The Philippines has developed a mixed culture from the blending of foreign influences with several indigenous elements. The religious beliefs are as varied as the people, with about sixty different ethnic groups inhabiting the archipelago. The majority of Filipinos are Christians, but there are still some followers of older beliefs.
A few of the more important deities are listed here, as are some of the supernatural beings that are related to Filipino mythic beliefs. Many of the concepts and deities are common to more than one ethnic group, but those identiﬁed with only one group are listed separately.
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The Bagobo People
Eugpamolak Manobo is the chief deity and creator. He lives in the heavens and watches over humans. Any human who does not make proper offerings to him (he dislikes bloody sacriﬁces) is punished. Eugpamolak Manobo is invited to every Bagobo ritual.
The Bilaan People
Mele, or Melu, is the creator of the world and of humanity. He lives in the heavens and does not meddle in human affairs unless the people pray to him and make him offerings. Aiding Mele inthe creation were the lesser deities Diwata, Fiuweigh, and Saweigh. In some accounts, Diwata is Mele’s wife. In others, Diwata is Mele’s brother.
The Kapampangan People
Malyari and Sinukuan are two hermaphrodite deities that are forever at odds with each other. Malyari rules the night and the Moon, and Sinukuan rules the day and the Sun. Their never-ending conﬂict keeps the balance of life and nature.
Malyari, whose home is in Mount Pinatubo, is said to have been responsible for the eruption of the volcano that occurred in June 1991.
The Tagalog People
Bathala is the creator of the universe. Some accounts state that another god, Kabunian, created people because he was lonely.
Bathala’s spouse is Lakapati, deity of fertility and cultivation. In some myths, Lakapati begins creation and Bathala ﬁnishes the job. Mayari, goddess of the Moon, is their daughter.
The Tinguian People
The Tinguian people live in the mountains of central Luzon. Tadaklan, their thunder god, lives in the sky with his wife, Agemem. Tadaklan’s dog Kimat causes lightning. At Tadaklan’s command, Kimat will bite a house, meaning it is struck by lightning.
Together Tadakan and Agemem created theSun, the Moon, Earth, and the stars. The Sun married a mortal woman, Aponibolinayen, who lives in the heavens with her husband.
Mythic and Folkloric Beings
There are a number of helpful, or at least harmless, beings in Filipino mythology. These include Agta, a small, black, solitary being that is generally helpful to ﬁshermen and likes to smoke cigars; the bagat, a large, harmless dog that can be seen on the night of a full Moon or after a rain; and diwatas, the tree or nature spirits that bless those who help the forest but curse those who harm it. There also are the dwende (the name means dwarf in Spanish). These small beings may be related to European folk-beings; they are very similar to the helpful house spirits of Europe.
The kama-kama are the Filipino “little people.” They hoard treasure and come out only at twilight. If humans treat the kamakama kindly, they do no harm. But they give powerful, painful pinches to any human who angers them.
The mantyo is a tall, thin forest being with long hair. It lives among tall trees, preferablynear kapok trees, and usually is friendly to humans.
The batibat, which bears a resemblance to the dryads of Greek myth, also lives in the forest. This female tree spirit resembles a big, fatwoman. If her tree is left alone, she is harmless. But if her tree is cut down, she will follow the wood. If the wood is made into a bed, the batibat will cause nightmares for anyone sleeping in that bed. If the sleeper can wriggle his or her big toe during the nightmare, or bite his or her thumb, the batibat will leave and presumably look for another tree.
There are many malicious creatures in Filipino mythology, some of which are deadly to humans. The aswang is a ghoul that disguises itself as a harmless animal during the day and becomes a gaunt monster searching for human prey at night. The boroka, a hybrid monster with the head of a woman, the body of a horse, and the wings of an eagle, preys on children. The dila is a spirit tongue that slips up between the bamboo planks of a house’s ﬂoor to lick people to death. In the ocean, the ukoy, which resembles an octopus, sometimes kills swimmers if they come too close.
The manananggal is a vampire that looks like a wild-eyed woman. She can split herself in half during the time of the full Moon. The upper half then grows wings and ﬂies at night seeking blood. The way to destroy the manananggal is to ﬁnd the lower half and cover itwith garlic or salt, making it impossible for the manananggal to rejoin its two halves. Once day breaks, the divided manananggal will die.
Somewhat similar to the vampiritic manananggal is the marmanhig. This undead being hunts humans, tickling them to death before devouring them. A marmanhig, though, can be slain by throwing water on it.
With so many strange and exotic beings and so many possible stories, the world of Filipino mythology and folklore is a rich source for storytellers.