Philippine mythology and folklore include a collection of tales and superstitions about magical creatures and entities. Some Filipinos, even though heavily Westernized and Christianized, still believe in such entities. The prevalence of belief in the figures of Philippines mythology is strong in the provinces.
Because the country has many islands and is inhabited by different ethnic groups, Philippine mythology and folklore are very diverse. However, certain similarities exist among these groups, such as the belief in Heaven (kaluwalhatian, kalangitan, kamurawayan), Hell (impiyerno, kasanaan), and the human soul (kaluluwa).
Philippine folk literature
Philippine mythology is derived from folk literature, which is the traditional oral literature of the Filipino people. This refers to a wide range of material due to the ethnic diversity of the Philippines. Each unique ethnic group has its own stories and myths.
While the oral and thus changeable aspect of folk literature is an important defining characteristic, much of this oral tradition had been written into a print format. To point out that folklore in a written form can still be considered folklore, Utely pointed out that folklore "may appear in print, but must not freeze into print." It should be pointed out that all examples of folk literature cited in this article are taken from print, rather than oral sources.
University of the Philippines professor Damiana Eugenio classified Philippine folk literature into three major groups: folk narratives, folk speech, and folk songs. Folk narratives can either be in prose: the myth, the alamat (legend), and the kuwentong bayan (folktale); or in verse, as in the case of the folk epic. Folk speech includes the bugtong (riddle) and the salawikain (proverbs). Folk songs that can be sub-classified into those that tell a story (folk ballads), which are a relative rarity in Philippine folk literature. These form the bulk of the Philippines' rich heritage of folk songs.
Ancient Philippine mythology include deities, creation stories, mythical creatures, and other creatures. It varies among the many indigenous tribes and ethno-linguistic groups of the Philippines. Some groups during the pre-Hispanic period 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 various ancient Philippine groups and tribes:
The Supreme Being and Creator, who is also addressed as Maykapal (Meicapal) or Bathalang Maykapal. Some scholars claim that his name was originated from Sanskrit word “bhatarra” which means “noble or great”. During the Spanish colonial period, Bathala was identified by the Spanish missionaries to the Christian God, while the anitos who served him were demonized and replaced by saints. The Filipino fatalistic expression “bahala na” is believed to have been derived from his name and his identification to a mythical omen bird called Tigmamanukin, which signifies his absolute power over fortune, fate or destiny.
Lakampati (Laca Pati/Lacanpate)
Also called Ikapati, she is an androgynous goddess or deity of the land, agriculture, harvest and agricultural fertility. Her name literally means “giver of food” according to Patricia Telesco, the author of the book 365 Goddess: A Daily Guide of the Magic and Inspiration of the Goddess. Ancient Tagalog farmers with their children would bring offerings for her at the fields and invoke her to protect them from famine. Her syncretization to the Holy Spirit was actually a hoax since the Christianized Tagalogs/Filipinos never practiced this. She was often called “the hermaphrodite devil” by the Spanish missionaries.
Lakambakod (Lachan Bacor)
He is the god of growing crops. His name literally means “great/noble fence," since it is a combination of the words Lakan (a title of nobility) and bakod (fence), according to the Diksyunaryo-Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles by J.V. Panganiban.
The deity of good harvest identified to Dumanga, the deity of the Negritos of Zambales who made the grain grow abundantly.
He is the god of animal husbandry and aquaculture (fish farming) who is often mistaken as an agricultural deity.
Amansinaya (Aman Sinaya)
He is the patron god of fishermen. He is appealed by fishermen when their fishing nets are being cast.
Amanikable (Ama ni Caable/Aman Ikabli)
He is the patron god of hunters who is often mistaken as a sea deity.
Diyan Masalanta (Dian Masalanta)
The goddess of love and pregnancy, and the patroness of lovers. Her name literally means “be destroyed there."
He is the god of the sun, soldiers, and warriors. His parents were Dumakulem and Anagolay, while his sister is Diyan Masalanta. His name literally means “big lord," from Apo (Lord or a title of eminence) and laki (big). The ancient Ilocanos also worshipped him as their war deity, while the ancient Pangasinenses worshipped him as their supreme deity and was addressed as Ama-Gaoley (Supreme Father) whom they invoke for various matters such as war, trade, and travel.
She is the goddess of the moon, and the sister of Hanan. She is identified to Malyari, the lunar deity of the ancient Pampanga and chief deity of the Negritos of Zambales whom the “bayoc” (high priest) was the only one allowed to make offerings and sacrifices to him/her. In the Tagalog language, her name literally means “be made or done." There is an ancient custom of suitors giving a corsage of sampaguita to the maiden that they were courting, the maiden shows their acceptance of their suitor as their lover by wearing the corsage that has been offered to them. Then on the night of full moon, the new lovers would pledge their love for each other (the moon as their witness), saying “sumpa kita,” hence the name of "sampaguita." This custom somewhat linked her to Dian Masalanta.
An obscure deity often called by the Spaniards as “abogado de la garganta” (the throat advocate). In Noceda-Sanlucar vocabulary, Lakambini was described as the deity of kapurihan (honor/fame). Lakambini literally means “great/noble dame," from the words Lakan (a title of nobility) and bini (dame) according to the Diksyunaryo-Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles of J.V. Panganiban. Lakambini became a Filipino word equivalent of the English words “muse” or “princess.”
The deity who was offered food by the people who became sick for failing to greet the deity before the deity had greeted them. The Filipino word “kuwentong bibit,” which is about enchanted or magical beings, is said to have been derived from the name of this deity.
According to the Spanish missionaries, this god wanders at night in houses and groans when passing underneath the houses by striking the floor or throwing ashes and crying out “iri, iri.” The people could scare him away since he is a cowardly devil (ancient Tagalogs would rather placate the anger of evil spirits/deities than exorcising them). The origins of his ill-famed reputation is uncertain, however he is obviously identified to a Manuvu god named Tumanud who taught the god Mokotod how to make a clay cooking pot and send him to teach it to humans, for he pitied them for their ways of cooking. His name literally means “to guard,” and some Filipino dictionaries spell his name as Tumanog or Timanog, which means a mischievous and ugly spirit or imp. This is probably linked to his ill-famed reputation, but it should not be confused with Tumanod.
The god who was the central figure of the Kasilonawan, a fertility rite and festivity still exists today in a Christianized form. He is invoked by those want to have their diseases cured. His name was probably derived from Sanskrit linga (pronounced Lin-ga), which means “mark or characteristic.”
The goddess who is said to have been responsible for the occurrence of diseases. She is said to disguise herself as a healer, roaming the countryside not to heal but to induce maladies with her charms. Her name is a Tagalog word for “witch.” In the story of the legendary bandit Manuelito, the leader of the tulisanes, the manggagaway was described as the giver of life and death. She is also the one who gave Manuelito a powerful amulet that renders him invincible and invulnerable.
The patron of a particular class of ancient Tagalogs, but its provenance remains obscure. His name was probably from an old Tagalog word that has the root word kutod, or the Kapampangan word kutud/cutud, which means “slice or chop.” The term “Magkukutud” (a type of demon) is the Kapampangans' equivalent to the Tagalog word magtatanggal or manananggal.
One of four agents of Sitan who uses a magic wand as a weapon.
The god of the sea. Some sources would mention Haik (Hayc) as the sea deity of the Tagalogs.
A morning deity.
The morning star.
Anitong Tabo (Anitun Tabu)
The deity of the wind and of rain (weather). The deity's name literally means “scoop deity/spirit.” The deity is also identified to Anitong, a deity of the Negritos of Zambales who would sent them rains and favorable winds.
A goddess mentioned in the Diksyunaryo-Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles of J.V. Panganiban.
The god of the seas and oceans. He was mentioned in the Diksyunaryo-Tesauro Pilipino-Ingles of J.V. Panganiban, although it did not explain whether he is an ancient Tagalog deity or not.
The Tigmamanuquin (Tigmamanukin)
A fairy blue bird. It is an omen bird identified to Bathala, the supreme god.
A crow/raven (or kite) venerated as the lord of the earth and the agricultural fields. Tts name literally means “owner of the land.”
The Buaya (Buwaya)
A crocodile/alligator venerated by the ancient Tagalogs and addressed as “nuno,” the same address to ancestral spirits which means grandparent, probably because crocodiles or alligators are believed to be connected to the afterworld (because of its association to water). Also, the ancient Filipinos used to think that the back of the alligator/crocodile resembles a coffin or a cadaver carrier.
There are many different creation myths in Philippine mythology, which originated from various ethno-linguistic groups.
Malakas and Maganda
When the world first began, there was no land, only the sea and the sky exists, and between them was a crow. One day this bird, which has nowhere to land, grew tired of flying around, so she stirred up the sea until it threw its waters against the sky. The sky, in order to restrain the sea, showered upon it many islands until it could no longer raise but instead flow back and forth, making a tide. Then the sky ordered the crow to land on one of the islands to build her nest and to leave the sea and the sky in peace. From then on the crow lived peacefully, so as the other birds in islands between the sea and the sky.
Now at this time, the land wind and the sea wind were married, and they had a child, which was a bamboo. One day, when this bamboo was floating beside the seashore, it struck the feet of the crow who was on the beach. Shocked, hurt and angered; the crow hysterically pecked at the bamboo until it split into two sections, and out of one section came out a man named Malakas (Strong), and from the other a woman named Maganda (Beautiful).
Then the earthquake called on all the birds and fishes to see what should be done with these two, and it was decided that they should marry. Numerous children were born to the couple, and from them came all the different races of people.
After a while, the parents grew very tired of having so many idle and useless children around. They wished to be rid of them, but they do not know where to send them. Time went on, and the children became so numerous that the parents enjoyed no peace. One day, in desperation, the father seized a stick and began beating them.
This frightened the children that they fled in different directions, seeking hidden rooms in the house. Some concealed themselves in the walls, some ran outside, others hid in the earthen stove, and several fled to the sea.
Now it happened that those who went into the hidden rooms of the house later became the chiefs of the islands, and those who concealed themselves in the walls became the slaves, while those who ran outside were the free men. Those who hid in the stove became the dark-skinned and curled haired Aetas or Negritos. Those who fled to the sea were gone many years, and when their children came back, they were the foreigners.
The Story of Bathala
In the beginning of time, there were three powerful gods who lived in the universe. Bathala 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 loves to travel. These three gods did not know each other.
Bathala often dreamt of creating mortals, but the empty earth stops him from doing so. Ulilang Kaluluwa, who was equally lonely as Bathala, liked to visit places and the earth was his favorite. One day the two gods met. Ulilang Kaluluwa, seeing another god rivalling 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 on 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 flat 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 the 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 god 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 grandfathers, 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 him of ordering the attack on the sky. Soon Maguayan appeared and answered that he knew nothing of the plot as he had been asleep deep in the sea. After some time, he 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 he 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 taken north where the cold took away his senses. While Libo and Saman were carried south, where the hot sun scorched their bodies. A son of Saman and a daughter of Sikalak were carried east, where the land at first was so lacking in food that they were compelled to eat clay."
The legend of Maria Makiling
Another popular Filipino myth is the legend of Maria Makiling, a fairy who lives on Mount Makiling.
Filipinos also believed in mythological creatures. The aswang is one the most famous Philippine mythological creatures. The aswang is a ghoul or vampire, an eater of the dead, and a werewolf. There is also the agta, a black tree spirit or man. Filipinos also believed in the Dila (the tongue), a spirit that passes through the bamboo flooring of houses, then licks certain humans to death. Other creatures include diwatas and engkanto (fairies), dwende (dwarfs), kapre (a tree-residing giant), manananggal (a self-segmenter), mangkukulam (witches), mambabarang (spirit-summoners), nuno sa punso (goblins), multo (ghosts), santelmo (fireballs), sirena (mermaids), siyokoy (mermen), tikbalang (demon-horses), hantu (demon), tiyanak (demon-infants), and the wakwak (a night bird belong to a witch or vampire or the witch or vampire itself in the form of a night bird).
The Philippines has cultural ties with India through the other Indianized kingdoms of Southeast Asia. Ancient Filipino literature and folklore shows Indian influence. The Agusan legend of a man named Manubo Ango, who was turned into stone, resembles the story of Ahalya in the Hindu epic Ramayana. Other stories that are similar to Ramayana include the story of Lam-Ang for the Ilocanos and the Daragan or Mahariada Lawana for the Maranaos. The tale of the Ifugao legendary hero, Balituk, who obtained water from the rock with his arrow, is similar to Arjuna's adventure in Mahabharata, another Hindu epic.
- Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society by William Henry Scott
- Philippine Folklore Stories by John Maurice Miller
- Buddhism in the Philippines
- Folk religion
- Hinduism in the Philippines