Philippine Folktales: The Legend of Harisaboqued of Mount Kanlaon

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Mount Canlaon – By Studphil (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the island of Negros in the Philippines is a massive volcano called Kanlaon, or Canlaon. It is still active and steam and smoke can sometimes be seen rising from its crater.  In fact it is the most active volcano in the Philippines and part of the Ring of Fire series of volcanoes around the rim of the Pacific Ocean.  It is a dominant feature of the landscape and associated with several legends and myths that have evolved around it over the centuries.

The Legend of Harisaboqued

The legend presented here is a retelling of a story that originated long before the arrival of the Spanish ships that brought the Christian religion to the people of the Philippines.  It tells that there was once an old man who lived on the top of Kanlaon whose name was Harisaboqued. He was believed to have great powers over the Earth and was known as the King of the Mountain.

The people who lived around the volcano knew and respected him and he brought them many benefits and helped them in many ways.   Whenever there was a task to be done he would strike the ground three times with his staff and a troupe of dwarf people would leap out of the ground to obey his commands.  Although these dwarfs obeyed his slightest whim the local people never felt threatened by them because old Harisaboqued was kindly and never ordered his dwarfs to do wrong or misbehave.   One of the main crops of the people was tobacco and they grew much of this on the slopes of Mount Kanlaon and it made them very prosperous and happy.  Tobacco is a product grown in many countries and although many people depend on it to make a living its use is known to damage the health of users and those exposed to it and is not recommended.

Although the tobacco grown around the mountain grew very well the tobacco on the slopes of the volcano grew better.  These tobacco plantations were said to have been cultivated almost to the top of the mountain producing bumper crops because of old Harisaboqued and his dwarfs.  All he asked of the people was to not encroach an invisible line around the top of the volcano. This area he wished to keep for the privacy of himself and his dwarfs.

It was at his command that his dwarfs cared for and attended to the tobacco plants and these grew much faster and were of far superior quality than any tobacco anywhere. Consequently it was much sought after and gave the people a good living from trading it.  All the people were very grateful to Harisaboqued and would readily have done anything for him.   All he ever asked of them was that they respect the  boundary be had set around the top of the mountain.

All the people respected his wishes and no tobacco was grown on the volcano beyond that line.   In those days, from afar the mountain was an amazing sight with the tobacco plantations of the people cladding the slopes right into the boundary around the peak drawn by Harisaboqued.

Harisaboqued Leaves the Mountain

In this way everything went well for the people.  They were given magnificent crops of the finest tobacco and it was the dwarfs of Harisaboqued that did all the work.  He and his dwarfs kept their privacy and everyone was happy.  There came a day when Harisaboqued called a great meeting of the people and told them that he was going away for a very long time.  He reminded them of the agreement not to encroach upon the boundary and warned them if they should for any reason break this agreement he would take away all of their tobacco from the mountain.  If he had to do that then no more would grow there until he had smoked all that he had taken.  Without a single word more he tapped the ground three times with his staff and the Earth opened up and he walked inside.  Then the Earth closed over again and he was gone.

Many, many years went by and still Harisaboqued did not return and people began to think that he would never come back.  With the exception of Harisaboqued’s private area at the top of the mountain the entire mountain was covered in tobacco plantations which continued to grow as productively as they had always done.  Some people saw the bare, empty ground beyond above the boundary and thought that surely that could be cultivated too but they feared to break their promise they had made to Harisaboqued.

Then one greedy man decided that he would take a chance and planted tobacco above the line.  He got a fine crop of tobacco and nothing bad happened.  Seeing this others followed his lead and soon tobacco grew over the entire mountain from top to bottom including Harisaboqued’s special place at the top.  The tobacco was good and the people became very prosperous trading it.  They were very happy and because nothing bad had happened they ignored the promise they had made and continued to plant more tobacco.

The Return of Harisaboqued

Then one day while they were celebrating a  bumper crop of tobacco the ground suddenly opened up and out sprang Harisaboqued into their midst.  This shocked the people and terrified they ran down the slopes to the foot of the mountain.  Looking back they saw a most fearful sight.   Every single one of their tobacco plants had vanished and the slopes of the volcano were barren and bare.   Then a terrifying thunderous explosion shook the mountain and its entire peak flew into the air and burst into fragments and smoke and flames issued from the great hole that was left.  In fear and terror the people fled and did not stop until they were a long way away from the terrible scene.

They knew that Harisaboqued had kept his promise.  After many years had passed and the fires and eruptions had settled down the people returned to build villages around the bottom of the volcano.  Even though the people remembered the good days when the tobacco was plentiful and they were prosperous no tobacco was grown upon the mountain.  Although they look with longing at the slopes where their tobacco plantations had once been smoke still occasionally floats from the mountain and sometimes it still erupts,  This reminds the  people that they must wait for Harisaboqued to finish smoking his tobacco.

© 04/10/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 4th, 2017 zteve t evans

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Petrification Myths: The Legend of Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

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By hirosi SBM (hirosi SBM) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mount Kinabalu is located upon the island of Borneo in its northern part of Sabah, East Malaysia and is the tallest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia.  Being such a dominant feature of the landscape it is the subject of many myths, legends and folklore.

The Legend of Mount Kinabalu

There is more than one theory as to how the mountain received its name and the one presented is a legend that tells that there was once a prince of China who was undertaking a sea voyage when his ship ran into a storm and was wrecked in the South China Sea.  He was cast adrift and rescued by fishermen of a nearby fishing village who took him back to their village.  He had received some severe injuries in his ordeal and as he slowly recovered from his injuries and trauma he became accepted into the village and he met and fell in love with a local girl.

The two married and were very happy for many years.  He lived his life in the same way as his neighbors and they saw him as one of their own.  Even though he had been born a prince of China he felt at home with them and they with him.  However, over the years a deep feeling of longing crept upon the prince.  He began to feel homesick and wanted to see his homeland but most of all wanted to see his parents who were none other than the Emperor and Empress of China.  Therefore after much thought and agonizing he asked the permission of his new family to go and visit his parents.   After promising that he would return to Borneo soon to take his wife and family back to China he was given permission reluctantly by his wife and her family.

The prince returned to China and was given a hero’s welcome by his family and the people.   The Emperor and Empress of China although happy to see their son were not happy that he had married a poor village girl from Borneo and forbade him not to bring his family over from Borneo to China.  They told him they had arranged for him to be married to a princess from a neighboring country to cement an alliance between the two nations.  This meant that the prince had no choice other than respect the wishes of his parents even though it broke his heart, but nevertheless he obeyed

Back  in the village in Borneo his young wife waited at first patiently trusting her husband to return.  As time passed by and he did not come she became more and more anxious and worried.    The family lived some way from the village which was situated on the coast and she could not travel there every day as she would have liked.  Instead she decided that to get a better view of the ships that sailed into the harbor she would climb to the top of a nearby mountain so that she could watch over the sea for the approach of any sailing ship. Every morning at sunrise she would climb to the top and gaze out over the sea seeking her husband’s returning ship.  As The sun went down and night came she would descend the mountain to tend to her children.

The mountain was high and the climb to the top was hard and eventually the continued effort began to tell on her and sap her strength.  One day after a hard climb she fell ill as she stood on the top looking out over the sea hoping to see a ship carrying her husband back from China.   Sadly,  as the sunset and the cold night closed in around her she passed away.

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By Bundusan [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mountain Spirit

The spirit of the mountain had grown to know her and respected her dedication, faith and loyalty to her husband and was touched by her death.    As a long lasting tribute to her he turned her into stone so that her face looked out forever over the South China Seas for the return of her husband.  When the people of her village discovered she was dead and saw her face looking out over the ocean they named the mountain “Kinabalu” in tribute to her example of faith, love and loyalty.

© 27/09/2017 zteve t evans

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Copyright September 27th, 2017 zteve t evans

 

Philippine Folklore: Maria Makiling of Mount Makiling

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By kellepics – Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons

Maria Makiling

As is often the case in many parts of the Philippines and around the world, mountains and volcanoes became associated with legends, myths and ancient traditions and Mount Makiling is strongly associated with a mythical female entity named Maria Makiling. She is also known as Mariang Makiling and is considered to be a spirit or forest nymph known as a diwata or lambana in Philippine folklore. Before the Philippines were colonized she was known as Dayang Masalanta or Dian Masalanta who could be called upon to stop or prevent natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or storms. She is also identified with the amount of fish caught in Laguna de Bay which is part of her realm and appears to be a spirit of abundance influencing the functioning of the natural world. She was seen as a benign spirit of nature that poor people could approach and ask for help whenever they needed it.

It is said that it is Maria who goes through the forest after a storm fixing broken branches and trees and repairing the nests of birds that have been damaged. She walks through the forest healing the broken wings of butterflies and clearing away debris from the forest floor and streams. Wherever she walks the sun shines and the birds sing and the flowers bloom and the animals frisk and play as she tidies up the forest after the storm.

Maria and the Mountain

It is not known whether Maria Makiling was named after the mountain, or whether the mountain was named after her. However, some people think that when seen from different locations Mount Makiling looks like the profile of a sleeping woman and this is said to be Maria.  In Philippine mythology, there are other similar supernatural entities who are also mountain goddesses or spirits such as Maria Sinukuan who are found on Mount Arayat, Pampanga and Maria Cacao of Mount Lantoy, Cebu.

Tradition says that Maria Makiling is a beautiful young woman in the prime of life and never grows any older. She is said to have long black shiny hair, bright sparkling eyes, and a light olive complexion. Her personality mirrors the enchantment and serenity of the mountain environment she is found in and she is also associated with the mists that often appear on Mount Makiling. In some traditions, her skin or hair is said to be white but in most stories, she wears radiant white clothes confuses people into believing the wisps of mist they saw through the trees on the mountain was Maria. According to tradition she lives in a small hut sometimes situated in a village while other traditions say her hut is on the mountain and can only ever be found if she allows it.

Tradition and Superstitions of Maria Makiling

Maria Makiling stories were part of the Philippines oral tradition long before they were written down. Some are not actual stories but more like superstitions which abound about her. One tells how that every now and then men who went into the forests on the mountain would not return. It was believed Maria had lured them away to her home hidden somewhere in the mountain wilds to be her husband. There they would spend the rest of their days in happiness and marital bliss alone with Maria in her hut hidden on the mountain.

There is another tradition that says that although anyone can go into the forest to pick and eat fruits no fruit should be taken home because this may anger Maria. Offenders have been known to lose their way and this is believed to be caused by Maria changing the paths to take them into thick thorn bushes, or become beset by stinging insects she has sent or led them into. If this happens the only thing the victim can do is leave the fruit in the forest and reverse all clothing which is seen as proof that they no longer carry the fruit of the forest with them.

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Mount Makiling – By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC Mount Makiling – BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Transforming Ginger into Gold

One of the best known stories about Maria Makiling is that she can transform ginger into gold which she does usually to help someone. In these stories, she often lives in a village as one of the community and is called upon to help one of the community in some way. Sometimes it is a mother with a sick child, or perhaps a husband may be seeking a cure for his sick wife.

However, when diagnosing the problem Maria recognizes the signs of malnutrition and poor diet rather than a disease or sickness and gives them ginger to take home. Invariably, by the time they get home the ginger has turned to gold which they can then sell or exchange. One foolish villager finding the ginger becoming heavy threw it away rather than carry it home.

In some traditions, Maria is a well-loved and respected part of the local community for her kindness and help. However, there is also a tradition that says that the villagers became greedy and went to her garden pulling up plants to see if they were gold. This distressed her so much that she ran away to live on the mountain.

A Loser in Love

In many legends, Maria Makiling is cast as a rejected lover. One story tells how she had fallen in love with a hunter who had wandered into her territory. The two soon formed a relationship and became lovers and the hunter would climb up the mountain everyday to see her and they promised eternal love to each other.  However, Maria was shocked to discover that her lover was being unfaithful and had married a mortal woman.

Naturally, Maria was devastated and concluded she could never trust the local people again realizing she was so very different to them and came to believe that they were just taking advantage of her good nature. Therefore, she withdrew her consent which allowed the trees and bushes to bear fruit and she stopped the animals and birds roaming the forest for the hunters to catch and stopped the fish from breeding in the lake. From then on she withdrew to the mountain and was seldom seen except occasionally by the light of the pale moon as she wandered through the forest alone.

Another legend tells how Maria would watch over a farmer she had fallen in love with. Because of this protection, the people said the farmer was living a charmed life or had a mutya that protected him. He was a young man of good nature though rather shy and reserved.  He would never reveal anything to his family or friends of his visits to Maria. Then one day the army came into his village recruiting single young men to fight a war. So that he would not have to enlist he decided he would marry a village girl.

Visiting Maria for the last time he tells her of his decision. She tells him,

“I believed you to be devoted and in love with me. I have the power to protect you and your family, but I now see you lack faith in me and need and earthly woman for your earthly needs.”

After telling him this she left and was never seen by the villagers again and no trace of her hut could ever be found.

The Curse of Maria Makiling

Another version of the story was supposed to have happened during the later years of the Spanish occupation. This tells how Maria was wooed by three suitors. One was a Spanish soldier named Captain Lara. Another was a student named Joselito who was studying in Manila and the third was a poor farmer named Juan.

Of the three, Maria Makiling preferred Juan despite his humble status. The two rejected men plotted together to frame Juan for the crime of setting on fire the Spanish barracks. Juan was taken and tried and sentenced to be shot as an enemy of the Spanish. As he was about to be shot he called out Maria’s name.

High up on the mountain she heard his cry but was too late to save him. Fearing her anger Joselito and Captain Lara fled to Manila. On discovering how Juan had been framed and shot she placed a curse on Joselito and Captain Lara and all men who cannot accept rejection in love. Maria’s curse quickly took effect and Joselito fell sick with an incurable illness and died and Captain Lara was killed fighting revolutionaries.

According to the legend from that time onwards Maria was never again seen by humans and whenever someone loses their way on the mountain they remember the curse of Maria Makiling and also of the great love she had for Juan.

© 30/08/2017 zteve t evans

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Copyright August 30th, 2017 zteve t evans

Petrification Myths: Malin Kundang of Sumatra, Indonesia

Petrifaction myths and legends appear in human cultures all around the world.  Very often they carry a warning or are the result of a punishment. In many cases they can be either inspired by a geological feature such as a rock formation or the name given to the feature is inspired by folklore.  Presented next is a retelling of a folktale from Sumatra, Indonesia that carries an important warning about how grown up children should respect their mother.

Malin Kundang

The story begins in a poor fishing village on the coast of Sumatra where a poor widow struggled to bring up her young son whom she had named Malin Kundang.  They existed on a meager living scraped from fishing.  Nevertheless the mother loved her son very much and worked hard to give him the best that she could.   Thanks to her hard work, love and dedication Malin grew into a healthy and clever boy who was always willing to help his mother to earn some money.  However, no matter how hard they worked they could not escape poverty.

One day Malin had an idea and went to his mother and. said,

“Mother, if I stay here I will never have a life.  I don’t want to spend all my life in poverty and I want to be a rich and successful man. What would you say if I told you I wanted to leave the village and sail away to find my fortune?”

Although his mother was devastated at the thought of her only son leaving her alone she swallowed her bitter tears and told him,

“My son, If that us your heart’s desire I cannot stop you.  Although it breaks my heart that you are leaving I will pray that you find happiness and your heart’s desire, but promise me that when you have found every thing that you dream of you will not forget me and come home again to your mother who will be waiting patiently for your return.”

Malin then told his mother he did indeed want to leave which broke her heart.  In the morning he went down to the harbor and found a ship that would take him on a one of the crew.  His mother came and bid him farewell and after embracing him for a long time said,

“Farewell my son, take good care.  I will pray for you, but I fear you will forget me!”

Then he told his mother,

“You take good care of yourself mother!  I promise I will keep in touch and will not forget you and return as soon as I can.”

Again his mother embraced him tightly not wanting to let go until finally he turned away and walked up the gangplank onto the ship.  She watched as the ship carrying her only son slid silently over the horizon into the rising sun and then returned to her home alone.

His Mother’s Vigil

Three months passed and although Malin’s mother prayed every night and every morning for her son she received not a single word or token from him.  The months turned to years and his mother still prayed day and night for her son’s safety and that he would find his heart’s desire.  Every morning and every evening she would go down to the harbor to see what new ships had come hoping that one would bring her son back to her and would stand in silent prayer looking out over the horizon..

Several years passed in this way and one morning as she stood looking out to sea she was surprised to see an unusually big ship sail out of the blue and dock in the harbor at the point where she held her lonely vigil.

Malin Returns

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By The original uploader was Geoethno at German Wikipedia (Original text: Amsterdam, Buffa) (Van de Velde: Gezigten uit Neerlands Indie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the ship was tied securely to the dock she saw a handsome, young man in rich clothing disembark from the ship with a beautiful young woman on his arm.  Both were dressed in the finest clothes and exuded an aura of wealth.  Behind them followed many servants and bodyguards and everyone could see that this fine young couple were wealthy and important people.  Malin’s mother looked in surprise and although her eyes had grown weak and weary from crying for her son she recognized him despite this and saw through the finery the young man wore.  She knew this was her son and knew she could not be wrong.  Excitedly she ran up to to him and threw her arms around his neck crying,

“Malin, Malin, my beloved son you gave come back to me!”

Shock and disappointment overcame her as the young man coldly stared straight ahead and showed no response whatsoever.

“I have prayed day and night for you and missed you so much and now my prayers are answered and you have returned to me!”

Rejection

In truth, Malin felt embarrassment at the sight of this poor old woman dressed in rags.  He thought of his own wealth and fine clothes, he thought of all his servants and bodyguards and he thought of the beautiful young woman on his arm. Although he knew she was his mother he felt ashamed and embarrassed at her poverty and his own humble origins and did not want to let on about his past life to his companion.

Roughly, he thrust his mother away and glared coldly at her saying,

“You are not my mother!  My mother would never wear such poor and ragged clothes.  I don’t know you, go way!”

Shocked and distressed his mother stepped back, sobbing and said,

“Malin, I am your mother stop teasing me!  I have waited so long to see you again you must know me!”

But Malin stared coldly and dispassionately ahead with his face fixed and his eyes cold. Turning to one of his bodyguards he said,

Guard, take this ragged old beggar woman out of my sight!  Give her some money to be rid of her!”

And the guard grasped the old lady by her arm and dragged her roughly away, all the time she was crying out,

“Malin!  Oh Malin my long lost son! Why do you treat me so cruelly?”

Mail ignored his mother’s pleas and ordered the ship to make ready to sail.  He and his beautiful lady returned to the ship which set sail and sailed stately out of the harbor.

Poor Malin’s mother was left distraught and sobbing upon the harbor as the ship sailing upon a calm and quiet sea and disappeared over the horizon.  Anguish and hurt coursed through her body which turned to anger and she fell upon her knees and prayed,

“Dear God, if that young man was not my son bless him with a safe journey and a safe return home.  If he was Malin, my son, I curse him that as soon as he sets foot on land that he may turn to stone.”

So it was that beyond the horizon the ship ran into a storm that whipped the calm and quiet sea into a frenzy.  As thunder rolled and lightning flashed and the rain lashed down the ship was taken by the wild waves and was shipwrecked.  Malin struggled against the giant waves but eventually made it to a beach called Air Manis, near Padang, West Sumatra.

Turned to Stone

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The Malin Kundang Stone – By Crisco 1492 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The God, who sees and hears all looked down.  As Malin stepped upon the land he felt his entire body begin to stiffen and he fell forward on to his knees as of one begging for mercy and then fell forward again in supplication to the Divine.  In that position his entire body turned into stone and can be seen to this day on a beach at Pantai Air Manis, Padang, and is called the Malin Kundang Stone.  It is said to exist as testament to the punishment that will be meted out to those who choose to reject their own mother.

© 26/07/2017 zteve t evans

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Copyright July 26th, 2017 zteve t evans

Philippine Folklore: Meet the Vampiric, Cannibalistic, Manananggal

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Manananggal – By Gian Bernal (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Philippine Folklore

In Philippine folklore, the Manananggal is a mythical, evil, cannibalistic, vampiric , witch that as well as sucking the blood from victims also eats them.  Sometimes it is confused with the Wakwak which is a strange bird-like, vampiric creature.  However, although they are both vampires unlike the Manananggal, the Wakwak cannot separate its upper body from its lower body.  It is from this bizarre ability that the Manananggal gets its name.  The term Manananggal comes from the  Tagalog word, tanggal, meaning to separate.

Origin of the Manananggal

Philippine folklore gives varying accounts of the origin of Manananggals.  One tradition says there is a black chick living inside the creature.  This is passed on from the deathbed of those afflicted to another person who is usually a relative.  The chick is then believed to reside inside the body of the Manananggal eating the innards of its host while keeping them alive.   It is this that is believed to be the reason why the Manananggal craves the taste of human blood and flesh and transforms into its hideous shape.

Another tradition says that to become a Manananggal you need a special ointment and the egg containing a black chick.  While chanting a special incantation you should anoint yourself with the ointment and place the egg in your armpit until it disappears.  It this ritual is completed you will transform into a Manananggal.  Other traditions say when a Manananggal does not kill their victims outright they will turn into another Mananaggal.

A Shapeshifting Sorceress

Manananggals are usually female, often hideous and terrifying, but when selecting male victims can appear beautiful and alluring.  They are considered to be are an aswang which are shapeshifters in Philippine folklore.   During the day they appear to be ordinary humans and are often a witch or sorceress.  When night comes they transform themselves into a hideous beast to seek out prey. When they wish to feed they will seek out a suitably isolated place where they can separate the upper body from their lower body.   Some accounts say that then they massages a special lotion into their body while chanting a spell.  This results in their eyes becoming wild and enlarged and hair becoming matted.  Their teeth change into long fangs and their fingers transform into long, sharp, claws.  The upper body then sprouts bat-like wings and separates from the lower body and flies off with its intestines trailing along behind in search of prey, which is often a pregnant woman.

The Tiktik Bird

In some Philippine traditions, the Manananggal is accompanied by a bird called the Tiktik. It makes a sound “tik-tik-tik-tik” or “ik-ik-ik-ik” while flying alongside the Manananggal. It is said that the fainter the call of the bird the nearer the Manananggal is to you which is meant to confuse victims.  Black cats and crows are believed to have the ability to warn of the approach or presence of a Tiktik and therefore the Manananggal as well.

Attacking Victims

When they find a suitable victim they will settle on the roof of their house.  They have a  thin, hollow tongue which is very long and very flexible.   They will wriggle this down to the sleeping victim and the tongue will puncture the womb and suck out the fetus, or the blood from a victim who is not pregnant.  When selecting men she seduces them with her beauty, entices them into a remote or private place.   She will then eat them alive being particularly fond of liver, stomach, and heart.

Killing a Manananggal

Manananggals can be killed by being caught in sunlight when they have split apart and taken their monstrous shape.  They are also highly vulnerable when they have split their bodies apart.  This is because the lower part remains motionless while the separation is in action making it vulnerable.  To kill a Manananggal find the lower body and rub salt and ash or garlic over its exposed flesh.  This will prevent the creature rejoining its two halves together and it will be destroyed when the sun rises and its rays touch it.

Keeping Safe

Prevention is the best defense against Manananggals so sure the home is well protected is essential.  To keep a Manananggal away from the home place small pots of uncooked rice, ash or salt around the home which should deter it from settling on the roof.   Manananggals also avoid vinegar, spices and daggers and the tail of a stingray that has been made into a whip.  If these precautions are followed, hopefully, the homestead and its inhabitants should be reasonably safe from these vile creatures.

© 17/05/2017 zteve t evans

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Copyright May 17th, 2017zteve t evans

The Tikbalang in Philippine Folklore: A Shapeshifting Trickster

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Tikbalang of the Philippines – By Rodsan18 – CC BY 2.5

In Philippine folklore, a tikbalang is a bizarre, shape-shifting, trickster spirit that haunts certain places in the wildlands of the country.   It is said to be a tall humanoid creature that dwells in the forests and mountains of the Philippines and often described as a reverse form of a centaur.  Where the centaur has the body of a horse and the torso and head of a man, the tikbalang has the head of a horse and the body of a human.  Although descriptions vary they are generally described as being tall and bony creatures with limbs that tend to be disproportionate to their body.  For example, because its legs are so long and skinny, when the creature squats down its knees are higher than its head.  It is usually said to have animal-like feet usually similar to horse hooves.   In some traditions, it is said to have evolved from an aborted human fetus that was held in limbo and sent back to Earth.  In some traditions, tikbalangs can change their shape into that of humans and can also become invisible.

Shapeshifting Tricks

One of the tricks of the tikbalang is to change its physical form into that of a relative, friend or someone closely associated to any traveler that it may come across in the wilds. It then appears to the victim in this familiar form pretending to know the way deceiving them into being led through the dark woods or along remote mountain paths to a place far from the help of others.  When the time comes the for the tikbalang to reveal itself the victim may experience the smell of tobacco before the face and the body of their guide blurs as it changes from the that of the victim’s, relative or friend, into its own true monstrous form.

Those few victims unlucky enough to experience such an encounter have been known to stumble into to villages or towns muttering or raving incoherently.   It is said that people who have tried to help them say that the unfortunate person will tell how they were pushed and struck and knocked to the ground repeatedly.  All through this ordeal all they could do was giggle nervously like they were children.  The more they resisted the more they were abused but once they stopped resisting they found themselves alone in the forest in the night completely disoriented.

Some people claim tikbalangs are purely mischievous rather than malignant spirits arguing they only eat evil people or those who do not practice the form of Catholic devotion known as the angelus.  That may be so but they can certainly be alarming and according to tradition one of the tricks of the tikbalang is to lead solitary travelers astray and get them lost.  No matter which way they turn will keep on returning to a certain place in the forest.  Sometimes this can last for days until the tikbalang tires of the game.  Sometimes the victim becomes completely lost and is never seen by his family and friends again.

Protection Against Tikbalangs

Tikbalangs have many undesirable characteristics that give the good reason for most humans to avoid them.  They are known to be tricksters who try and trick travelers making them lose their way or go round in circles.  However, the savvy traveler could ward against tikbalangs by wearing their shirt inside out.  Another way is to ask loudly for permission to pass by a known tikbalang lair, or by moving silently through the forest so as not to disturb or upset them in any way.

Superstitions and Traditions

In the Rizal Province of the Philippines, the Tagalog people have a superstitious tradition that says tikbalangs were benevolent guardians of the forests.  They were the spirits that were responsible for the forces of nature that made the trees and plants grow and the land to flourish in an area which became their territory. They were said to station themselves at the foot of large trees and stand on guard against anyone who should appear to offer a threat against their territory.

In the Philippines the people say, “ May kinakasal na tikbalang “, when ran falls from a clear sky which means a tikbalang is getting married.    Many cultures from different parts of the world have similar sayings when supernatural or trickster characters get married.  For example, there is a Spanish proverb that says when rain falls on a sunny day a witch is getting married.

Some traditions say that tikbalangs were once very beautiful women who had lived to be very, very, old.  Another says that they will only bathe during a night of the full moon. It is also believed that sometimes a tikbalang will fall in love with a mortal and become infatuated with them.

The Lair of the Tikbalang

Tikbalangs are believed to prefer to live in places where there are many trees and lots of dark, dense foliage and few humans.  They are said to like bamboo and banana groves and the tops of the Balite (Ficus indica) and Kalumpang (Sterculia foetida) trees. Sometimes they are seen sitting in the topmost branches of trees smoking tobacco.  Underneath bridges is also a favorite place for a tikbalang to live.

Taming a Tikbalang

It is possible for those who have the will to tame a tikbalang providing they go about it in the correct way.  Once tamed they can be very useful servants but it is important to remember the following points when taming a tikbalang.

Tikbalangs have a thick mane that consists of sharp spines. The three thickest spines are the important ones to identify for those who want to tame a tikbalang.  According to Philippines tradition, it is possible to tame and train a tikbalang by obtaining any one of these three spines which will give the holder of the spine power over the beast and the tikbalang will then be their servant.

However, as may be expected, it is not an easy task to get one of these spines in the first place and the creature must first be subdued.  To do this it is necessary to leap upon its back and try and tie a specially prepared rope around it.   The tikbalang will respond by flying wildly through the air trying to buck off the rider who must hang on until the beast becomes exhausted and subdued.  The rider must then seek out the three spines which may be gold in color and thicker than the rest and pluck them out.  Once the rider has plucked out these spines the tikbalang will become their servant and serve them for the rest of their lives.

© 25/04/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright April 25th, 2017 zteve t evans

Philippine folktales: The story of Dumalawi

The story of Dumalawi is a folktale from the Tinguan people of the Philippines collected by Mabel Cook Cole in her book Philippine Folk Tales published in 1916.  According to Cook the major characters in Tinguian mythology are often representative of heroes of times gone by whose exploits have become exaggerated and embellished by continued telling from generation to generation from the people of the “first times”.  Cook says,

“These people of “the first times” practiced magic. They talked with jars, created human beings out of betel-nuts, raised the dead, and had the power of changing themselves into other forms.”

Many of the major characters appear in many different stories but their special characteristics,  the interconnections and their personality can be discerned in each one. Sometimes they appear under different names but are still recognizable. For example Dumalawi appears in another story as Kanag along with his mother and father Aponibolinayen and Aponitolau respectively, who also appear in other stories sometimes in different guises.  Presented here is reworked version of The Story of Dumalawi.  This is followed by a few observations that seem pertinent to a complete beginner in Philippine folktales.

tinguin_men_of_sallapadin

An old photograph of Tinguan men – Public Domain

The Story of Dumalawi

Aponitolau was the husband of Aponibolinayen and together they had a son they named Dumalawi.  As Dumalawi grew from a boy to a young man his father grew very angry and dissatisfied with him and began to think up ways to kill him.  One morning he told his son to go and sharpen his knife because they would go into the forest to cut bamboo.

Dumalawi had no idea that his father hated him and wanted him dead so he did as he was told and sharpened his knife.  Aponitolau took Dumalawi deep into the forest to a place where bamboo grew.  Together they cut many sticks and his father told his son to sharpen one end of each stick into a point.  Dumalawi wondered greatly at this but did as his father told him sharpening the point of each stick making them into spears. When Dumalawi had completed this task his father said to him, “Now my son you must throw them at me so we can then find out which of us is the bravest.” But Dumalawi was not happy with that and said to his father, “No, you must throw first if you are trying to kill me!”

So Aponitolau went first and threw the spears at his son who side-stepped them and no matter how hard he tried he could not hit him.  When Aponitolau had thrown all the spears at his son and failed to hit him he then told Dumalawi that it was his turn to throw the spears at him.  But Dumalawi said, “I am sorry but I cannot.  You are my father and I cannot kill you.”

Dumalawi was very sad and full of sorrow because now he knew his father wanted to kill him but he would not throw the spears at his father.  They returned home and his mother had prepared dinner for them but he could not eat because he was too upset.

The next day Aponitolau said to Dumalawi, “Today we will go to our house in the field and repair it so that we can shelter in it when the rains come.”  So together they went to the house in the field.   When they arrived Aponitolau pointed to a place on the ground and told his son to dig there, saying, “When I was a boy I buried a jar of basi there and after all these years it should be good now.”  So Dumalawi did as his father said and sure enough found a jar of basi.  They drank it together but Dumalawi unaccustomed to strong drink became drunk and fell asleep.

Aponitolau now saw this as a good chance to be rid of his son for good.   Summoning up his magical power he created a great storm with powerful winds that lifted Dumalawi into the sky while he slept and carried him far, far, away.  Satisfied that he had disposed of his son, Aponitolau went home smiling.

The field

Dumalawi was sound asleep and had no idea that he was being carried away on the wings of a great storm.  The storm bore him many miles before gently setting him down in the middle of a great field.  Eventually, Dumalawi woke, rubbed his eyes and looked around him.  He was astonished to find himself in the middle of a huge field.  The field was so big that Dumalawi could see no houses, no trees and no people no matter which way he looked around the field.  An overwhelming feeling of loneliness swept over him at such desolation.

Betel nuts

To overcome this feeling Dumalawi used his magic to create and grow betel-nuts and they flourished in the field and bore fruit covered in gold.   Dumalawi was pleased with this and decided he would scatter the betel nuts around the field so that they could grow into people and become his friends and neighbors.  He set about this task in the middle of the night cutting the golden betel nuts into small pieces and then scattering the pieces in all directions.  When he had finished he was tired so he went to sleep.  Early in the morning he woke to the sound of many people talking and the sound of cocks crowing.  Dumalawi then knew he was no longer alone and now had friends and neighbors. He got up and walked around talking to the people and making friends and visited everyone.

Dapilisan

As he walked around meeting and visiting people he met a most beautiful maiden named Dapilisan.  He had never seen anyone so beautiful and as he talked and chatted with her he became enchanted by her and fell in love.  She introduced him to her parents and they talked and chatted with Dumalawi very cordially for a while and then he left and went on to meet other people.  Now although Dumalawi  was meeting and talking to lots of other people he could not get Dapilisan out of his mind and he saw her face and heard her voice everywhere he went.

At last after he had met everyone he returned to talk to her and asked her to marry him.  She wanted to very much but rightly said he must ask her parents first. So he asked the permission of her parents but they were reluctant to give it because they thought Dumawali’s parents might object.  Dumawali explained that his father did not want him and had tried to get rid of him.  On hearing this they changed their minds and gave their blessing to him marrying their daughter and the two were married.

They had not been married for long when they decided they would hold a special ceremony to the spirits to give thanks.  Dapilisan then sent for the golden betel nuts and said to them, “Golden betel nuts anoint yourselves with oil and go and invite everybody in the world to come to our ceremony of thanks to the spirits.”  The golden betel nuts anointed themselves with oil and went off to all the towns and villages inviting all the people to the spirit ceremony of Dumawali and Dapilisan.

Aponibolinayen

Dumawali’s mother had no idea where he was or what had happened to him and did not know he was married.  She mourned for him and had not eaten since his disappearance. Suddenly she was overcome by the desire to chew a betel-nut.  She had thought to fast until he returned but the desire was very strong so she went to a basket of betel nuts she kept.  She looked to choose one and then saw that there was one golden one among the others.  Taking up that one she was about to cut it in half when it suddenly spoke to her saying, “Please don’t cut me for I have come to invite you to the spirit ceremony of your son, Dumawali and his wife!”

Aponibolinayen was delighted because she had no idea where he was or what had happened and feared her son to be dead.  She went round to her neighbors and told all of the people to wash themselves and their clothes and attend the ceremony.  So everyone washed their clothes and hair and made themselves look as good as they could.  Then they followed Aponibolinayen in a procession to Dumalawi and his wife’s  home to attend the ceremony to the spirits.  Following along behind came Aponitolau, Dumalawi’s father with a mad look in his eyes.

When the procession reached the river that they had to cross to reach Dumalwai’s home they stopped because it was too deep and swift. Then Dumalawi seeing this on the other shore used his magic to summon alligators who ferried everyone safely across the river to where he was.  The last one left to cross the river was Dumalawi’s father, but when he got on the alligator’s back it dived deep into the water and he fell off and was swept back to the bank.  Aponitolau struggled back up the bank and shouted and gestured manically at Dumalawi on the other side.  Dumawali then sent another alligator to ferry his father safely across to him.

When all had arrived Dumalawi brought food for everyone and Dapilisan his wife passed around a small jar of basi for everyone to drink from. Although there were many guests the drink was passed around and everyone had a small drink from it and there was still plenty left in the jar.

When the eating and drinking had finished Aponibolinayen spoke to everyone saying how thrilled and glad she was to have Dapilisan for her daughter-in-law and she said to everyone, “As is our custom it now time for the marriage price to be paid and we will fill the spirit house with various jars nine times over!, ”  and she called on the spirits saying, “Spirits of the springs fetch the jars to pay the price for the marriage of my son, Dumawali to Dapilisan.”

The spirits obeyed Aponibolinayen and they filled the house nine times over with various jars.  Aponibolinayen then said to Dapilisan’s mother and father,  “The marriage price is now paid for your daughter are you satisfied?”

Then Dalonagan, the mother of Dapilisa said, “There is more to pay!”

“Name your price and we will pay it!” said Aponibolinayen.

Dalongan had a pet spider and called it to come to her and told it, “You my big spider walk around the town and spin a thread as you go.  Aponibolinayen must follow on behind and string gold beads upon the thread.”

The spider obeyed Dalonagan.  Aponibolinayen called once again on the spirits of the springs and they appeared and strung the thread with gold beads.  When this was done Dalonagan pulled upon the tread and it did not break and she declared the marriage price to be paid.  Then everyone rejoiced and was happy and when the festivities at last came to a halt they all went home. Aponibolinayen asked Dumalawi to return home with her but he refused.  He told her that he and his wife wanted to live in the town he had made with the people he had made and so the story ends there at least for now for now.

A magical place

As someone who has never been to the Philippines or knows very little of the culture and history of its people the world of this story seems a magical place.  A place where people have magical powers and turn betel-nuts into humans, spirits obey people, alligators tamely ferry people across a river, and huge spiders spin threads for gold beads to be hung upon and a lot more besides. It also tell how a young man created his world out of nothing, creating his own happiness after being rejected by his father.  This is just one of many, many, wonderful folktales and part of a rich and vibrant culture that evolved in the Philippines and deserves to be told for the benefit of the world.

                                                             © 10/05/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May 10th, 2016 zteve t evans