Philippine Folklore: Meet the Vampiric, Cannibalistic, Manananggal

manananggal

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

References, Attributions and Further Reading

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