’s body was burned. Bathala did exactly as he was told. Out of the grave of the two dead gods grew a tall tree with a big round nut, which is the coconut tree.
Bathala took the nut and husked it. He noticed that the inner skin was hard. The nut itself reminded him of Galang Kaluluwa’s head. It had two eyes, a nose, and a round mouth. Its leaves looked so much like the wings of his dear winged friend. But the trunk was hard and ugly, like the body of his enemy, the snake Ulilang Kaluluwa.
Bathala realized that he was ready to create the creatures he wanted with him on earth. He created vegetation, animals, and the first man and woman. Bathala built a house for them out of the trunk and leaves of the coconut trees. For food, they drank the coconut juice and ate its delicious white meat. Its leaves, they discovered, were great for making mats, hats, and brooms. Its fiber could be used for rope and many other things.
This is an ancient Visayan account of creation:
- Thousands of years ago, there was no land, sun, moon, or stars, and the world was only a great sea of water, above which stretched the sky. The water was the kingdom of the goddess Maguayan, and the sky was ruled by the great god, Kaptan.
- Maguayan had a daughter called Lidagat, the sea, and Kaptan had a son known as Lihangin, the wind. The gods agreed to the marriage of their children, so the sea became the bride of the wind.
- A daughter and three sons were born to them. The sons were called Likalibutan, Liadlao, and Libulan, and the daughter received the name of Lisuga.
- Likalibutan had a body of rock and was strong and brave; Liadlao was formed of gold and was always happy; Libulan was made of copper and was weak and timid; and the beautiful Lisuga had a body of pure silver and was sweet and gentle. Their parents were very fond of them, and nothing was wanting to make them happy.
- After a time Lihangin died and left the control of the winds to his eldest son Likalibutan. The faithful wife Lidagat soon followed her husband, and the children, now grown up, were left without father or mother. However, their grandparents, Kaptan and Maguayan, took care of them and guarded them from all evil.
- After some time, Likalibutan, proud of his power over the winds, resolved to gain more power, and asked his brothers to join him in an attack on Kaptan in the sky above. They refused at first, but when Likalibutan became angry with them, the amiable Liadlao, not wishing to offend his brother, agreed to help. Then together they induced the timid Libulan to join in the plan.
- When all was ready, the three brothers rushed at the sky, but they could not beat down the gates of steel that guarded the entrance. Likalibutan let loose the strongest winds and blew the bars in every direction. The brothers rushed into the opening, but were met by the angry god Kaptan. So terrible did he look that they turned and ran in terror, but Kaptan, furious at the destruction of his gates, sent three bolts of lightning after them.
- The first struck the copper Libulan and melted him into a ball. The second struck the golden Liadlao and he too was melted. The third bolt struck Likalibutan and his rocky body broke into many pieces and fell into the sea. So huge was he that parts of his body stuck out above the water and became what is known as land.
- In the meantime the gentle Lisuga had missed her brothers and started to look for them. She went toward the sky, but as she approached the broken gates, Kaptan, blind with anger, struck her too with lightning, and her silver body broke into thousands of pieces.
- Kaptan then came down from the sky and tore the sea apart, calling on Maguayan to come to him and accusing her of ordering the attack on the sky. Soon Maguayan appeared and answered that she knew nothing of the plot as she had been asleep deep in the sea. After some time, she succeeded in calming the angry Kaptan. Together they wept at the loss of their grandchildren, especially the gentle and beautiful Lisuga, but even with their powers, they could not restore the dead back to life. However, they gave to each body a beautiful light that will shine forever.
- And so it was the golden Liadlao who became the sun and the copper Libulan, the moon, while Lisuga’s pieces of silver were turned into the stars of heaven. To wicked Likalibutan, the gods gave no light, but resolved to make his body support a new race of people. So Kaptan gave Maguayan a seed and she planted it on one of the islands.
- Soon a bamboo tree grew up, and from the hollow of one of its branches, a man and a woman came out. The man’s name was Sikalak and the woman was called Sikabay. They were the parents of the human race. Their first child was a son whom they called Libo; afterwards they had a daughter who was known as Saman.
- Pandaguan, the youngest son, was very clever and invented a trap to catch fish. The very first thing he caught was a huge shark. When he brought it to land, it looked so great and fierce that he thought it was surely a god, and he at once ordered his people to worship it. Soon all gathered around and began to sing and pray to the shark. Suddenly the sky and sea opened, and the gods came out and ordered Pandaguan to throw the shark back into the sea and to worship none, but them.
- All were afraid except Pandaguan. He grew very bold and answered that the shark was as big as the gods, and that since he had been able to overpower it he would also be able to conquer the gods. Then Kaptan, hearing this, struck Pandaguan with a small lightning bolt, for he did not wish to kill him but merely to teach him a lesson. Then he and Maguayan decided to punish these people by scattering them over the earth, so they carried some to one land and some to another. Many children were afterwards born, and thus the earth became inhabited in all parts.
- Pandaguan did not die. After lying on the ground for thirty days he regained his strength, but his body was blackened from the lightning, and his descendants became the dark-skinned tribe, the Negritos.
- As punishment, his eldest son, Aryon, was dead. While Libo and Saman killed, where the hot sun scorched their bodies. A son of Saman and a daughter of Sikalak were eaten by the beast, where the land at first was so lacking in food that they were compelled to eat them.
The legend of Maria Makiling
Maria Makiling was venerated in Pre-colonial Philippines as a goddess known as Dayang Masalanta or Dian Masalanta who was invoked to stop deluge, storms and earthquakes. She was once the goddess of love and conception. After the Spanish colonized the Philippines her worship diminished and she was later known as Maria Makiling of mount Makiling. Maria Makiling is a diwata (fairy or forest nymph) who takes care of the ecologically rich Mount Makiling, a dormant volcano in Laguna, Philippines. She is considered the protector of the mountain and the forests that surround it. She is also considered one of the most widely known diwata in Philippine Mythology. While many legends and superstitions exist about her, many share the common theme of a beautiful woman who falls in love with a man.
The legend of Minggan
Minggan is a giant who lived alone in Sierra Madre Mountain ranges and was in love with Mariang Sinukuan, the mountain spirit goddess. From time to time, Minggan would climb the mountains and offer her gigantic fruits and vegetables such as potatoes the size of boulders, which he transported in a huge wheel barrow. One day, Mariang Sinukuan told Minggan that he could only win her heart if he passed a test. “I want you to stop the river from flowing, I want you to build a pond in the mountains so I can be with all the living things that lived under water.” The task could only be done if Minggan could carry enormous boulders of rocks from the surrounding mountains and throw them to the great river. The goddess added a condition. The task should be completed before daybreak. Minggan turned when he heard the rooster. He saw Mariang Sinukuan and realized that he had failed the test.
Elito Circa (a famous Filipino folk artist) had heard of this legend. His father and grandfather used to tell him that the giant`s footprints could still be found in Palayupay in Pantabangan. He heard from his folks how in some parts of the mountain, Minggan`s wheel barrow had left marks in the trunks of trees.
Mythological creatures, demons and monsters
The Aswang  is a generic term for all types of ghouls (an eater of the dead), vampires, and werewolf and other malevolent creatures described from hereon. The (Agta) is a black tree spirit or man. The Dila (The Tongue), is a spirit that passes through the bamboo flooring of provincial houses, then licks the victims to death.. Other mythical creatures include fairies (Diwata), dryads (Engkanto), dwarves (Duwende), tree-residing trolls (Kapre), self-segmenting vampire and the most stereotyped ‘Aswang’ (Manananggal), witches or warlocks (Mangkukulam/Manggagamot), spirit-summoners (Mambabarang), goblins (Nuno sa Punso), ghosts (Multo), fireballs (Santelmo), mermaids (Serena), mermen (Siyokoy), demon-horses (Tikbalang), evil spirits (Hantu Demon), demon-infants (Tiyanak), Moon-eater (Bakunawa), a dragon which has been tempted by the beauty of the seven moons, he was punished by Bathala after eating the second to the last moon,and the (Wakwak) or night birds belonging to a witch or vampire or the witch or vampire itself in the form of a night bird.