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A symbol of Bathala, supreme god of the Tagalog people. The symbol also depicts a loyal anito at the bottom area and a tigmamanukan bird, which is sometimes wrongfully portrayed as a sarimanok.
T'nalak or T'boli people's clothes with designs dreamed by the weaver. The dreams are believed to have been sent by the T'boli deities.
The Maranao people believe that Lake Lanao is a gap that resulted in the transfer of Mantapoli into the center of the world.
A variety of sword hilts made from wood, metal, and carabao horn in the southern Philippines, depicting mythical reptilian creatures. The designs are believed to ward off evil spirits and bad omens.

Philippine mythology is a body of myths, tales, and superstitions held by Filipinos (composed of more than a hundred ethnic peoples in the Philippines), mostly originating from beliefs held during the pre-Hispanic era. Some of these beliefs stem from pre-Christian religions that were specially influenced by Hinduism and were regarded by the Spanish as "myths" and "superstitions" in an effort to de-legitimize legitimate precolonial beliefs by forcefully replacing those native beliefs with colonial Catholic Christian myths and superstitions. Today, some of these precolonial beliefs are still held by Filipinos, especially in the provinces.

Philippine mythology is incorporated from various sources, having similarities with Indonesian and Malay myths, as well as Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian traditions, such as the notion of Heaven (kaluwalhatian, kalangitan, kamurawayan, etc.), Hell (impiyerno, kasamaan, etc.), and the human soul (kaluluwa, kaulolan, etc.). Philippine mythology attempts to explain the nature of the world through the lives and actions of deities (gods, goddesses), heroes, and mythological creatures. The majority of these myths were passed on through oral tradition, and preserved through the aid of community spiritual leaders or shamans (babaylan, katalonan, mumbaki, baglan, machanitu, walian, mangubat, bahasa, etc.) and community elders.

The term 'Philippine mythology' has been used since the 20th century by successive generations as a general term for all mythologies within the Philippines. These "mythologies" are practiced as valid religions by the native people, the same way Shintoism is practiced as a valid religion in Japan or Christianity is practiced as a valid religion in Europe. Each ethnic group in the Philippines has their own distinct mythologies (or religion), pantheon of deities, and belief systems. For example, the mythology of the Maranao people is completely different from the mythology of neighboring Subanon people, while the mythology of the Hiligaynon people is also completely different from the mythology of the neighboring Suludnon people. The Philippines is composed of more than a hundred distinct ethnic peoples, according to a 21st-century map published by the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, the Atlas Filipinas.[1][2][3][4]

Philippine mythologies and indigenous religions are largely referred since the Spanish era as Anitism, meaning "ancestral religion".[5][6] Today, many ethnic peoples continue to practice and conserve their unique indigenous religions, notably in ancestral domains, although foreign and foreign-inspired Hispanic and Arabic religions continue to interfere with their life-ways through conversions, land-grabbing, inter-marriage, and/or land-buying. Various scholarly works have been made regarding Anitism and its many topics, although much of its stories and traditions are still undocumented by the international anthropological and folkloristic community.[5][7][8][9] Unlike dead religions such as Norse mythology, living religions such as Philippine mythologies and Japanese mythology continue to develop up to this day due to inevitable dynamics in belief systems in the modern century.[10][11]



Kayangan lake in Coron is a sacred abode for the Tagbanwa people and their deities since ancient times.
Limestone burial urns with myth-inspired patterns from Cotabato dating back 600 CE.

Philippine mythology is known today primarily from the collection of oral traditions passed down from generation to generation. There are few surviving written accounts from the pre-colonial period, and even less is written regarding the mythology. Written accounts of mythological beliefs, however, persist, and multiple authors have compiled the more famous myths. Documents on mythologies (or indigenous religions) in the Philippines are almost non-existent due to the destruction brought by Spanish colonialists and friars during a 300-year colonial rule, where the Spanish destroyed and burned indigenous scripts and places of worship. Records of the destruction of the scripts and places of worship have been published by respected historians and anthropologists from various universities.

Due to the nature of the archipelago, having no central government or nation-state at the time before the arrival of the Spanish, there is no one definite mythology in the Philippines. Different regions were influenced by different cultures and so developed overlapping stories and beliefs, each with their own gods, goddesses and heroes. There is therefore no one canonical text that details a common mythology for the pre-colonial Filipino people.

There are secondary sources in the form of written works regarding the subject. Juan de Plasencia wrote the Relacion de las Costumbres de Los Tagalos in 1589, documenting the traditions of the Tagalog people at the time. Other accounts during the period are Miguel de Loarca's Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas and Pedro Chirino's Relacion de las Island Filipinas (1604). Books on the topics of Philippine mythology and folklore has also been published in numerous occasions by various universities throughout the country, such as Mindanao State University, University of San Carlos, University of the Philippines, Ateneo Universities, Silliman University, and University of the Cordilleras. The publication of these books range from the 16th century to the 21st century. Majority of sources are from thousands of oral traditions passed on from generation to generation. These oral traditions have slowly been waning since the introduction of Christianity in the 16th century, but have made resurgent ripples since the 21st century due to sudden interests among the masses, notably the youth, coupled by various mediums such as literary works, television, radio, and social media.[7] Like other religions and belief systems throughout the world, the mythologies (or indigenous religions) in the Philippines have been constantly evolving even up to the modern century. Many Filipinos have reverted back to their respective indigenous ethnic religions.[10][11]

Supreme deities of Philippine mythologyEdit

Mayon volcano, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, is believed to have sprouted from the burial ground of lovers Magayon and Pangaronon. Later, the supreme god of the Bicolano people, Gugurang, chose Mayon as his abode and repository for the sacred fire of Ibalon.
Bulul or Ifugao rice deities which are bathed in animal blood through sacred rituals performed by a mumbaki (Ifugao shaman).
Sunset at the edge of Kanlaon Volcano. The Hiligaynon supreme goddess, Kanlaon, is believed to reside within the huge land mass.
A recorded drawing of a folklore motif-based karakoa, a type of indigenous ship that was faster than Western-made galleons. The usage of karakoas declined due to Spanish persecution.

Each ethnic group in the country has their own distinct pantheon of deities and belief systems. Some ethnic groups have a supreme deity, while others revere ancestor spirits and/or the spirits of the natural world. The usage of the term "diwata" is mostly found in the central and southern Philippines while the usage of "anito" is found in the northern Philippines. There is also a 'buffer zone' area where both terms are used interchangeably. The etymology of diwata may have been derived from the Sanskrit word, devata, meaning "deity", while anito's etymology may have been derived from the proto-Malayo-Polynesian word qanitu and the proto-Austronesian qanicu, both meaning "ancestral spirits". Both diwata and anito can be translated into deities (gods and goddesses), ancestral spirits, and/or guardians, depending on the associated ethnic group. Each of the supreme deities per ethnic people is completely distinct, even if some of their names are the same or almost the same.[2][3][4]

It should be noted that the supreme deities of various ethnic groups in the Philippines must be treated as existing and prevalent, as they are still believed by many societies, the same way Christians believe in a supreme god they refer as 'God' and the same way Muslims believe in a supreme god they refer as 'Allah'. Below are some of the supreme deities (head of an ethnic people's divine pantheon of deities) in the Philippines:[2][3][4]

  • Mangechay – supreme deity of the Kapampangan people; known as the ‘net weaver’ for the sky she weaved with her own fabric; the stars at night are said to be the fabric holes she envisioned[12]
  • Malayari – supreme deity of the Sambal people; deity of power and strength and is believed to reside in Mount Pinatabuo; albeit having almost the same name, he is ethnically different from the Kapampangan people's Apûng Malyari and the Tagalog people's Mayari[13]
  • Bathala- supreme deity of the Tagalog people; known as the grand conserver of the universe who lives in Kaluwalhatian; despite the similarity in name, he is different from the Bicolano people's Batala[14]
  • Kabunian – supreme deity of the Ibaloi people; despite the similarity in name, he is different from the Bontoc people's Kabunian[15]
  • Kadaw La Sambad and Bulon La Mogoaw – husband and wife, supreme deities of the Tboli people; Kadaw La Sambad is the sun god, while Bulon La Mogoaw is the moon goddess; both deities are said to reside in the "seventh heaven"[16]
  • Melu – also called D'wata, supreme deity of the Blaan people; he possesses golden teeth and shining divine skin; he is accompanied by the sky spirit Fiuwe and, strangely, the evil spirit Tasu Weh[17]
  • Dadanhayan ha Sugay, Diwata na Magbabaya, and Agtayabun – trinity deities, supreme deities of the Bukidnon people; Dadanhayan ha Sugay, “lord from whom permission is asked”, is depicted as an evil ten-headed being who drools continuously; Diwata na Magbabaya, “pure god who wills all things”, is depicted a good human; Lastly, Agtayuban, “adviser and peace-maker”, was depicted with a hawk-like head, powerful wings and a human body; the trinity of the deities symbolize the evil, the good, and the balance between the two[18]
  • Kaptan – supreme deity of the Visayan peoples (includes Cebuano people, Waray people, and other Visayan peoples); believed to dwell in the sky[19]
  • Kan-Laon – supreme deity of the Hiligaynon people; she resides within the volcano, Kanlaon, in Negros island[19]
  • Eugpamolak Manobo – also called Manama and Kalayagan, supreme deity of the Bagobo people; he is said to live in the sky and is offered white gifts by the natives[20]
  • Gugurang – supreme deity of the Bicolano peoples (includes numerous ethnic groups in Bicol); he is said to live in Mayon, which he chose as the repository of the sacred fire of Ibalon[21]
  • Magbabaya – supreme deity of the Higaonon people; a ritual is performed for the deity before the utilization of land and other resources[22]
  • Ampu – supreme deity of the Palaw'an people (not to be confused with other ethnic peoples of Palawan province); the deity wove the world and created several kinds of humanity, hence he is also called Nagsalad[23]
  • D'wata ng Kagubatan – supreme deity of the Cuyunon people; she is honored in a celebrated feast, periodically held atop of Mount Caiman prior to Spanish persecution[24]
  • Minaden – supreme deity of the Teduray people; she created the world while her brother, Tulus, rectified some errors to better the world created by Minaden[25]
  • Mahal na Makaako – supreme deity of the Hanunoo Mangyan (not to be confused with other Mangyan peoples which are distinct from each other); the deity gave life to mankind by merely gazing at them[26]
  • Bagatulayan – supreme deity of the Itneg people; he directs the activities of the world, including his abode, the celestial realms[27]
  • Nanolay – supreme deity of the Gaddang people; he is also regarded as an epic hero and a benevolent deity, never inflicting pain or punishment on the people[28]
  • Mangindusa, Polo, Sedumunadoc, and Tabiacoud – four supreme deities of the Tagbanwa people; the first, Mangindusa, (also called Nagabacaban) is the lord of the heavens who sits up in the sky and lets his feet dangle below, above the earth; the second, Polo, is the god of the sea and a benevolent spirit who was invoked as a healer in times of illness; the third, Sedumunadoc, is the god of the earth whose favor was sought in order to have a good harvest; and the fourth, Tabiacoud, is the god who lived in the deep bowels of the earth.[29]
  • Diwata Migbebaya – supreme deity of the Subanon people[30]
  • Tahaw – supreme deity of the Mamanwa people[31]
  • Lumawig – supreme deity of the Bontoc people; he is also regarded as an epic hero who taught the Bontoc their five core values for an egalitarian society[32][33]
  • Tungkung Langit – supreme deity of the Suludnon people; known as the creator and husband of Alunsina; despite having similar names, he and Alunsina are different from the deities with the same names in Visayan mythology[34]
  • Ama-Gaolay –supreme deity of the Pangasinan people[35]
  • Anlabban, Bago, and Sirinan – supreme deities of the Isnag people; Anlabban looks after the general welfare of the people and is recognized as the special protector of hunters, Bago is the spirit of the forest, and Sirinan presides over the rivers[36]

Other ethnic peoples such as the Manobo people[37] have a multitude of deities or nature spirits but do not consider any deity or spirit as 'supreme' from the rest, despite having a deity which 'created the world'. Research on various ethnic peoples throughout the country are continually being conducted by students, government officials, and scholars to further document and conserve the mythology, folklore, and pantheons of more than a hundred different ethnic peoples.[2][3][4]

Other deities of Philippine mythologyEdit

The Jama Mapun people's cosmology is extremely vast. Examples of figures in their cosmology are Niyu-niyu (coconut palm), Lumba-lumba (dolphin), and Anak Datu (two sons of a datu spearing another figure, Bunta – a blowfish).[38]
A Maranao torogan with okir motif. Okir developed prior to the arrival of Islam in the Philippines and is used to create patterns reflecting myths and folklore.
Mount Madia-as, the sacred mountain home of divine lovers, Sidapa, god of death, and Libulan, god of the moon. The mountain is also where Sidapa measures mortal lives through an ancient sacred tree.[39]

Aside from the supreme deities per ethnic pantheon, there are also other deities who are ruled by the supreme deity of certain ethnic groups. Some examples of these deities are as follow:

Creation mythsEdit

Lingling-o are jewelries that are believed to aid in fertility, and also represent a person's social standing through the material used as medium

Each ethnic group in the Philippines has their own creation myth, making the myths on creation in the Philippines extremely diverse. In some cases, a single ethnic group has multiple versions of their creation myth, depending on locality and sub-culture from a larger 'mother' culture. Like Asian cultures, some ethnic groups' creation myths have flood motifs, such as the Ifugao people's creation myth,[60] and/or egg motifs, such as the Mandaya people's creation myth.[61] Other creation myths have similar stories, differing only in the names of deities and small details such as the creation myths of the Bicolano people[62] and the Visayan peoples.[63] In some, the land of the dead is much emphasized with love and affection like the creation myth of the Teduray people.[64] In others, planets and other heavenly abodes were mentioned as home of the deities, such as the creation myth of the Kapampangan people.[12] There are also creation myths which involved wars between royal divinities such as the creation myths of the Mangyan peoples and the Aeta peoples.[65] The culture of trinity of deities is also present in some such as the creation myths of the Tagalog people[14] and Bukidnon peoples.[18] Additionally, giants and not deities were also depicted as creators in some myths such as the creation myths of the Ilocano people,[66] B'laan people,[67] and Manuvu people.[67]

Heroes in Philippine mythologyEdit

An Ifugao woman performing sacred Hudhud chants while harvesting rice. The chanting, recognized by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity", tells a variety of stories, including the life and journey of the Ifugao epic hero, Aliguyon.
Portrait of the first man, Malakas, and woman, Maganda, who came out from a bamboo pecked by the bird form of the deity of peace, Amihan, in Tagalog mythology
The upper part of a manananggal, hunting for food. The monster can be killed by putting salt or garlic on the wound of its lower portion left on the ground. This way, the upper part will fail to re-connect with its lower section, thus killing it once daylight comes.

Each ethnic group in the Philippines has its own set of stories depicting their mythical heroes, notably through oral traditions such as epics and verbal poems. Many of these stories have now been published in scholarly works and books by various folkloristic and anthropological scholars and researchers throughout the country. Due to Spanish and American colonialism, some of the stories have been retrofitted with minor changes, notably in the heroes' names. It should be noted that for the native people, many of these heroes are referred as actual humans who lived centuries ago and not "mythical" beings, the same way Christians and Muslims believe that their prophets/saints were 'actual' people from the past. Among these heroes are as follow:

  • Tugawasi – a hero who controlled the wind from Labin Agta mythology; his heart beat is said to boom like thunder when he is fighting[68]
  • Tud Bulul – a hero famed as the moonspeaker as he can speak with the moon and the wind from T'boli mythology; his weapons are a sword named K'filan, which can stretch to one million lakes and seas, and a shield named K'lung, made out of hardened wood[68]
  • Agyu – a powerful hero whose journey is recorded in the Olaging epic of Bukidnon mythology, while his clan's story is recorded in the Ulangihan epic of Manobo mythology; he navigates the sky through his floating ship named Sarimbar[68]
  • Laon – a king of Negros from Hiligaynon mythology; he owns a head cloth named Birang, which can produce any material or food the wielder wants[68]
  • Bantugen – his life and journeys are recorded in the Darangen chants, which has been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, from Maranao mythology; he owns a magic Bangka which can navigate like a submarine and he can also travel the sky, walk on water, and summon ancestral spirits[68][69]
  • Indarapata and Sulayman – brothers who have slayed numerous monsters from Maguindanao mythology; they own a sentient kris named Juru Pakal and a sacred plant which notifies Indarapata if Sulayman has passed away[68]
  • Lumalindaw – a powerful combat musician from Ga'dang mythology; he owns an ayoding, a musical instrument which guides him in making decisions, and a bolo, which produces light and music when swang[68]
  • Tuwaang – a craftsman hero from Manobo mythology; he can speak with the wind, ride on lightning, and use a magical flaming skein[68]
  • Lam-ang – a hero of Samtoy from Ilocano mythology; he is accompanied by a rooster which can annihilate anything through crowing, and a dog which can restore anything through barking[70]
  • Urduja – a warrior princess of Tawilisi known to be unrivaled in strength from Pangasinense mythology; she is proficient in horse back riding, fistfight, and swordsmanship and leads the Kinalakian, a supreme fleet of male and female warriors[70][71]
  • Baltog, Handyong and Bantong – heroes who have slayed numerous monsters and recorded in the Ibalong epic from Bicolano mythology; they taught various agricultural techniques and crafts to the Bicolano people[70][72]
  • Bernardo Carpio – a powerful figure in Montalban from Tagalog mythology; he was imprisoned to hold two mountains away from each other, causing earthquakes every time he moves; despite being able to escape from prison with sheer strength, he chose not to as escaping would cause catastrophic earthquakes that would destroy the land of the Tagalog people[70]
  • Aliguyon – a powerful hero recorded in the Hudhud chants, which has been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, from Ifugao mythology; his three-year war with Pumbakhayon ended with a peace pact due to both warriors' admiration for each other's capabilities[70][73]
  • Labaw Dangon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap – demigod sibling heroes recorded in the Hinilawod/Sugidanon epic from Suludnon mythology; their romantic saga inspired various art forms in Panay[74][75]
A sketch depicting an aswang (visceral sucker variety) after its transformation

Mythological creatures, enchanted races, and monstersEdit

Details of the Neolithic-age Angono Petroglyphs, representing children, drawn by ancestors to "pass on" a child's sickness onto the limestone
A unique sculpture of a buraq crafted by Mindanao Muslims. The belief on buraqs was inputted by Arab colonizers
A sculpture of a sarimanok, a sacred bird which causes good fortune for the Maranao people.
The fairy bluebirds are believed to be the tigmamanukan omen birds of supreme god of the Tagalog people, Bathala.
A simple drawing of a tikbalang, a race of half-horse, half-man beings.
A 400-year-old balete tree from Lazi, Siquijor. Baletes are noted as homes of various supernatural beings in many ethnic mythologies in the Philippines.
Stingray tails, known as buntot pagi, are used as curse deflectors and weapons against evil spirits and magic in numerous ethnic belief.

Each ethnic people in the Philippines has their own sets of belief systems concerning mythological creatures, enchanted races, and monsters. Each creature was initially unique under each ethnic people's culture. But due to nationalism, various creatures from various ethnic peoples have went into the limelight and have been absorbed by other ethnic peoples's belief systems. Mediums such as television, radio, and books have enhanced the spread of belief in multiple creatures between ethnic peoples in the country. Additionally, due to colonialism, many creatures of Western origin have also been inputted in the beliefs of many natives.[76] Among the mythical creatures of Philippine mythology are as follow:

  • aswang – a bracket term for various monster races with numerous forms, sometimes passes on its lineage through a sacred black chick; present in many ethnic mythologies, various forms of the aswang are said to be found in the lowlands[76]
  • tikbalang – a race of muscular men with head and hooves of a horse from Tagalog and other mythologies; can become an ally if its sacred hair or "worm" is taken; the Sambals and Aetas of Central Luzon believe in a similar creature called tulung or tuwung, which instead of hooves, have clawed feet and huge male genitals[76]
  • pugot – originally a strange headless race with fire-like capabilities from Pangasinan and Ilokano mythologies; Spanish colonialism later changed its image into a "headless priest"[76]
  • ta-awi – a race of monsters that can travel faster than wind from Marano beliefs; has a thunderous voice and cannibalistic nature but cannot digest eyeballs[77]
  • tagamaling – a race of ogre-like creatures that become cannibalistic every other month from Bagobo beliefs[78]
  • tamahaling – a race of red-skinned earth spirits who live in balete trees; they are the keepers of animals in Bagobo mythology[79]
  • tamawo – a race of beautiful and tiny children-stealing beings who live in dark nunok trees in Western Visayas; they offer black rice and yellow root to children, and if the youngster accepts, he or she will disappear in human world forever[80]
  • tawong-lipod – a race of celestial wind and cloud beings who served as courts-folk and handmaidens of the Bicolano lunar deities, Bulan and Haliya; they are extremely loyal to the two lunar deities[81]
  • tambanokano – a gigantic moon-swallowing crab, child of the moon and the sun, from Mandaya mythology; in Manobo mythology, the tambanokano is instead a gigantic tarantula or scorpion[82]
  • tayho – a hybrid race of centaur-like beings with an animal-looking face living Western Visayas; stories tell that the race is a hybrid between a female water buffalo and a giant male agta[83]
  • thalon – a race of obscure dog-like beings with human feet living in Zamboanga Del Sur; the males of the race are simple trickster spirits, while the females are terrible man-eating beasts[84]
  • tibsukan – a race of piglet-like creatures with long snouts from Suludnon beliefs; disturbing a tibsukan will cause illnesses[85]
  • santelmo – a race of fireball creatures originating from Visayan and Tagalog mythologies; the term 'santelmo' was adopted from the Spanish although indigenous names of the creatures are known in various ethnic mythologies; called mangalayo by the Suludnon people and allawig by the Ilokano[76]
  • manananggal – a race of beautiful women whose body can slice in half; the upper part grows wings and hunts for food; origin is from Tagalog and Bicolano mythologies[76]
  • bakunawa – the most famous of the moon eaters in Philippine mythologies; a gigantic serpent and sea deity in Visayan and Bicolano mythologies[76]
  • marukos – a race of crossroads demons in Ilocano mythology, known for waylaying large travelling groups and causing them to be lost until the entire group is drowned by flashfloods.[86] Particularly associated with the etymological legends of Rosario, La Union.[87][88]
  • arimaonga – a gigantic, four legged, and tiger-like creature which seeks to swallow the moon from Maranao mythology[76]
  • amomongo – a race of long-nailed ape-like creatures known only to live in southeast Negros island[76]
  • anggitay – a race of creatures resembling centaurs but has a single horn on the forehead and are generally female; their homeland is believed to be in Santo Tomas, Batangas[76]
  • berbalang – a race of vampiric creatures which suck blood from its victims; believed to reside in the Sulu archipelago[76]
  • berberoka - a race of water beings who suck water from swamps, which they then use to lure humans for drowning; believed to be found in Apayao, Abra, and bordering areas[89]
  • tigbanua – a race of dark spirits with one eye, tall and lean bodies, and long necks that can twist by 180 degrees from Bagobo beliefs; sometimes hunt in groups, dismembering a victim immediately using sharp claws; said to be afraid of dogs[90]
  • timu-timu – a race of ape-like ogres which can chew an entire human skull whole; lives in Iloilo province[91]
  • tinakchi – a race of mysterious and highly-respected mountain-dwelling nature beings from Kalinga mythology; they are known as the "people who can’t be seen" and live in the sacred Mount Kechangon of Lubuagan; the powers of the tinakchi are mysterious even for the Kalinga people; some accounts tell that the sacred beings can use teleportation and invisibility at will[92]
  • tiyu-an – a race of human-transforming monsters who suck its victims through a thin proboscis from its mouth; lives in Capiz and is said to be the actual 'slaves' of a "pet" puppy which never ages; the puppy of each tiyu-an are the actual masters of the tiyu-an, and is passed on from generation to generation; the puppy notifies the tiyu-san "slave" when they should eat[93]
  • tulayhang – mud crab-like creatures from Suludnon beliefs; disturbing them will causes illnesses
  • ugaw – a race of swift doll-like beings that steals rice from Pangasinan mythology[94]
  • bawa – a gigantic bird living in a sky cave in Western Visayas; attempts to swallow the moon[76]
  • batibat – a race of fat monsters which sit on the sleeping body of a person who utilized a piece of its tree home, thus causing a deadly nightmare in Ilokano mythology; have Tagalog counterparts called bangungot[76]
  • biringanon – an elite race of enchanted beings that live in the mythical Biringan city in Samar[95]
  • dalaketnon – an elite race of handsome and beautiful enchanted beings in Samar island living in an abode called Dalaket[76]
  • kapre – a race of giants who love smoking and live in huge trees such as acacias and baletes[76]
  • kahoynon – a race of extremely attractive forest-folks; they have the ability to become invisible and live in a parallel human existence from Waray mythology[96]
  • kamanan-daplak – a race of tiny people who leaves small flowers beside infants who are left alone in Sambal beliefs[97]
  • kaperosa – female ghosts who wear flowing white robes or gowns originating from Tagalog beliefs; the most popular kaperosas are the white lady of Balete Drive and the white lady of Laocan Road[98]
  • katambay – a race of tall and muscular guardian spirits who protect mankind in Bicolano beliefs[99]
  • kibaan – a race of mischievous fair-skinned people with golden hair from Ilokano beliefs[100]
  • kimat – lightning demons who take the form a white dogs in Itneg beliefs[101]
  • kiwig – a strange race of beings that looks like a stooped dog, cat or pig with fiery eyes and coarse tangled hair from Aklanon mythology[102]
  • laki – a race of satyr-like beings from Bicolano mythology; likes to scare children through shrilling but are generally harmless[103]
  • lambana – a race of small fairy-like beings with butterfly or dragonfly wings from Tagalog beliefs; some of their faces are beautiful, while some are goblin-like[104]
  • lewenri – a race of handsome and music-loving people who appear to boys and girls by moonlight in Romblon beliefs;
  • malakat – a race of cannibalistic beasts who in human form are attractive, until they attack and transform to beasts with fiery eyes, flowing saliva, sharp long nails, and hairy bodies from Waray beliefs; their hair grows into the nose, ears, eyes and mouth of its victim[105]
  • mameleu – a gigantic two-horned sea serpent with a thirty fathoms-long body and head as large as that of a water buffalo; fire is said to torch out from its eyes; lives in Western Visayas[106]
  • mansalauan – a race of large birds who eyes like carbuncle, head of a lizard, hairy tail, harp tongue, and feet the size of a man's but looks like a monkey's; uses its tongue to suck the bowels of victims from Cebuano beliefs[107]
  • mantahungal – a race of hornless beasts with cow-like bodies, shaggy coat of hair, and monstrous mouth with two pairs of huge tusk-like incisors from Tagbanwa beliefs[108]
  • mantiw – a race of thirty-foot giants living in Western Visayas; generally peaceful but gets irritated when you whistle with them[109]
  • marcupo – a race of large snakes with a prominent red crest, long tongue with thorn-like hairs, sharp tusks and forked tail; believs to live in mountain tops in Western Visayas[110]
  • muwa – a race of hoard-loving beings with long, kinky, greasy hair from Suludnon beliefs; lives in bamboo palaces within bamboo groves; despite eating humans, they are said to be civilized beings[111]
  • palasekan – a race of invisible tree spirits who whistle to convey messages for people to stay home at night; Ilongot beliefs tell that the palasekans are offended when their tree-homes are destroyed[112]
  • popo – a race of tall and slender beings who snorts a lot; Bicolano beliefs tells that their eyes can drain the energy of people, causing pain and even death
  • ragit-ragit – a race of tiny beings who cannot wink and are generally immortals; Romblon beliefs tell that only babies can see ragit-ragits[113]
  • sangkabagi – a being who uses a flying boat at night in search of corpses he would put in the underworld from Ilokano beliefs[114]
  • siring – a race of ugly men with curly hair and long nails from Bagobo belies; loves impersonating people to capture an impersonated person's loved ones[115]
  • kataw – an elite race of merfolk who can control water; believed to reside in Cebuano and Hiligaynon waters[76]
  • kedu – a huge serpent from Marano mythology which seeks to swallow the sun and moon[76]
  • minokawa – a giant raptor from Bagobo mythology; seeks to eat the moon and is repulsed by loud noises[76]
  • sarangay – a race of muscular men with a head of a bull and lives in Ibanag lands; possesses a sacred gem[76]
  • sarimanok – sacred luck birds of the Maranao people[76]
  • tigmamanukan – sacred omen birds of the Tagalog people[76]
  • tiyanak – a race of playful and deadly monster babies originating from Tagalog mythology[76]
  • triburon - monster sharks or rays with wings used for flying in the sky; in Bicolano mythology, the triburons were tamed by the epic hero Handyong[116]
  • ugkoy - a race of river-dwelling beings usually seen during floods from Waray mythology; like a crocodile, they drag victims by their feet into the river[117]
  • umangob - a race of dog-like ghouls that consumes only the big toes and thumb of corpses from Ifugao beliefs[118]
  • ungloc - a race of black-colored giants who can trasnsform children into coconuts for later consumption; lives in Western Visayas[119]
  • laho – a huge serpent from Kapampangan mythology which seeks to swallow the moon[76]
  • nuno sa punso – a race of dwarves living in termite mounds; inflict sickness to people who destroy or damage its home[76]
  • olimaw – a gigantic winged phantom dragon-serpent from Ilokano mythology; seeks to swallow the moon[120]
  • sawa – a huge serpent monster from Tagalog and Ati mythologies; attempts to swallow the moon[121]
  • siyokoy – a race of green-skinned humanoids with scales, webbed limbs, and fins from Tagalog mythology[76]
  • sigbin – a strange four-legged creatures with a whip-like tail from Waray mythology; sucks the victim's blood through shadows[76]
  • buwaya – sacred crocodiles with a skin-covered tomb on their back; serves as psychopomps in Tagalog mythology[122]
  • samal naga - a gigantic trapped dragon in the milky way; will be freed and devour all those not faithful to their respective deities in Samal mythology[123]
  • bukaw - a race of doll-like people with golden hair from Tagalog mythology; their homeland is the island of Marinduque[124]
  • calanget - a race of small earth spirits regarded as the true owners of land in Gaddang beliefs[125]
  • camana - a race of shape-shifters who dwell in gloomy places and assume the form of small animals or becomes invisible[126]
  • daruanak - a giant turtle-like but hairy sea monster from Bicolano mythology[127]
  • gaki - a gigantic crab that is said to be the causer of earthquakes in Bontoc beliefs[128]
  • garuda - a race of winged monsters who live beneath the sea; had big teeth and huge talons that can carry six men in Maranao beliefs[129]
  • gawigawen - a race of six-headed giants who wield spears and a head-axes the size of half the sky in Itneg mythology[130]
  • ibingan - a gigantic many-horned red serpent with a prominent crest on its head and dorsal fin on its back; the venomous monsters guards a certain cave in Bicolano mythology[131]
  • kagkag - A race of ghouls that comes out at moon rise and moon set; they are repulsed by seaweed and spices according to Romblon mythology[132]

Mythical itemsEdit

Various types of kalasag (indigenous shields with myth-motifs) displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology.
A variety of modern Filipino charms and talismans called anting-anting or agimat.

All ethnic groups in the Philippines have a variety of known mythical objects present in their oral literature, notably in their epics and stories concerning the deities, heroes, and mythical creatures. Some examples of these mythical items are as follow:

  • Jaru Pakal - name of a sentient kris with "a mind of its own" and can target foes even without the presence of a wielder; used by the epic brother-heroes of the Maranao people, Indarapatra and Sulayman[133]
  • K’lung and K’filan - name of weapons used by the epic hero of the Tboli people, Tud Bulu of Linay Mogul; K’lung is an extremely sturdy wooden shield, while K’filan is a bolo sword which can extend to one million lakes and seas, capable of slashing an entire army with ease[134]
  • Salimbal - name of a huge golden ship "which can accommodate an entire tribe" and fly in the sky; the ship is owned the epic hero, Agyu, who is recorded in the Olaging epic and the Ulahingan epic[135]
  • aswang black chick - strange black chicks used by the aswang race to pass-on their powers on a descendant[136]
  • kibaan powder - strange mystic powders possessed by the kibaan race that will cause skin disease or other malady[137]
  • mutya - small jewels that drops from the heart of the banana tree during a full moon or during the midnight of Good Friday; give its wielder mystique powers such as strength, invisibility, and youth rejuvenation[138]
  • birang of Laon - a large head-cloth which can provide anything the wielder wants; belonged to King Laon of Negros[139]
  • tikbalang hair - locks of golden hair naturally present among members of the tikbalang race; getting the lock will make a tikbalang loyal to the wielder[140]
  • biringan black rice - mystique black rice found only in the mythical Biringan city; offered by the biringanon to guests; if a guest eats it, he or she will be unable to leave Biringan for all of eternity[141]
  • golden shell of Kaptan - the supreme god of the Visayans, Kaptan, has a magic golden shell which allows its user to transform to whatever or whoever he or she wants to be; the shell was intended as a gift to Maguayen, goddess of the sea, but the god Sinogo stole it before it was properly delivered; Sinogo was later captured by Kaptan and imprisoned as a crocodile[142]
Itneg potters, the person on the right is a mandadawak (Itneg shaman) wearing women's clothes. Feminized male shamans, referred in general as bayok, are common in indigenous religions in the Philippines, especially prior to Western colonization and imperialism. (c. 1922)[143]


A Hiligaynon woman depicting a babaylan (Visayan shaman) during a festival.
A mandadawak (Itneg shaman) making an offering to a pinaing (sacred communal Itneg spirit-stone).
The Ticao stone inscription. Ancient traditions on suyat calligraphy were among those destroyed by Spanish colonialism and are being revived today.

Indigenous shamans (called babaylan, balian, katalonan, walian, machanitu, mumbaki, mandadawak, tao d'mangaw, bahasa, baglan, duwarta, and many other names depending on the associated ethnic group), were spiritual leaders of various ethnic peoples of the pre-colonial Philippine islands. These shamans, many of which are still extant, were almost always women or feminized men (asog or bayok). They were believed to have spirit guides, by which they could contact and interact with the spirits and deities (anito or diwata) and the spirit world. Their primary role were as mediums during pag-anito séance rituals. There were also various subtypes of shamans specializing in the arts of healing and herbalism, divination, and sorcery. Numerous types of shamans use different kinds of talismans or charms known as agimat or anting-anting.[144]

Shamans were highly respected members of the community, on par with the pre-colonial noble class.[145][146][147] In the absence of the datu (head of the domain), the shaman takes in the role of interim head of the domain.[148] Shamans were powerful ritual specialists who had influence over the weather, and can tap various spirits in the natural and spiritual realms. Shamans were held in such high regard as they were believed to possess powers that can block the dark magic of an evil datu or spirit and heal the sick or wounded. Among other powers of the shaman were to ensure a safe pregnancy and child birth. As a spiritual medium, shamans also lead rituals with offerings to the various divinities or deities. As an expert in divine and herb lore, incantations, and concoctions of remedies, antidotes, and a variety of potions from various roots, leaves, and seeds, the shamans were also regarded as allies of certain datus in subjugating an enemy, hence, the indigenous shamans were also known for their specialization in medical and divine combat.[148]

Their influence waned when most of the ethnic groups of the Philippines were gradually converted to Islam and forcefully converted to Catholicism. Under the Spanish Empire, shamans were often maligned and falsely accused as witches and "priests of the devil" and were persecuted harshly by the Spanish clergy. The Spanish burned down everything they associated as connected to the native people's indigenous religion (including shrines such as the dambana), even forcefully ordering native children to defecate on their own god's idols.[148] In modern Philippine society, their roles have largely been taken over by folk healers, which are now predominantly male, while some are still being falsely accused as 'witches' and 'madmen', which has been inputted by Spanish and American colonialism.[149][150][151] In areas where the people have not been converted into Muslims or Christians, notably ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, the shamans and their cultural traits have continued to exist with their respective communities, although these shamans and their practices are being slowly diluted by Christian religions which continue to interfere with their life-ways.[148]

Sacred groundsEdit

Mount Makiling, a bundok dambana (mountain shrine), home to Makiling, the anito sent by Bathala to aid mankind in the area. The site has been declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013.
The Manunggul Jar, dating 890-710 BCE, was found in Tabon Cave in southern Palawan. Two prominent figures at its cover represent the journey of the soul to the afterlife.
Mount Apo is a sacred mountain for the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K’Iagans and Tagacaolo peoples.

The places of worship of Anitist adherents in the Philippines are extremely varied. The terms in reference to these places depend on the ethnic people they are associated with. For example, for the indigenous Tagalog people, their place of worship is called a lambana or dambana (literally means "shrine"). Many ethnic peoples in the country have a shared "mountain worship culture", where specific mountains are believed to be the abodes of certain divinities or supernatural beings and aura. Mythical places of worship are also present in some mythologies. Unfortunately, majority of these places of worship (which includes items associated with these sites such as idol statues and ancient documents written in suyat scripts) were brutalized and destroyed by the Spanish colonialists between the 15th to 19th centuries, and were continued to be looted by American imperialists in the early 20th century. Additionally, the lands used by the native people for worship were mockingly converted by the colonialists as foundation for their foreign churches and cemeteries. Examples of indigenous places of worship that have survived colonialism are mostly natural sites such as mountains, gulfs, lakes, trees, boulders, and caves. Indigenous man-made places of worship are still present in certain communities in the provinces, notably in ancestral domains where the people continue to practice their indigenous religions.[152][153][154][155][156] Prime examples of traditional sacred places today are as follow:

  • Mayon Volcano – home of the supreme deity of the Bicolano people, Gugurang; repository of the sacred fire of Ibalon; it is said to erupt, rumble, or spout lava or ash whenever the people committed heinous crimes, signalling the people to repent and undo evil things[21]
  • Angono Petroglyphs – limestone wall traditionally used for healing purposes by the Tagalog people, who drew infant figures on the wall to "pass-on" a child's sickness onto it[157][158]
  • Mount Pinatubo – home of the powerful Kapampangan moon god, Apûng Malyari, who also rules over the eight sacred rivers;[159] in contrast, the neighboring Mount Arayat is the home of the powerful sun god of war and death, Aring Sinukûan, who taught the early Kapampangans the industry of metallurgy, woodcutting, rice culture and waging wars.[12]
  • Mount Pulag – the tallest mountain in Luzon island and is home to the tinmongao spirits; believed to be the sacred resting ground of the souls of the Ibaloi people and other ethnic peoples[160]
  • Bud Bongao – a sacred mountain for the Sama-Bajau and Tausug peoples; guarded by spirits and monkeys in Tawi-tawi[161]
  • Mount Apo – the tallest and largest mountain in the Philippines and an expansive sacred mountain for the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K’Iagans and Tagacaolo peoples; the mountain is often referred as "grandfather" or "elder";[162] some ethnic peoples there offer sacrifices to the deity, Mandarangan, for good health and victories in war[67]
  • Mount Madia-as – home to the Visayan death god, Sidapa, who measures mortal lives through an ancient tree;[11] later stories say that the comely moon god, Libulan, eventually lived with the robust and handsome Sidapa in his mountain home after a complex courtship and rescue story, which led to their divine marriage[11]
  • Kanlaon – a sacred volcano in Negros island surrounded by a variety of myths; a story states that its vicinity was home to a nation ruled by Laon; it was also formerly home to a dragon-like monster which was slayed by a youthful hero; later stories say that the supreme goddess of the Hiligaynon people, Kanlaon, now lives in the volcano[163]
  • Agusan Marsh – an expansive sacred marsh believed to be the home of numerous celestial spirits; Lumads perform the panagtawag rituals so that a visitor would not be harmed in the marsh[164]
  • Biri – a sacred island with striking rock formations; the Waray people believe that Biri is the home of the goddess, Berbinota, who was initially a beautiful mortal woman who ruled the area's vicinity; stories say that enchanted beings kidnapped the mortal Berbinota in an attempt to make her their ruler, which eventually led to her enthronement as a goddess[165]
  • Mount Caimana – a sacred mountain for the Cuyunon people and is said to be the home of their supreme deity, Diwata ng Kagubatan; the Cuyunon used to perform a complex ritual for the deity on top of the mountain during her feast day prior to Spanish colonization[166]
  • Mount Iraya – a sacred mountain for the Ivatan people; there are two contrasting tales regarding the mountain, the first tale states that the mountain is a mother overlooking her children (the Ivatans) for their protection,[167] while the second tale states that if a ring of clouds appear on top of the mountain, Iraya is notifying the people for preparation due to an inevitable death of an elder, usually due to natural causes[168]
  • Kalipung-awan – a sacred fishing ground for the people of Catanduanes since ancient times; the indigenous name means "loneliness from an isolated place", referring to the feeling of fishermen who catch marine life in the area for days without their families; national culture refers to the place as Benham or Philippine Rise[169]
  • Langun-Gobingob Caves – a sacred cave system in Samar believed to be the home of ancient spirits and the resting ground of Waray people's souls; it is the second largest cave system in Asia[170]
  • Siquijor - the entire island province of Siquijor has been a sacred ground since ancient times due to its associated mystic traditions and sites; legend tells that the island rose from the sea after a strong earthquake[171]
  • Mount Kechangon - a sacred mountain in Lubuagan, Kalinga, which is the abode of the tinakchi, a race of mysterious and highly-respected mountain-dwelling nature beings known as the "people who can’t be seen"; some accounts tell that the tinakchi can use teleportation and invisibility, usually to safeguard nature and its wildlife[172]

Cultural achievements of indigenous mythologiesEdit

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (900 AD) showed pre-colonial people already had complex organizations centuries before Spanish colonization. The writing system used predates other known suyat scripts such as baybayin.
A couple belonging to the Sambal warrior class (1580's Boxer Codex). The female warrior is holding a raptor, which has captured a bird, for sacred falconry.
The Golden Tara, considered by many as an integral national treasure of the Philippines, is one of the many myth-based gold crafts made by pre-colonial people in the Rajahnate of Butuan.

Pre-colonial belief systems of many ethnic peoples in the Philippines are centered on values with ingrained inclinations toward an egalitarian society, treating everything through respectful and just means. These values have originated, notably, in the indigenous religions (referred by most Westerners as "mythologies") of the archipelagic people. Among the cultural achievements of the native people's belief systems, that are notable in many ethnic societies, are as follow:

  • Agricultural and aqua-cultural innovations, adaptations, and systems on a variety of landscapes and seascapes which are respectful of the natural world's ecological balance[173]
  • Development and expertise in indigenous martial arts, warfare, and the crafts used in them, and respecting the usage of the martial arts for protection of communities and subjugation of what are deemed as discriminatory and hateful[174]
  • High respect for the natural world, including the spiritual realms and its beings, which are all seen as part of all the affairs of every life on earth, thus envisioned as an interconnected web, where one action affects the other, whether directly or indirectly[175][176]
  • Development of an organized system of communities, with laws enacted to promote social welfare and to protect nature, the spirits, and the people[177]
  • Expansion of indigenous educational systems and writing systems through focusing on belief systems, epics, and other mediums that exhibit good values of an egalitarian society[178][179][180]
  • Sociable culture based on peace pacts, maritime and land journeys, communal gatherings, and respect towards ethnic differences[181][182]
  • Solving problems and wars through a variety of mediums such as divine intervention, sacred peace pacts, public consultations, and community interference[183][184]
  • Development of craft innovations used for non-agricultural and non-martial tasks such as textiles, potteries, and ornaments, with respect to the sustainability of sources and the environment and its wildlife[185][186][187]
  • Enhancement of the fine arts focusing on folk literature, calligraphy, performing arts, and craft arts, among many other forms, which highly contributed to the advancement and notice-ability of a variety of values such as wisdom, resiliency, creativity, and respect[188][189][190][191]
  • High respect for equal rights, notable in the matriarchal societies of pre-colonial ethnic groups, which includes the legality of divorce, equal stand on decision-making from any gender, retention of names after marriage whether women or men, marriage to any gender, equal suitability of any work for any gender, and equal respect for children and elders[192][193][194][195]

Despite the progressive stature of the ethnic people's cultural achievements, based on values from belief systems, many of these achievements were destroyed upon the imposition of Spanish colonialism from the 16th to 19th centuries. The purge on indigenous belief systems and their achievements was later continued by the Americans in the early 20th century. Within that colonial time frame, many values were replaced by colonially-imposed toxic masculinity[196], notions that a woman must be quiet and submissive towards men[197], inferiority complex among the commonfolk and children and superiority complex among the elites and perceived adults[198][199], backward notions on marriage and virginity[200], backward notions on divorce and women's rights[201], religious fanaticism[202][203], and disregard for the natural world and its wildlife.[204][205]

Today, many of the cultural achievements and values of the native people, based on non-colonial belief systems, have been fragmented, but are gradually being revived by more modern generations. Due to progressive waves of social reforms globally, many of the native people's non-colonial achievements based on belief systems have even been falsely branded as "Western notions" such as 'equality for all', when in fact, these beliefs systems have been known to the native people prior to colonization, as far back as the 15th century, and possibly even farther than 900 AD - centuries older than today's "progressive Western notions" - as complex organizations have already developed prior to 900 AD, as exemplified in the content of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription.[206][207][208][209][210][211][212]

Additional cultural achievements of indigenous belief systems that have sprang through practices and patronizations made by modern generations in the late 20th century and early 21st century are as follow:

See alsoEdit



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External linksEdit