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Philippine mythology

Philippine mythology

Philippine mythology refers to the body of myths, tales, and belief systems held by Filipinos (composed of more than a hundred ethnic peoples in the Philippines), originating from various cultures and traditions of the peoples of what eventually became the Philippines. Philippine mythology is incorporated from various sources, having similarities with Indonesian and Malay myths, as well as Hindu, Muslim, Shinto, Buddhist, and Christian traditions, such as the notion of heaven (kaluwalhatian, kalangitan, kamurawayan, etc.), hell (kasamaan, sulad, etc.), and the human soul (kaluluwa, kaulolan, makatu, ginokud, etc.). Philippine mythology attempts to explain the nature of the world through the lives and actions of deities (called anitos in the north and diwatas in the south), heroes, and mythological creatures. The majority of these myths were passed on through oral tradition, and preserved through the aid of community spiritual leaders or shamans (babaylan, katalonan, mumbaki, baglan, machanitu, walian, mangubat, bahasa, etc.) and community elders.

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

Philippine mythologies and indigenous religions have historically been referred as Anitism, meaning "ancestral religion".[5][6] Other terms used were Anitismo, a Hispano-Filipino translation, and Anitería, a derogatory version used by most members of the Spanish clergy.[7] Today, many ethnic peoples continue to practice and conserve their unique indigenous religions, notably in ancestral domains, although foreign and foreign-inspired religions continue to influence their life-ways through conversions, inter-marriage, and land-buying. Various scholarly works have been made regarding Anitism and its many topics, although much of its stories and traditions are still undocumented by the international anthropological and folkloristic community.[5][8][9]


There are two significant sources of Philippine mythologies, namely, oral literature and written literature.

Oral literature (also known as folk literature) are stories that have been or still are being passed down from one generation to another through oral means such as verbal communication. All sources of Philippine mythologies are originally oral literature, the same way with all known mythologies and folklore in the world ranging from Islamic, Hindu, Shinto, to Christian mythologies. As oral literature is passed on verbally, changes in stories and addition of stories through time are natural phenomenons and part of the evolving dynamism of Philippine mythology. Despite many attempts to record all oral literature of the Philippines, majority of stories pertaining to Philippine mythologies have yet to be properly documented due to a lack of scholars focusing on the subject. These oral traditions were intentionally interfered by the Spanish through the introduction of Christian mythologies in the 16th century. Some examples of such interference are the Biag ni Lam-ang and the Tale of Bernardo Carpio, where the names of certain characters were permanently changed into Spanish ones. Resurgent ripples of interest towards oral literature in the Philippines have sprang since the 21st century due to sudden interests among the masses, notably the youth, coupled by various mediums such as literary works, television, radio, and social media.[10][11][12]

Written literature are oral literature that have been put in physical record such as manuscripts or publications. Juan de Plasencia wrote the Relacion de las Costumbres de Los Tagalos in 1589, documenting the traditions of the Tagalog people at the time. Other accounts during the period are Miguel de Loarca's Relacion de las Yslas Filipinas and Pedro Chirino's Relacion de las Island Filipinas (1604). Various books regarding Anitism have been published by numerous universities throughout the country, such as Mindanao State University, University of San Carlos, University of the Philippines, Ateneo Universities, Silliman University, and University of the Cordilleras, as well as respected non-university publishing houses such as Anvil Publishing. The publication of these books range from the 16th century to the 21st century. There are also printed but unpublished sources of Philippine mythologies, notably college and graduate school theses. Specific written literature should not be used as a generalizing asset of a particular story, as stories differ from town to town or village to village, despite the people of a particular area belonging to the same ethnic group. Some examples are the story of Bakunawa and the Seven Moons and the story of The Tambanokano, which have multiple versions depending on the locality, people's ethnicity, origin of story, and cultural progression.[12][13][8][14]

As oral literature is always the beginning of written literature, there are still many Philippine myths that have yet to be made into written literature, as many oral literature in the Philippines have yet to be properly documented. In fact, scholars, both foreign and local, continue to document previously unheard oral literature in the Philippines even up to the 21st century. Like other religions and belief systems throughout the world, the mythologies (or indigenous religions) in the Philippines have been constantly evolving even up to modern times. Many Filipinos have reverted back to their respective indigenous ethnic religions.[15][13][8]


The indigenous religions of the Philippines developed through a variety of migration phases and trade routes. The arrival of early hominids in the Philippines, roughly 700,000 years ago, as exemplified in recent discoveries in the north, may have contributed to cultural evolutions of human species that would later arrive in the archipelago. Homo luzonensis is believed to have evolved from the early hominids that arrived. Homo sapiens arrived roughly around 67,000 years ago, replaced Homo luzonensis, and laid the foundation for the development of belief systems. The Negrito peoples are theorized by some scholars to be the first Homo sapiens inhabitants of the Philippines (although there is currently ongoing debate on the matter), and thus, the first peoples to formally establish belief systems in the archipelago. These Negritos, through the "Out-of-Sundaland model", were an early split-off from the first migration phase, which brought Homo sapiens from Africa, to mainland Asia, and finally to archipelagic Southeast Asia, where the Philippine archipelago is located. The Negritos brought basic forms of animism. The second migration phase began when Austronesians arrived roughly about 5,000 years ago. Scholars theorized that Austronesians arrived through the "Out-of-Taiwan model", where Homo sapiens from mainland Asia crossed Taiwan, and later the Philippines, until furthering to other Malay islands south of the Philippines. The Austronesians are believed to have introduced more complex animist beliefs with shamanism, ancestor worship, totemism, and tattoo artistry. The beliefs on benevolent and malevolent spirits was also established by their arrival.[18][19][20]

By 200 to 300 CE, Hindu mythologies arrived in some areas in the Philippines through trade routes and more waves of ethnic migrations. Hinduism brought in Indianized traditions to the Philippines, including indigenous epics such as Ibalong, Siday, and Hinilawod, folk stories, and a variety of superstitions which gradually established more complex indigenous polytheistic religions. Additionally, the concept of good and bad demons, which is prevalent in Indian societies, became widespread in the archipelago. These demons were viewed as both evil and good, unlike Western demons which are only evil. Unlike other areas in Southeast Asia which were heavily converted to Hinduism, indigenous religions in the Philippines were not replaced by Hinduism, rather, those religions absorbed traditions and beliefs present in Hinduism. Gender-variant deities and shamans also became widespread during this period. Humanoid mythical creatures also developed alongside a variety of evolving belief systems. Around 900 CE, Chinese influence spread in some areas in the Philippines, inputting Sinified belief systems in the process, along with Buddhist mythologies. The most prominent belief that spread during this phase was the belief in ghosts, which is prevalent in Chinese societies.[18][21][22]

By 1300 CE, Muslim trader arrived in the southern Philippines, bringing with them Islamic mythologies and its belief systems. Many natives in certain areas in the southern and western Philippines were converted into Muslims easily as much of the people had societies that had high acceptance towards foreign traditions. In the middle of the 16th century, the Spanish arrived and brought with them Christian mythologies and its accompanying belief systems. Some of the inhabitants were receptive to these myths, but most of which were against it as the Spanish wanted to conquer the lands and override their leaders, instead of simple tradition exchanges. When the Spanish laid its foundations in the archipelago, a three-century purge against indigenous religions began, which resulted in much of the ethnic people's indigenous cultures and traditions being brutalized and mocked. The phase also replaced much of the polytheistic beliefs of the people into monotheism. Existing myths and folklores were retrofitted to the tastes of the Spanish, but many indigenous belief systems were hard to replace, and thus, were retained despite Spanish threats and killings. In the late 20th century, the Americans colonized the country, and bolstered Westernization, greatly affecting the people's ethnic belief systems due to globalization.[18][23]

Since the 21st century, waves of more modern Filipino generations have begun a revival of indigenous belief systems in the country due to a heightened sense of nationalism and anti-imperialism. Among the things being revived today include the worship of indigenous deities and heroes, appreciation of the natural world including its spiritual realms and accompanied mythical races, and usage and enhancement of ethnic architecture, visual arts, weaving arts, pottery arts, films, basketry arts, music, dance, suyat calligraphy arts, and other art forms.[18][23]


Indigenous shamans (called babaylan, balian, katalonan, walian, machanitu, mumbaki, mandadawak, tao d'mangaw, bahasa, baglan, duwarta, and many other names depending on the associated ethnic group), were spiritual leaders of various ethnic peoples of the pre-colonial Philippine islands. These shamans, many of which are still extant, were almost always women or feminized men (asog or bayok). They were believed to have spirit guides, by which they could contact and interact with the spirits and deities (anito or diwata) and the spirit world. Their primary role were as mediums during pag-anito séance rituals. There were also various subtypes of shamans specializing in the arts of healing and herbalism, divination, and sorcery. Numerous types of shamans use different kinds of items in their work, such as talismans or charms known as agimat or anting-anting, curse deflectors such as buntot pagi, and sacred oil concoctions, among many other objects. All social classes, including the shamans, respect and revere their deity statues (called larauan, bulul, manang, etc.) which represent one or more specific deities within their ethnic pantheon, which includes non-ancestor deities and deified ancestors.[25]

Shamans were highly respected members of the community, on par with the pre-colonial noble class.[26][27][24] In the absence of the datu (head of the domain), the shaman takes in the role of interim head of the domain.[24] Shamans were powerful ritual specialists who had influence over the weather, and can tap various spirits in the natural and spiritual realms. Shamans were held in such high regard as they were believed to possess powers that can block the dark magic of an evil datu or spirit and heal the sick or wounded. Among other powers of the shaman were to ensure a safe pregnancy and child birth. As a spiritual medium, shamans also lead rituals with offerings to the various divinities or deities. As an expert in divine and herb lore, incantations, and concoctions of remedies, antidotes, and a variety of potions from various roots, leaves, and seeds, the shamans were also regarded as allies of certain datus in subjugating an enemy, hence, the indigenous shamans were also known for their specialization in medical and divine combat.[24]

Unlike Christian priests or Buddhist monks, the shamans of the many ethnicities in the Philippines always have another role in the community, aside from being spiritualists. Similar to the Shinto kannushi, among the jobs of the shaman range from being a merchant, warrior, farmer, fisherfolk, blacksmith, crafstfolk, weaver, potter, musician, and even as a barber or chef, depending on the preference of the shaman, skill of the shaman, and the need of the community. Some shamans have more than two occupations at a time, especially if a community lacks people with the needed skills to take upon the role of certain jobs. This tradition of having a second job (or more than two jobs) has been ingrained in certain cultural societies in the Philippines and is still practiced today by certain communities that have not been converted into Christianity. Specific communities that have been converted into Islam have also preserved this tradition through Muslim imams.[28][29][30][31][32][33]

Historical evidence suggests that the religious realm was predominated by female shamans, with various accounts being specific about the fact that in the Philippines the majority of Animist shamans were women whose ranks were swelled by a few males who dressed as women.[34] For example, the "Bolinao Manuscript", a document of the inquisitorial-type investigation carried out in and around the town of Bolinao during the 17th century, the Catholic missionaries identified 145 female shamans and three males who dressed as women from whom they confiscated items used during Animist rituals, a ratio of almost 50:1, highlighting the statistical imbalance between the female-to-male ratio of indigenous shamans.[35] The "Manila Manuscript" also emphasized the auxiliary role of gender non-conforming male shamans in relation to the female shamans. These evidences, together with the fact that there were no written accounts of female sex/male gender identification amongst the women who exercised authority within the spiritual sphere, prove that spiritual potency was not dependent upon the identification with a neuter "third" sex/gender space, but rather on the identification with the feminine – whether the biological sex was female or male.[36] Femininity was considered the vehicle to the spirit world during the pre-colonial era, and the male shaman's identification with the feminine reinforced the normative situation of female as shaman.[37]

The negative counterparts of the shamans are collectively called as witches, however, these witches actually include a variety of different kinds of people with differing occupations and cultural connotations which depend on the ethnic group they are associated with. They are completely different from the Western notion of what a witch is. Notable examples of witches in a Philippine concept are the mannamay, witches known to the Ibanag people, mangkukulam, witches that use materials from nature and the cursee as a form of curse, and the mambabarang, witches that utilize insects as a form of curse, while notable sorcery tactics enforced by witches include barang (insect magic), usik (sharp magic), hilo (poison magic), paktol (doll magic), laga (boiling magic), and sampal (sea creature magic).[38] As spiritual mediums and divinators, shamans are notable for countering and preventing the curses and powers of witches, notably through the usage of special items and chants. Aside from the shamans, there are also other types of people who can counter specific magics of witches, such as the mananambal, which specializes in countering barang.[38] Shamans can also counter the curses of supernatural beings such as aswangs, however, as mortal humans, the physical strength of shamans are limited compared to the strength of an aswang being. This gap in physical strength is usually bridged by a dynamics of knowledge and wit.[39][40][41][33]

Their influence waned when most of the ethnic groups of the Philippines were gradually converted to Islam and forcefully converted to Catholicism. Under the Spanish Empire, shamans were often maligned and falsely accused as witches and "priests of the devil" and were persecuted harshly by the Spanish clergy. The Spanish burned down everything they associated as connected to the native people's indigenous religion (including shrines such as the dambana), even forcefully ordering native children to defecate on their own god's idols, murdering those who disobey.[24] In modern Philippine society, their roles have largely been taken over by folk healers, which are now predominantly male.[42][43][44] In areas where the people have not been converted into Muslims or Christians, notably ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, the shamans and their cultural traits have continued to exist with their respective communities, although these shamans and their practices are being slowly diluted by Christian religions which continue to interfere with their life-ways.[24][45][46][47]

Concept of realms

Like most mythologies (or religions) in the world, the concept of realms focuses greatly on heaven, earth, and hell. These worldwide concepts are also present in the many mythologies of the Philippines, although there are stark differences between ethnic groups, with ethnic-endemic additions, subtractions, and complexities in the beliefs of ethnic realms. Additionally, unlike the general Western concept of heaven and hell, in the Philippine concept, heaven may be located in the underworld, while hell may be located in the skyworld, depending on the associated ethnic group. These differences are notably caused by both cultural diffusion (where portions of cultures are introduced through various activities such as trade) and cultural parallelism (where portions of cultures develop independently without foreign influences). These diffusions and parallelisms are also present in the many story motifs of Philippine mythologies. Some examples of the concept of realms in the many ethnic groups in the Philippines are as follow:[33]

  • Tagalog – the upperworld is called Kaluwalhatian, and is the home of specific deities who belong to the court of Bathala, the Tagalog supreme deity. The middleworld are the domains of mankind, other deities and various mythological races, while in the underworld, there are two realms, namely, Maca (realm where the spirits of good mortals go to) and Kasanaan (realm where the spirits of sinful mortals go to). Deities also dwell in the underworld, notably Sitan and his four agents. There is also Batala, a reappearing mountain realm located in the middleworld and is filled with the sacred ‘’tigmamanukan’’ omen creatures.[33][48]

  • Palaw-an – the earthly world is composed of seven plates, one on top of the other with a center pole connecting all of them; mankind is believed to live in the middle of the fourth plate[33]

  • Tagbanwa – the earthworld and the underworld are complete opposites as night in the earthworld is day in the underworld, and vice versa; rivers flow backward in the underworld, from sea to mountains, and rice is always eaten cold[33]

  • Batak – the ancestral land of the Batak is called Kabatakan, which is found in the middle layer (fourth layer) of the universe; the universe has seven layers (lukap) consisting of a center tier (fourth layer) surrounded by ocean and inhabited by humans, animals, plants, super-human beings, and aggressive entities; Puyok, the highest sacred mountain in Kabatakan, is regarded as the original place of all malevolent panya’en; the Gunay Gunay, at the edge of the universe, is perceived as the place of origin of the couple divinities, Baybay (goddess and master of rice) and Ungaw (god and master of bees); the Batak believe that capitalism and the exploitation of the natural resources are signals of the destruction of the Batak culture[49]

  • Sulodnon – the universe has three realms; the upperworld is Ibabawnon, which is divided into two realms, one for the male deities and the other for female deities; the middleworld is Pagtung-an, where the earth is located; the lowerworld is Idadalmunon, where the souls of the dead go to; initially, there was no land, only a sky and an expanse of water called Linaw; earth was established upon the excretion of an earthworm found by Bayi, a creation giantess[33][50]

  • Bisaya – the universe has seven layers; the first is uninhabited and nothing can be found in its vastness; the second is called Tibugnon and is made of water filled with mermaids and sea fairies who govern their separate kingdoms; the third layer is called Idalmunon which is the bowels of the earth and is inhabited by underground spirits; the fourth layer is called Lupan-on which is the earth where mankind and various supernatural beings live in; the fifth layer is called Kahanginan which is the atmosphere directly above earth and is the home of flying beings suchs as the bentohangin race and the hubot race; the sixth layer is called Ibabaw-non which is inhabited by special babaylans who intercede for man with spirits; the last layer and the highest is called Langit-non, which is the abode of Maka-ako, the creator of the Bisaya universe; these seven layers can be classified into three categories, namely Kahilwayan, the skyworld realms ruled by Kaptan and inhabited by deities who assist him, Kamaritaan, the middleworld home of humans which is ruled by Sidapa and Makaptan and inhabited by the gods of their middleworld court, and lastly, Kasakitan, the lowerworld realms ruled by Magyan and Sumpoy; Kasakitan is said to have a unique sub-realm called Kanitu-nituhan which is ruled by the god Sisiburanen[33]

  • Bicolano – it is believed that the sky and the waters are the first thing in existence; after the divine upheaval against the god Languit, the sun, moon, stars, and earth were formed through the bodies of his dead grandchildren; an unnamed giant is said to support the world, where his finger movements caused earthquakes; if the giant’s body moves, it is said to cause the end of the world[33][51]

  • Ilokano – the sky, sun, moon, stars, rivers, seas, and mountains are said to be created by the giant Anglao upon the order of an unnamed supreme deity; the underworld is guarded by the giant dog, Lobo[33]

  • Kapampangan – the sky, earth, planets, and stars were in existence while land was created after the great divine war of the gods which was caused by the beauty of the divine daughter of Mangechay, the Kapampangan supreme deity; the gods lived in different faraway planets, and they travelled from planet to planet, with each travel taking up to hundreds of years[33][52]

  • Ifugao – initially, it is believed that there are two mythical worlds, namely Daya and Lagud. Daya is the downstream east, while Lagud is the upstream west. This notion later developed into a layered concept of the universe, where Daya became the upperworld which includes four layers, namely, Hudog, Luktag, Hubulan, and Kabunian, where Kabunian is the lowest of the upperworld, and is home to the god Liddum, the only deity who directly communicated with mankind for the deities of the upper layers of the upperworld. Each realm’s upper surface layer is believed to be earthen and filled with fields and gardens, while the lower surface is made of smooth blue stone. The middleworld is the mortal world, directly below the Kabunian layer, and has the broadest circumference in the global universe, as both the upperworld and the lowerworld grow successively smaller as they approach the end of the celestial globe. The lowerworld is called Dalom, which is made of an indeterminate number of layers. The souls of those who were murdered are believed to go to its lowest level. Finally, the realm of Lagud was transformed by the layered universe concept into a far eastern sub-realm region[33][53][54]

  • Kalinga – the universe is believed to look like a big plate (personifies the earth) with a smaller dome (personifies the sky) resting on it; the sky is not transparent, rather it is opaque and solid and its rim is three meters thick[33]

  • Kankanaey – the middleworld is believed to be carried by four huge posts which stands on the lowerworld; a giant hog causes earthquakes every time it scratches against one of the posts; the lowerworld is call Aduongan and is inhabited by cannibals[33]

  • Ibaloi – the skyworld and the underworld were once close to each other; this changed after a great war between the two sides where a man from the underworld hit the sun god with an arrow; the sun god moved the two world apart, establishing a gap between; earth as the middleworld was afterwards established[33]

  • Bukidnon – the Banting is a small circula space of immense brightness extant in the beginning, surrounded by a sacred rainbow; the realm called Haldan ta Paraiso (Garden of Paradise) was created by Diwta na Magbabaya from materials provided by Dadanhayan ha Sugay; the garden is where Agtayuban rests his wings; the upperworld is said to be divided into seven tiers and the underworld also has seven tiers, but only three are identifiable; the middleworld is saucer-shaped, as is the sky, but with the concavity towards the earth[33][55]

  • Manobo – the world is on iron posts created by the god Makalindung who lives in the center with a python; the sky is round and ends at the limits of the sea; this limit is the sea navel, where waters ascend and descend; the underworld is below the pillars of the earth and is divided into different subsections where each Manobo nation is assigned a place; there are different sections for other tribes and even for foreign peoples[33]

  • Mandaya – the earth is flat but pressed into mountains by a mythological woman; the earth rests on the back of a gigantic eel which causes earthquakes when agitated[33]

  • Bagobo – deities live in the skyworld, where various realms are present, each being ruled by a divinity lesser than the supreme deity Pamulak Manobo; the entrance to the skyworld has numerous kampilan swords who fight without any wielder; the underworld for the sinful dead is called Gimokudan, where spirits with heavy misdeeds are engulfed by flames, while those with little misdeeds are not, although their bodies are covered with sores as they lay in an acid that burns like lemon juice; a special underworld sub-realm called Banua Mebuyan, near a black river, is reserved for children who died at their mother’s breast and these souls are nourished by the many-breasted goddess Mebuyan; children’s souls who graduate from Banua Mebuyan go to another district to join souls that died of disease; all souls pass through Banua Mebuyan before going to Gimokudan; another special underworld district is dedicated to those slayed by swords or spears, where scars will continue to be with the soul and plants in the district are colored like blood[33][56]

  • Tboli – the skyworld has seven layers, where the last layer is the dwelling of the supreme couple deities, Kadaw La Sambad and Bulon La Mogoas; earth was formed due to the body of the sterile god, S’fedat; there are different afterworlds depending on the circumstances of death; the soul of those killed via swords in battle and murder go to Kayong, where the soul is greeted with continual music; if a soul dies a natural death, it goes to Mogul, which has everything a soul desires[33]

  • Maranao – the world has seven layers; the earth and sky are also divided into seven layers; some of the layers of the earth are the human, layer of karibangs, and the layer under the sea inhabited by nymph-like beings; each sky layer has a door guarded by a garoda; the seventh layer of the sky is heaven, where the tree of life grows and whose leaves inscribes the names of all living humans; once the leaf of a person ripens or dries and falls, the person dies; in a section of heaven, the jars containing the souls of every person alive exists; this jar area is guarded by the fearsome creature Walo

Each ethnic group in the Philippines, which number more than a hundred, has their own indigenous concept of realms. The diversity of ethnic groups in the country contributes to the unique diversity of realms believed to be found endemically in specific ethnic domains and mythologies.[33]

Supreme deities of Philippine mythology

Each ethnic group in the country has their own distinct pantheon of deities and belief systems. Some ethnic groups have a supreme deity, while others revere ancestor spirits and/or the spirits of the natural world. The usage of the term "diwata" is mostly found in the central and southern Philippines while the usage of "anito" is found in the northern Philippines. There is also a 'buffer zone' area where both terms are used interchangeably. The etymology of diwata may have been derived from the Sanskrit word, devata, meaning "deity", while anito's etymology may have been derived from the proto-Malayo-Polynesian word qanitu and the proto-Austronesian qanicu, both meaning "ancestral spirits". Both diwata and anito, which are gender-neutral terms, can be translated into deities, ancestral spirits, and/or guardians, depending on the associated ethnic group. The concept of both diwata and anito are similar to the concept of the Japanese kami. However, during the colonization era between the 16th century to the 19th century, the Spanish intentionally modified the meaning of both diwata and anito as both terms were not in line with the monotheistic concept of Christianity. This modification was supported by the Americans in the early 20th century. The meaning of diwata was transformed into "fairy or enchantress", while the meaning of anito was transformed into "ancestors and spirits", although in areas not subjugated by Spain, the original meanings of the two terms were not changed. Each of the supreme deities per ethnic people is completely distinct, even if some of their names are the same or almost the same.[2][3][4][57][58][59][60]

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

  • Mangechay – supreme deity of the Kapampangan people; known as the ‘net weaver’ for the sky she weaved with her own fabric; the stars at night are said to be the fabric holes she envisioned[61] in some accounts, Mengechay is female, while in others, the deity is male[33]

  • Malayari – supreme deity of the Sambal people; deity of power and strength and is believed to reside in Mount Pinatubo; albeit having almost the same name, he is ethnically different from the Kapampangan people's Apûng Malyari and the Tagalog people's Mayari[62]

  • Bathala – supreme deity of the Tagalog people; known as the grand conserver of the universe who lives in Kaluwalhatian; despite the similarity in name, he is different from the Bicolano people's Batala[63] and the Bisaya people's Bathala, which was another name of their supreme god, Kaptan[64]

  • Kabunian – supreme deity of the Ibaloi people;[65] despite the similarity in name, he is different from the Bontoc people's Kabunian[66] and the Ifugao people's Kabunian[67]

  • Kadaw La Sambad and Bulon La Mogoaw – husband and wife, supreme deities of the Tboli people; Kadaw La Sambad is the sun god, while Bulon La Mogoaw is the moon goddess; both deities are said to reside in the "seventh heaven"[68]

  • Melu – also called D'wata, supreme deity of the Blaan people; he possesses golden teeth and shining divine skin; he is accompanied by the sky spirit Fiuwe and, strangely, the evil spirit Tasu Weh[69]

  • Dadanhayan ha Sugay, Diwata na Magbabaya, and Agtayabun – trinity deities, supreme deities of the Bukidnon people; Dadanhayan ha Sugay, “lord from whom permission is asked”, is depicted as an evil ten-headed being who drools continuously; Diwata na Magbabaya, “pure god who wills all things”, is depicted a good human; Lastly, Agtayuban, “adviser and peace-maker”, was depicted with a hawk-like head, powerful wings and a human body; the trinity of the deities symbolize the evil, the good, and the balance between the two[70]; Diwata na Magbabaya is believed to have created the eight elements, namely tumbaga (broze), bulawan (gold), salapi (coins), bato (rock), gabon (clouds), ulan (rain), puthaw (iron), and tubig (water), from which he created the sea, sky, moon, and stars[33]

  • Malaon and Makapatag – supreme deity of the Waray people; known as a single deity with two aspects; Malaon (meaning ancient one) is an understanding goddess, while Makapatag (meaning the leveller) is a stern and fearful god[71][33]

  • Kaptan – supreme deity of the Bisaya people; believed to dwell in the sky and possesses a sacred golden shell which can transform anyone into anything[72]; also called Bathala, but is distinct from the Tagalog people's Bathala and the Bicolano people's Batala[64]

  • Kan-Laon – supreme deity of the Hiligaynon people; originally a resident of Mount Madia-as in Panay, she shifted her residence into the volcano, Kanlaon, in Negros island; she is also referred by the Hiligaynon as Lalahon[72]

  • Gamhanan – supreme deity of the Aklanon people; he was the giver of life, security, and livelihood; lives with many other gods in Mount Daeogdog, where he gives life and punished errant mortals; used to have a loyal deer-like pet and messenger called Panigotlo, which bleated as a sign of abundance to mortals or foretells floods and despairs to alert the people[73]

  • Eugpamolak Manobo – also called Manama, Diwata, Kalayagan, and Pamulak Manobo, supreme deity of the Bagobo people; the deity is said to live in the sky and is offered white gifts by the natives;[74] created the sun, moon and stars and gave life to a fish-like snake being called Kasili, who wraps itself around the world[75]; controls good harvest, rain, wind, life, and death[33]

  • Gugurang – supreme deity of the Bicolano peoples (includes numerous ethnic groups in Bicol); he is said to live in Mayon, which he chose as the repository of the sacred fire of Ibalon;[76] despite similarity in name and the name of his foe, he is ethnically different from the Hiligaynon people's Agurang[77][78]

  • Magbabaya – supreme deity of the Higaonon people; a ritual is performed for the deity before the utilization of land and other resources[79]

  • Ampu – supreme deity of the Palaw'an people (not to be confused with other ethnic peoples of Palawan province); the deity wove the world and created several kinds of humanity, hence he is also called Nagsalad[80]

  • D'wata ng Kagubatan – supreme deity of the Cuyunon people; she is honored in a celebrated feast, periodically held atop of Mount Caiman prior to Spanish persecution[81]

  • Minaden – supreme deity of the Teduray people; she created the world while her brother, Tulus, rectified some errors to better the world created by Minaden[82]

  • Mahal na Makaako – supreme deity of the Hanunoo Mangyan (not to be confused with other Mangyan peoples which are distinct from each other); the deity gave life to mankind by merely gazing at them[83]

  • Bagatulayan – referred as the "Great Anito", is the supreme deity of the Itneg people; he directs the activities of the world, including his abode, the celestial realms[85]; has a loyal servant named Emlang[33]

  • Nanolay – supreme deity of the Gaddang people; he is also regarded as an epic hero and a benevolent deity, never inflicting pain or punishment on the people[86]

  • Mangindusa, Polo, Sedumunadoc, and Tabiacoud – four supreme deities of the Tagbanwa people; the first, Mangindusa, (also called Nagabacaban) is the lord of the heavens who sits up in the sky and lets his feet dangle below, above the earth; the second, Polo, is the god of the sea and a benevolent spirit who was invoked as a healer in times of illness; the third, Sedumunadoc, is the god of the earth whose favor was sought in order to have a good harvest; and the fourth, Tabiacoud, is the god who lived in the deep bowels of the earth.[87]

  • Diwata Migbebaya – also known as Diwata-sa-Langit[33], supreme deity of the Subanon people; scholarly works have noted that scriptures were used to be written for the deity, until such scriptures and practices were destroyed by the Spanish during colonization[88][89]

  • Tahaw – supreme deity of the Mamanwa people; various rituals are used to honor him, including a dance known as katahawan[90][91]

  • Lumawig – supreme deity of the Bontoc people; he is also regarded as an epic hero who taught the Bontoc their five core values for an egalitarian society; he is the son of the primordial deity, Intutungcho/Kabunian, who is different from the Kabunian in Ibaloi beliefs[92][93]

  • Tungkung Langit – supreme deity of the Suludnon people and specific Visayan peoples; known as the creator, he is also the husband of Alunsina; despite having similar names, he and Alunsina are different from the deities with the same names in other Visayan mythologies[94]

  • Ama-Gaolay – supreme deity of the Pangasinense people; also called Ama Kaoley, he communicated with the people through various rituals and shrines, which were destroyed by the Spanish[95]

  • Anlabban, Bago, and Sirinan – supreme deities of the Isnag people; Anlabban looks after the general welfare of the people and is recognized as the special protector of hunters, Bago is the spirit of the forest, and Sirinan presides over the rivers[96]

  • Gutugutumakkan – supreme deity of the Agta people (not to be confused with other Negrito groups, which are completely distinct from each other); has four manifestations, namely, Tigbalog, the source of life and action, Lueve, caretaker of production and growth, Amas, mover of people to pity, love, unity, and peace of heart, and Binangewan, responsible for change, sickness, and death.[97]

  • Iraya – supreme deity of the Ivatan people; initially depicted as an androgynous deity, she oversees the people[98] and warns them of incoming omens through cloud formations at Mount Iraya, her earth manifestation[99]

  • Umboh Tuhan and Dayang Dayang Mangilai – supreme deities of the Sama-Bajau people; Umboh Tuhan , also known as Umboh Dilaut, is referred as the "Lord of the Sea", while Dayang Dayang Mangilai is referred as the "Lady of the Forest"[100][101][102]

  • Delan and Elag – the supreme deities of the Bugkalot/Ilongot people; Delan, the moon god, and Elag, the sun god, are believed to be a quarrelsome supreme duo, where Elag lives in Gacay; Elag has a huge bila-o (basket) which he uses to block Delan during their arguments, thus creating different phases of the moon; both created mankind and continue to give life and growth; Christian missionaries have tried to replace the two deities with Bible-inspired Cain and Abel figures, however, traditional Bugkalots have rejected this notion, citing Delan and Elag as their true supreme deities[103]

  • Taganlang – supreme deity of the Mansaka people; creator god who has a helper bird named Oribig, who obtained soil from the far corners of the universe; the soil was used by Taganlang to create the earth[33]

  • Tagbusan, Makalindung and Dagau – Tagbusan, who rules over destinies of all other gods and mortals, is the supreme deity of the Manobo people in general; however, the Manobos around Talakogin in the Agusan valley believe that Makalindung, god of creation, is the supreme deity, while the Manobos of the Argawan and Hibung rivers believe that Dagau, the goddess of creation, is the supreme deity[33]

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

Other deities of Philippine mythology

Cosmogony or creation myths

Cosmogony or creation myths usually tell how the world was created, and most of the time, also includes how mankind came into existence. Each ethnic group in the Philippines has their own creation myth, making the myths on creation in the Philippines extremely diverse. In some cases, a single ethnic group has multiple versions of their creation myth, depending on locality and sub-culture from a larger 'mother' culture. A few of the many cosmogonies known to specific ethnic groups in the Philippines are as follow:

  • Ifugao – the universe has always existed and will always exist[105][106]

  • Tagalog – a sacred kite caused the sky and the sea to war; the sky threw boulders onto the sea, forming islands; the kite afterwards built a nest on an island and left the sky and sea in peace[107]

  • Bicolano – the only thing that existed in the universe were water and sky; the grandsons of the sky god, Languit, sought to attack the sky realm to have more power; the group was led by Daga, god who controlled winds; Languit, in anger due to his grandchildren's betrayal, struck all of them with lightning, killing them instantly; Bitoon, who did not join the upheaval, looked for her brothers, but was also accidentally struck by Languit's lightning; only the sea god, Tubigan, managed to calm down Languit; the two old gods each gave the bodies of their dead grandchilren light, where Bulan's body became the moon, Aldao's (or Adlao) body became the sun, and Bitoon's body became the stars; Daga's body was not given light and, thus, became the earth[108][109]

  • Kapampangan – the sky, earth, planets, and stars were in existence before land came; during a war between the deities for the beautiful daughter of the supreme deity, Mangetchay, the earth was formed from the stones thrown by the warring deities; life on earth was created by Mangetchay in remembrance of the deity's dearest daughter who died in war[110][61]

  • Ilokano – the Ilokano supreme deity ordered two primordial giants, Angalo and Aran, to become responsible for the creation of the world; the giant Anglao (or Angalo) dug the earth and made mountains; Anglao urinated into holes in the earth and made the rivers and seas, afterwards he put up the sky, the sun, the moon, and arranged the stars[111][112]

  • Ibaloi – the first thing in existence were the skyworld and the underworld; the peoples of both sides fought and one day, a man from the underworld hit the sun god with an arrow; the sun god afterwards pushed up the skyworld and pushed down the underworld, and then created the earth[113]

  • Panay – for the many ethnic groups originating from Panay, the world was said to be formless and shapeless in the old times; the sea, sky, and earth were mixed together; from the formless mist, the deities Tungkung Langit and Alunsina appeared; the two married each other and lived in the highest realm of eternal space; one day, Tungkung Langit fought and hurt Alunsina, which forced Alunsina to be driven away; in Tungkung Langit's loneliness, he created the sea and land and took his wife's jewels to create the stars, moon, and sun; despite all of these, Alunsina chose to stay free from anybody and never returned back to Tungkung Langit, thus, an early notion of divorce[114]

  • Bisaya – one Bisaya cosmogony myth tells that a sacred bird of prey incited the sky and the sea to fight against each other so that it may find somewhere to land, thus creating the islands where the bird of prey landed on;[115] another Bisaya cosmogony myth tells that the deities Kaptan and Magauayan (or Maguayan) fought each other for eons until, tired of the war, the great bird Manaul dropped boulders upon the fighting divinities; the rocks that dropped became islands[116] while another Bisaya cosmogony myth tells Kaptan's son, Lihangin, who was god of the wind, and Maguayan's daughter, Lidagat, goddess of the sea, were married and produced children; three of these deities, led by Likalibutan, made an upheaval against Kaptan, angering the supreme god; Lisuga, who was looking for her brothers, was also accidentally hit by Kaptan; all the four grandchildren of Kaptan and Maguayan perished; Kaptan accused Maguayan of the coup, but was later calmed down and the two deities grieved their grandchildren; Liadlao's body became the sun, Libulan's body became the moon, Lisuga's body became the stars, and the wicked Likalibutan's body became the earth and had no light; soon, a bamboo tree grew, where the first man, Sikalak, and the first woman, Sikabay, sprang from[117]

  • Suludnon – there was no land in the beginning; only the sky and a wide expanse of water called Linaw were present; the primordial giants, Laki and Bayi, appeared from nowhere and were responsible for the creation of many things; Bayi, the creation giantess, caught the primordial earthworm which excreted the earth; she also have birth to the wild animals that inhabit the earth[118]

  • Bukidnon – in one Bukidnon cosmogony myth, the supreme god Magbabaya created the earth after he saw that there was only a hole, no sky and soil; he first made the eight elements, tumbaga (bronze), bulawan (gold), salapi (coins), bato (rocks), gabon (clouds), ulan (rain), puthaw (iron), and tubig (water); from the elements, he created the sea, sky, the moon, and the stars;[119] in another Bukidnon cosmogony myth, Magbabaya (referred as Diwata na Magbabaya) created the world with the god Dadanhayan ha Sugay; before creating mankind, the two deities created the Incantus, six guardian deities that contain good and evil qualities and can send calamities if angered[120][70]

  • Manobo – creations myths by the Manobo is diverse; one Manobo cosmogony myth from Talakogan in the Agusan valley tells that the creation of the world was due to the god, Makalindung, who set up the world on iron posts; another Manobo cosmogony myth from Argawan and Hibung rivers states that the creation goddess, Dagau, created the world; while another Manobo cosmogony myth from the upper Agusan says that the world is shaped like a giant mushroom and deities shake its core when angered by humans[121]

  • Manuvu – in the beginning, there was nothing but a formless void; the deity Manama or Sigalungan created the deities which assisted him in creation; he took two steel bars and fashioned the bars into a frame; he then scraped off his fingernails and molded it into a mass which eventually became the earth[122][71]

  • Bagobo – the world was created by Pamulak Manobo, who made the land and sea and the first humans; rain is caused when he throws water from the sky, where showers are his spit; white clouds are smoke from the fire of the deities; the sun created yellow clouds that make the colors of the rainbow[123]

  • Blaan – the god Melu constantly rubbed his skin so that he may be pure white; he later accumulated a lot of dead skin, and in his annoyance, he used the dead skin to create the earth[107][71]

  • Teduray – in the beginning, there was only sky and sea; Sualla (or Tullus-God) lived in the sky, while his sister Sinonggol lived in Bonggo, the land of the dead; Sualla visited the palace of the sun and touched one of the eight primordial wooden khnenentaos (statues), thus creating the first Teduray; from the rib of the man, Sualla created the first woman; when the man and woman had a child named Mentalalan, it became sick and the man sought Sualla's aid; Sualla gave a special medicine to the man, but before the man delivered the medicine to his son, a demon sent by Singgol, changed the medicine, which led to the death of Mentalalan; Sualla afterwards convened a meeting with his four brothers, Mentail, Micael, Mintlafis, and Osman Ali to buy soil from the Navi; the soil was then planted by Sualla at Colina, the center of the world; the soil grew, and Mentalalan was finally buried; from the boy's body, crops of different kinds sprouted; in anger, Sinonggol threw her comb, which turned into the first boar that aimed to destroy the crops[124]

Heroes in Philippine mythology

Each ethnic group in the Philippines has its own set of stories depicting their mythical heroes, notably through oral traditions such as epics and verbal poems. Many of these stories have now been published in scholarly works and books by various folkloristic and anthropological scholars and researchers throughout the country. Due to Spanish and American colonialism, some of the stories have been retrofitted with minor changes, notably in the heroes' names. For the native people, many of these heroes are referred as actual humans who lived centuries ago (others, a few hundred years ago[125][126]) and not "mythical" beings, the same way Christians and Muslims believe that their prophets/saints were 'actual' people from the past. Among these heroes are as follow:

  • Sondayo – a hero who owns a magical flying scarf called a Monsala, which can be ridden through lightning, in Subanen mythology; he has the power to make anybody fall asleep; his life and epic is much celebrated in the sacred buklog rituals[127]

  • Manggob – a young hero raised by a giant recorded in the Diawot epic of Mansaka mythology; he wields a golden top which had the power to bring dreams into reality; his journey focuses on his search for the golden top and his long-lost sister[128][129]

  • Silungan Baltapa – a noble and sinless hero from Sama-Dilaut mythology; his life is mostly about his voyages at sea, noting the tradition of maritime journeys for the Sama (Bajau) peoples; he is believed to have absolute knowledge and possesses power to speed-up time for voyages and essentially go anywhere he pleases[130][126]

  • Banog – a hero named after the banog (Philippine eagle) by the eagle-venerating people of Bagobo Tagabawa mythology; he founded the domains of Tudaya, Binaton, Sibulan and Kapatagan[131]

  • Tugawasi – a hero who controlled the wind from Labin Agta mythology; his heart beat is said to boom like thunder when he is fighting[132]

  • Tud Bulul – a hero famed as the moonspeaker as he can speak with the moon and the wind from T'boli mythology; his weapons are a sword named K'filan, which can stretch to one million lakes and seas, and a shield named K'lung, made out of hardened wood[132]

  • Agyu – a powerful hero whose journey is recorded in the Ulaging epic of Talaandig and Manobo mythologies of Bukidnon, while his clan's story is recorded in the Ulangihan epic of Manobo mythology of Livungan Valley; he navigates the sky through his floating ship named Sarimbar/Salimbal[132]

  • Laon and Kan – Laon was a king of Negros from Hiligaynon mythology; he owns a head cloth named Birang, which can produce any material or food the wielder wants; Kan was a youthful hero and friend Laon; Together, they slayed a dragon-like monster living in present-day Kanlaon volcano[132]

  • Bantugen – his life and journeys are recorded in the Darangen chants, which has been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, from Maranao mythology; he owns a magic Bangka which can navigate like a submarine and he can also travel the sky, walk on water, and summon ancestral spirits[132][133]

  • Indarapata and Solayman – brothers who have slayed numerous monsters present in Maguindanao mythology and Maranao mythology; they own a sentient kris named Juru Pakal and a sacred plant which notifies Indarapata if Solayman (Solaiman in Maranao) has passed away[132]

  • Lumalindaw – a powerful combat musician from Ga'dang mythology; he owns an ayoding, a musical instrument which guides him in making decisions, and a bolo, which produces light and music when swang[132]

  • Tuwaang – a craftsman hero from Manobo mythology; he can speak with the wind, ride on lightning, and use a magical flaming skein[132]

  • Lam-ang – a hero of Samtoy from Ilocano mythology; he is accompanied by a rooster which can annihilate anything through crowing, and a dog which can restore anything through barking[134]

  • Urduja – a warrior princess of Tawilisi known to be unrivaled in strength from Pangasinense mythology; she is proficient in horse back riding, fistfight, and swordsmanship and leads the Kinalakian, a supreme fleet of male and female warriors[134][133]

  • Baltog, Handyong and Bantong – heroes recorded in the Ibalong epic from Bicolano mythology; Baltog was a tawong-lipod who introduced agriculture and defeated the Tandayag boar; Handyong, also a tawong-lipod, cleared the land of most of its monsters, inspired inventions, built moog (tree-house shrines for the deities), established a code of laws, and crafted the first boats; Bantong was a brave and cunning hero who defeated the beast named Rabot[134][133]

  • Bernardo Carpio – a powerful figure in Montalban from Tagalog mythology; some sources say that he was imprisoned to hold two mountains away from each other, causing earthquakes every time he moves; other sources say that he prevented two warring mountains from clashing; there is also a version where he was trapped between mountains, either by enchanted beings or by the Spanish[134][135]

  • Aliguyon – a powerful hero recorded in the Hudhud chants, which has been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists, from Ifugao mythology; his three-year war with Pumbakhayon ended with a peace pact due to both warriors' admiration for each other's capabilities[134][133]

  • Labaw Dangon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap – demigod sibling heroes recorded in the Hinilawod/Sugidanon epic from Suludnon mythology; their romantic saga inspired various art forms in Panay[136][133]

  • Ligi Wadagan and Ayo – heroes from the Dulimaman epics of Itneg mythology; Lidi Wadagan, also called Agimlang, is known for his resoluteness in defense of his community,[137] while Ayo, whose full name is "Ayo, si babei nga Dulimaman" and referred simply as Apo, is known for her unsurpassed fistfight combat skills and devotion to protect her family[138]

  • Kudaman – a strong hero from Pala'wan mythology; he has the power to revive the dead by spitting them with chewed betel nut; has a purple heron named Linggisan, who he uses for transportation[139]

  • Banna – a hero of Dulawon recorded in the Ullalim epic of Kalinga mythology; slayed numerous powerful beings and is celebrated in various Kalinga occasions such as Bodong peace pacts[140]

  • Urang Kaya Hadjiyula – a freedom-loving hero of Jolo recorded in the Parang Sabil (Sword of Honor) epic of Tausūg mythology; his life and journey in all facets glorifies the Tausūg's love for freedom, dignity, and honor seen in the tradition of kamaruan[125][126]

  • Maharadia Lawana – a monkey-king recorded in the Maharadia Lawana epic of Maranao mythology who is gifted by the supreme deity with immortality; scholars have noted that the epic is the localized version of the Indian epic Ramayana[141][142]

  • Suac – a cunning hunter-hero from Kapampangan mythology, who defeated various monsters and later became a ruler; has two loyal friends, namely Sunga and Sacu[143]

  • Kawlan – a shaman hero of Sumlog from Kalagan mythology; he has the power to communicate with spirits, heal the sick, and see the souls of the dead[144]

  • Biuag and Malana– two rival heroes of the Ibanag, the Itawit, and the Gaddang people of Cagayan Valley; they are endowed with supernatural strength by the goddess Maginganay; one version states that the two rivals eventually became friends and did various journeys and defeated many invaders which made all their people proud of them for generations[145][146][147], while a more modern and Christianized version, states that during a duel, Biuag made an cowardly act and Malana flew away to the sky kingdom[148]

Other human figures in Philippine mythology

Aside from the deities and heroes, numerous human figures, either full humans or demigods which may be mortals or immortals, in Anitism have been attributed as causers or helpers of various events in epics and poems, and their actions supplement some explanations on why things have become to what they are today. A few of these figures are:

  • Daragang Magayon – a beautiful Bicolano princess of Rawis whose beauty caused the great war between Pagtuga and the people of Iriga versus her true love Panganoron and the people of Rawis; the epic war ended with a Rawis victory, but the Panganoron was killed by an arrow at the very end of the battle; in despair, Daragang Magayon went after Panganoron in the afterlife by stabbing herself with his knife; their burial ground sprouted a volcano now known as Mayon[149][150]

  • Esa’ – the ancestor of Palawan's Batak people; he named the Kabatakan it Tanabag (Batak Ancestral Lands), after he followed his dog companions during a hunt for wild pigs; the landscape is said to have been created by the movement of Esa’[151]

  • Tuglibong – a Bagobo grandmother who persuaded the sky to go up to where it is now by ranting and rebuking it repeatedly[152]

  • Bugbung Humasanun – a binukot (well-kept maiden) of great beauty from Bohol who tasked her suitor, Datu Sumanga, to make several mangayaw raids from the southern frontiers such as Jolo and as far north as China; by tradition, she received each time the spoils and captives that Datu Sumanga obtained from the raids[153]

  • Ukinirot – a heavenly Bisaya hunter who shot an arrow in the sky, thus making a hole which the sky beings used as an easy entrance to the human world; the hole eventually got blocked by a huge woman who tried to enter the hole[152]

  • Sural – the first Bikolano to have thought of a syllabary or suyat script; he carved it on a white rock-slab from Libong, which Gapon later polished[154]

  • Timungan – a Kankanaey gardener who created a hole in the skyworld after digging up a gigantic sweet potato in his heavenly garden[152]

  • Marikudo – the ruler of the Ati people of Panay who allowed the legendary 10 Bornean datus, including Datu Puti, to stay on the island; in gratitude, the ten datus gave Marikudo a golden salakot (native head gear)[155]

  • Apolinatu – an Itneg mortal who was fetched by his lover, the star goddess Gagayoma, to live with her in the upper world;[152] the couple had a child named Takyayen, who sprang after Apolinatu pricked Gagayoma’s last two fingers[33]

  • Dinahong – the original Bikolano potter who was believed to have been an Agta (Negrito) or pygmy; helped the people learn cooking, making pots called coron, stoves, earthen jars, and other kitchen utensils[154]

  • Manggat and Sayum-ay – the first man and woman in Buhid Mangyan mythology; gave the name of all trees, animals, lakes, rocks, and spirits found within the Buhid Mangyan ancestral home[156]

  • Pandaguan – there are two Bisaya stories regarding Pandaguan, where the tales may be referring to two different persons with the same name; the first Pandaguan was the youngest son of the first man, Sikala, and first woman, Sikabay; he invented a fish trap which caught a gigantic shark; he was later lightly zapped by Kaptan after he boasted that he can defeat the deities;[117] the second Pandaguan was a good and noble man who became a comrade of the deities, but later chose to leave his gifted immortality behind due to the reasoning that both mortals and immortals will always be afflicted with anger and sorrow no matter how short or long they live[157]

  • Puhak – a much-hated Manobo man who defecated on the divine stairs created by the deities to connect the mortals with the upper world; due to his mockery, the stairs were permanently closed by the deities[152]

  • Dayang Kalangitan – a legendary queen from Tondo who co-ruled initially with her husband, and later as sole ruler of her domain; fragmented Tagalog oral literature maintains that she is currently the only known legendary female monarch from a Tondo dynasty, as written records were burned by the Spanish during colonization[158]

  • Madlawe – a Subanen prince, in the Guman epic, who saved a kingdom called Pagkatolongan; he died in battle but was revived by the maiden Pagl'lokon[159]

  • Sawalon – daughter of Padsilung ha Kabatlaw, enemy of Agyu; she successfully poisoned the hero Agyu of the epic Olaging and Ulahingan, however, failed as Agyu was revived later on[159]

  • Tomitib Manaon – a dear friend of the Subenen hero Taake; he perished after a battle with Walo Sebang and was revived after Taake's wife and sister "fished back" his soul from a tonawan (pot of melted iron)[159]

  • Mabaning and Mabanale – two close friends of the Maranao hero Bantugen; after finding that Bantugan has died, they rode their shields up to the skyworld and retrieved the soul of Bantugen, thus reviving him[159]

  • Gat Pangil – a legendary ruler in Tagalog beliefs; said to have established the domains of Bai, Pangil, Pakil, and Mauban[160][161]

  • Kalantiaw – a ruler from Panay who also had influence in west Negros; enacted the Code of Kalantiaw to maintain order among his people; nationally known as a historical figure until Christian scholars from a Roman Catholic university debunked his existence as "mythical" and "an urban legend" in 1968; despite this, various ethnic groups in Western Visayas, where his story originated from, continue to see him as a historical figure[162]

  • Datu Daya – a legendery ruler in Bisaya beliefs; said to have established the domain of Kandaya, and protected the polity by building an impenetrable watchtower; celebrated in annual chants and dances collectively known as Haladaya (tribute to Daya)[163]

  • Bulang – a Buhid Mangyan man who was washed away by torrential rain; he submerged after his foot got stuck, and his body later transformed into a rock now called Bato Bulang found today in the Binagaw river; stories say that if the rock is lifted, the entire area around it will be submerged in water[156]

  • Lukbang, Mengedan and Bodek – the three ancestors of the Tagakaolo people; Bodek, the only woman, gave birth to Linkanan and Lampagan, who in turn became parents to two birds, Kalau and Sabitan, who flew away and brought back soil which their parents shaped to form the earth[75]

  • Ubing-ubing – the son of greedy parents, Apo Lakay-lakay and Apo Baket-baket; turned into stone by the beach; his parents also turned into stone when the sea touched their feet; the greedy pair's stones can be seen at Taggat Lagoon, while Ubing-ubing's stone is at Sentinela beach in Claveria, Cagayan[164]

  • Aguingay – a legendary lady recorded in the epic, Si Bulusan nan Si Aguingay, from Sorsogon beliefs; Mount Bulusan is said to be the burial ground of Aguingay and her lover Bulusan, while some stories say that their burials are the two lakes of the mountain[165][166]

  • Rosa – a mortal woman who was pursued by a son of the sun god in Bikolano mythology; the son refused to light the world until his father consented to his marriage; forgetting to remove his powers of fire, the son accidentally set ablaze Rosa and her entire village when the son visited her; the only thing that remained were hot springs; Rosa’s true indigenous name has been forgotten due to Spanish intervention over her myth[33]

  • Bayani – a mortal who courted the Tagalog goddess, Sinukan; Sinukan tasked him to build a bridge, but he was unable to complete it; Sinukan, in her wrath, transformed a stream into a flash-flood which engulfed the unfinished bridge and Bayani[33]

  • Magat – a mortal man who saved a maiden from a huge python; made a promise to the maiden and the deity Kabunian, but failed; the maiden became a dead crocodile and after burying his supposed-to-be wife, he drowned himself in a stream which was then transformed into the Magat River[167]

  • Old man of Kagawran – an old kind man from Itbayat who brought the dead bodies of snakes that have been killed by the sun's heat below shades; once when he fell and couldn't get up, a snake with leaves in its mouth slithered beside him and put the leaves on his forehead, healing him instantly and giving him strength; the place where the man fell has since been called as Duch’narbaan (where someone fell)[168]

  • Ilang and Edo – lovers from Tayabas with a tragic story; upon learning of Ilang's relationship with Edo, a poor kaingin man, her parents forbade her to see him again and forced her to be with her rich suitors; Ilang refused her parents and chose to wither away and be buried in her lover's meeting place; when she died, the ilang-ilang grew on her burial, which Edo tended for the rest of his remaining life[169]

  • Sangkabagi – a being who uses a flying boat at night in search of corpses he would put in the underworld from Ilokano beliefs[170]

  • Kumakatok – three hooded figures, one lady and two old people, who knock on front doors; if the trio knocks on the door, a person who lives there will die[170]

Other monster figures and familiars in Philippine mythology

There are also specific figures in Anitism which are not humans. Many of which are monsters from epics and poems, while others are deities, demigods, or humans that turned into non-human forms due to a variety of causes or are originally non-human in form. There are also beings that are essentially non-human messengers, divine familiars, or folkloric animal humanoids. A few of these figures are:

  • Bacobaco – a great "sea turtle" who bore into the top of Pinatubo, creating a great crater and emitting great flames, huge rocks, mud, ashes, smoke and deafening noise in the process; stories say that if Bacobaco comes out of the volcano, horrible things will happen[174][175]

  • Kurita – an amphibious animal with several limbs who survived on land and sea and lives at Mount Kabalalan from Maguindanao mythology; eats humans and exterminates all animal life near it[172]

  • Tambanokano – a gigantic moon-swallowing crab, child of the moon and the sun, from Mandaya mythology; in Manobo mythology, the tambanokano is instead a gigantic tarantula or scorpion[170]

  • Kasili – a fish-like snake being who wraps itself around the world; Eugpamolak Manobo, also called Manama and Kalayagan, the supreme deity of the Bagobo people, gave life to Kasili during the world's creation[75]

  • Markupo – a snake being who is said to lives in the mountaintops between the domains of Marapa and Canlaon in Negros island; has a prominent red crest, long tongue with thorn-like hairs, sharp tusks and forked tail[170]

  • Dogong – a gigantic creature that looks like a mermaid with a human head and body of a sea cow but much larger and lives in the coast of Iloilo; guards a large sacred bivalve (‘’taklobo’’) with a shining pearl that night mariners mistake for a light house, causing them to drown[33]

  • Kayumang – a giant crab that sometimes bites the giant eel, Kasili, causing Kasili to wriggle and produce earthquakes from Bagobo beliefs; there is also a similar crab named Kagang who does that same to a different earthquake-producing eel[33]

  • Tarabusar – a humungous human-like creature who lived in Mount Matutum according to Maguindanaoan beliefs[172]

  • Bawa – a gigantic bird living in a sky cave in Western Visayas; attempts to swallow the moon[170]

  • Rabot – a ferocious half-human half-monster that could magically turn people into rock; slew by the Bicolano epic hero Bantong using his bolo[154]

  • Bakunawa – a serpent being present in various distinct mythologies; a beautiful sea goddess who turned into a serpent deity after her love was spurned in Bicolano, and Panay mythologies,[170][176] while in Bisaya mythology, she played and swallowed six of the seven moons, leaving only one in the end[14]; in one myth, Bakunawa is said to have swallowed most of the moons in anger because her sister, an ancient sea turtle, was killed by humans[177]; another myth states that Bakunawa fell in love with a village girl and swallowed the moon in anger because the village chief burned the girl's house[177]

  • Arimaonga – a playful gigantic, four legged, and tiger-like creature which seeks to swallow the moon from Maranao mythology[170]

  • Pah – a bird of prey as big as a house in Maguindanaon beliefs; it spreads its wings to cause darkness on the ground; lived at Mount Bita and the eastern parts of Lanao[172]

  • Mameleu – a gigantic two-horned sea serpent with a thirty fathoms-long body and head as large as that of a water buffalo; fire is said to torch out from its eyes; lives in Western Visayas[170]

  • Pilandok – a mischievous, cunning, and trickster human-standing chevrotain in Molbog beliefs, who is sometimes helpful[178]; a different Pilandok is present in Maranao beliefs; the Maranao Pilandok is not a humanoid creature, but a human who was also a cunning and mischievous trickster[172]

  • Lakivot – a huge talking civet who can carry a person on his back; defeated the one-eyed ogassi monsters and the garden-protecting busaw in search for the "flower of gold"; transformed into a handsome young man upon the shaving of his civet eyebrow[172]

  • Oryol – a Bicolano demigod naga, daughter of the evil god Asuang; fought the hero Handyong in an epic war, which ended with the two becoming lovers due to mutual respect for each other's capabilities; aided Handyong in defeating a race of wicked giant crocodiles that plagued ancient Ibalon[179]

  • Limokan – the bird familiar of the Manuvu god Manama; took fertile soil from the maligned god Ogassi;[71] in Mandaya beliefs, a different human-speaking bird with the same name is said to have laid two eggs which hatched the first man and woman; the first egg was laid at the mouth of river Mayo, where the woman was hatched, while the other was laid near the source of the river[75]

  • Sinogo – one of the three winged giant messengers (the other two being Dalagan and Guidala) of the Bisaya supreme god, Kaptan, and the favorite of the god due to his handsome face; stole Kaptan's magic shell and was later imprisoned in modern-day Tañon Strait; due to Kaptan's love for him, Sinogo retained a crocodile avatar, a sacred form in old Bisaya beliefs[180]

  • Laho – a huge serpent from Kapampangan mythology which seeks to swallow the moon[170]

  • Tarabusaw – a huge centaur-like monster who terrorized and force-ruled the people of mainland Mindanao in Maguindanaoan beliefs; slayed by the epic hero Skander[172]

  • Olimaw – a gigantic winged phantom dragon-serpent from Ilokano mythology; seeks to swallow the moon[181]

  • Omaka-an and Maka-ogis – two dragons who terrorized the people and were slayed by the epic hero Indara Patra (Indarapatra); Omaka-an established lairs in Gurayen mountain range, Makaturing range, and Mount Matutum, where Omaka-an was finally slayed; Maka-ogis was slayed at Gurayen; there story has been heavily Islamized, although many names mentioned retained indigenous qualities[173]

  • Sawa – a huge serpent monster from Tagalog and Ati mythologies; attempts to swallow the moon[182]

  • Samal Naga – a gigantic trapped dragon in the milky way; will be freed and devour all those not faithful to their respective deities in Samal mythology[183]

  • Daruanak – a giant turtle-like but hairy sea monster from Bicolano mythology[170]

  • Kedu – a huge serpent from Marano mythology which seeks to swallow the sun and moon[170]

  • Minokawa – a giant raptor with talons and feathers made of steel from Bagobo mythology; seeks to eat the moon and is repulsed by loud noises[170]

  • Mampak – a giant raptor from Sorsogon which was slayed through the cooperation of heroes Bulusan and Casiguran; the bird's death and the proposal of Casiguran to Aguingay, who was to be wed to Bulusan, later caused a dispute between the two sides, leading to war, with Bulusan being named the victor[184]

  • Gaki – a gigantic crab that is said to be the causer of earthquakes in Bontoc beliefs;[185] authorized by the god Lumawig as his overseer; can cause the earth to flood[33]

  • Gawigawen – a six-headed giant who wield a spear and a head-axe the size of half the sky in Itneg mythology[170]

  • Pangantucan stallion – a wise white horse who saved the domain of Pangantucan from a massacre by uprooting a bamboo and alerting the tribesmen of the enemy's approach.

  • Sibbaranguyan – a kind giantess who sheltered, fed, and aided a lost Isnag man; she hid the man from her husband who she thought may eat him; she afterwards told the man the direction to his home[186]

  • Inlabbuut – a monster that can shapeshift into a handsome youth to trick people from Ifugao mythology[33]

  • First Ilokano owl – a mother who kept on calling out for her dead son and was later transformed into the first owl in Ilokano mythology[33]

  • Panigotlo – a loyal deer-like messenger and pet of the Aklanon supreme god Gamhanan; alerted the people due to either an incoming disaster or a prosperous future; killed by a lowly hunter named Dagasanan[73]

  • Galura – a gigantic bird in Higaonon beliefs which holds the sky using its talons; its huge wings causes strong winds which acts as buffer to the mortal world[75] a different bird with the same name is present in Kapampangan mythology, where Galura is the winged assistant of the god, Aring Sinukuan, and he is represented by a giant eagle and believed to be the bringer of storms[52]

  • Intumbangel – two intertwined male and female snakes who cause earthquakes when they move, winds when they breathe, and violent storms when they pant in Bukidnon myths[33] a similar creature is present in Manobo beliefs, but the Manobo snake is said to "guard" the pillar supporting the world[75]

  • Sama Stingray – a gigantic stingray which pulled down the first family of the Sama peoples; when the family re-emerged from the sea, they were filled with vigor and all the traditional knowledge known to the ethnic Sama-Dilaut/Bajau[33]

  • Lobo – a large dog which guards the entrance to the underworld in Ilokano mythology; the real indigenous name of Lobo has been lost in time due to Spanish colonization[33]

  • Mandaya primordial eel – a gigantic eel where the earth is believed to sat upon; earthquakes are associated with the eel being agitated by crabs and small animals[33]

  • Walo – an eight-headed hairy giant with a thousand eyes and guards a section of heaven where the jarred souls of all humans are located in Maranao beliefs[33]

  • Gisurab – a fire-possessing giant from Isneg mythology[33]

  • Nanreben – a sea serpent from Negros; similar to the Mameleu, it has eyes like blazing torches and horns similar to water buffalo; has long tusk and teeth and highly resistant scales[187]

  • Kalapao and Berberoca – giants who can change size at will and can be slain through mortal means in Isneg mythology[33]

  • Patakoda – an gigantic omen stallion which used to appear at the Pulangi River; its appearances brought misfortune and calamities upon the local people[172]

  • Sulod primordial earthworm – an earthworm caught by the primordial giant Bayi in Sulodnon mythology; the earthworm excreted the earth which became the home of a variety of wild animals, and later, humans [33]

  • Kaunting – a magical horse who can be as small as a mouse when not ridden and who can be kept in a box; owned by Cumucul, the eldest son of the Tboli supreme couple deities, Kedaw La Sambad and Bulon La Mogoaw[188]

  • Batak crab – a titanic crab in the beliefs of the Batak of Palawan; floods are said to be caused when the crab goes in and out from a huge hole in the sea[189]

  • Tandayag – a huge being from Batak mythology in Palawan; different accounts say that the Tandayag is a whale, a giant fish, or a dragon which closes the navel of the world called Burungan; if Burungan is left open and Tandayag is not appeased, the whole universe will be washed away by a furious rush of water, unless a shaman makes a spiritual journey to Burungan to close the navel with the aid of a spirit guide in the form of a sea turtle[189]

  • Makarallig – a giant monster created by the evil Manobo god, Ogassi (not the ogassi race from Bagobo beliefs); virtually invulnerable to any weapons and its heart is made from stone; its body became a mass of leeches after being defeated by the Manobo hero Batooy[189]

  • Child of Makarallig – the stone child of Makarallig in the form of a human; said to be fastened on a cliff of the Pulangi River and is nurtured by Busaw; if released, the child is said to take on the mantle of his father and destroy all the people of the earth[189]

  • Manaul – in Tagalog mythology, some accounts say that it was Manaul who pecked the bamboo where the first humans sprang from, while in some accounts, the bird was Amihan, deity of peace;[75] in Bisaya mythology, a different bird with the same name was the horrible king of the birds who fought the wind deity Tubluck Laui; the epic war ended when Manaul was pummeled with boulders by the Bisaya supreme god, Kaptan;[75] in another Bisaya version, Manaul was the bird who dropped rocks over the deities Kaptan and Maguayan to stop the two from warring;[190] in the mythologies of Panay, a race of birds known as manaul are considered sacred and killing one is punishable by death[191]

Mythological races

Each ethnic people in the Philippines has their own sets of belief systems concerning mythological creatures, enchanted races, and monsters. It is a common belief that most mythological creatures prefer to be left alone, while only a few actively hunt for human victims. Each creature was initially unique under each ethnic people's culture. But due to nationalism, various creatures from various ethnic peoples have gone into the limelight and have been absorbed by other ethnic peoples's belief systems. Mediums such as television, radio, and books have enhanced the spread of belief in multiple creatures between ethnic peoples in the country. Additionally, due to colonialism, many creatures of Western origin have also been inputted in the beliefs of many natives.[170][194] Among the mythical creatures of Philippine mythology are as follow:

  • aswang – a bracket term for various monster races with numerous forms and aspects such as werebeasts, viceral suckers, blood-consumers, and many more; some races under this bracket term are the manananggal, dangga, asuang, and tiktik, among many others[170]

  • tikbalang – a race of muscular men with head and hooves of a horse from Tagalog and other mythologies; can become an ally if its sacred hair or "worm" is taken[170]

  • pugot – originally a strange race with varying capabilities and missing parts such as a head for human forms or a tail or ear for cat and dog forms; their original form is a black bizarre fiend with a strange stump-like gap instead of a head; from Pangasinan and Ilokano mythologies; Spanish colonialism later changed its image into a "headless priest"[170]

  • ta-awi – a race of monsters that can travel faster than wind from Marano beliefs; has a thunderous voice and cannibalistic nature but cannot digest eyeballs[170]

  • angongolood – a race of swamp gorilla-like beings who jumps and hugs victims, which are transformed into trees from Bicol beliefs; spooked by noises made by striking the side of boats[195]

  • tagamaling – a race of ogre-like creatures that become cannibalistic every other month from Bagobo beliefs[170]

  • tamahaling – a race of red-skinned earth spirits which may turn maleficent and lives in balete trees; they are the keepers of animals in Bagobo mythology; all of them are said to be female[170][33]

  • mahomanay – a race of fair-skinned handsome spirits who are beneficent to nature from Bagobo beliefs; caretakers of animals and lives in balete trees; all of them are said to be male[33]

  • malawan – a race of spirits who live in springs within deep forests in Buhid Mangyan beliefs[156]

  • taw gubat – a race of jungle men who live in the deep forests of central Mindoro according to Buhid Mangyan beliefs[156]

  • tamawo – a race of beautiful and tiny children-stealing beings who live in dark nunok trees in Western Visayas; they offer black rice and yellow root to children, and if the youngster accepts, he or she will disappear in human world forever[170]

  • tawong-lipod – a race of celestial wind and cloud beings who served as courts-folk and handmaidens of the Bicolano lunar deities, Bulan and Haliya; they are extremely loyal to the two lunar deities[170]

  • tayho – a hybrid race of centaur-like beings with an animal-looking face living Western Visayas; stories tell that the race is a hybrid between a female water buffalo and a giant male agta[170]

  • bulaw – a race of beings who live in mountain peaks in Buhid Mangyan beliefs; fly from one peak to another and lights the path with a torch made of human bone; their race name literally means 'shooting star'[156]

  • thalon – a race of obscure dog-like beings with human feet living in Zamboanga Del Sur; the males, called mhenamed thalon, of the race are simple trickster spirits, while the females, called thamad thalon, are terrible man-eating beasts[196]

  • tibsukan – a race of piglet-like creatures with long snouts from Suludnon beliefs; disturbing a tibsukan will cause illnesses[170]

  • santelmo – a race of fireball creatures originating from Visayan and Tagalog mythologies; the term 'santelmo' was adopted from the Spanish although indigenous names of the creatures are known in various ethnic mythologies; called mangalayo by the Suludnon people and allawig by the Ilokano[170]; in Iloilo, it is believed that santelmos are slowly created, in essence, when sunlight hits freshly spilled blood[33]

  • manananggal – a race of beautiful women whose body can slice in half; the upper part grows wings and hunts for food; male counterparts are called iqui; origin is from Tagalog and Bicolano mythologies[170]

  • anananggal – a race from Bicolano beliefs, similar to the manananggal, but instead of a segmented body by the torso, the body is segmented from the neck, where it leaves its body on the ground while the head and its internal organs fly in seek for food at night[33]

  • abat and awok – two similar races in Waray beliefs that are segmenting like the manananggal, but instead of segmenting from the torso, they can fly with their head and hands[33]

  • boroko – a race of winged segmenting beings from Ilokano beliefs similar to the manananggal, but the boroka may abduct young humans and keep them as housekeepers, feeding the humans with flesh and liver; can transform into a bird[33]

  • caranget – a race of dwarves or earth spirits that can turn into four forms; one of these forms is the siloit, which produces as whizzing sound[33]

  • omayan – a race of rice field-inhabiting dwarves in Mandaya beliefs[33]

  • aghoy – a race of fair-haired and handsome beings that resemble twenty-year old well-built humans in Waray beliefs; they are friendly to people and will guide those who are looking for something lost[33]

  • annani – a race of unfriendly beings in Ibanag beliefs who, when offended, must be offered with a fat hog, uncooked carabao head, rice cakes, coconut milk, sugar, bibingka, basi wines, cigars, and a fee of a dozen betel nuts[33]

  • karibang – a race of short, plump, and long-haired earth spirits living in the second layer of the earth in Maranao beliefs; possesses magical powers and are generally invisible to mankind[33]

  • amalanhig – a race of walking corpses; a dead person can turn into an amalanhig (or amaeanhig) if its body is not claimed by a family member; during colonization, the Spanish weaponized the belief on amalanhig, falsely claiming that an un-baptized person will turn into an amalanhig[33]

  • gakit – a race of sacred ducks which saved a divine woman who fell from the sky; the sacred gakits later landed the woman on Bohol, where she became the ancestor of Boholanos[75]

  • kugtong – a race of gigantic man-eating fishes from Cebuano myths which bring good luck to its caretakers[197]

  • marukos – a race of crossroads demons in Ilocano mythology, known for waylaying large travelling groups and causing them to be lost until the entire group is drowned by flashfloods.[198] Particularly associated with the etymological legends of Rosario, La Union.[199][200]

  • umalagad – a race of sacred luck snakes which were carried by various ethnic groups in the Visayas whenever they went into a sea voyage[75]

  • amomongo – a race of long-nailed ape-like creatures known only to live in southeast Negros island[170]

  • anggitay – a race of creatures resembling centaurs but has a single horn on the forehead and are generally female; their homeland is believed to be in Santo Tomas, Batangas[170]

  • sagay – a race of dwarves from Surigao who lives in gold mines; they exchange their gold for chicken blood and they sometimes steal children at night[33]

  • idaemonon – a race of earth spirits from Aklanon beliefs who have long fingers which they use to poke the earth from underground every 6 in the morning and the afternoon; stepping on their poking finger will lead to sickness[33]

  • kibaan – a race of small creatures with gold teeth and backward feet; live in bangar trees (steroulia foetida) in Ilokano beliefs; they love singing in small groups and strumming guitar-like instruments[33]

  • wakwak – a race of beings from Surigao who feeds on fetus and drools at the sight of a pregnant woman[33]

  • silagan – a race of beings from Catanduanes who attack white cloth-wearing people; tear out a person’s liver and eat it and tears the entrails through the anus[33]

  • balbal – a race in Tagbanua belief which can sail through the air like a flying squirrel; has curved nails and a long tongue which it uses to lick and eat a corpse like a dog[33]

  • berbalang – a race of vampiric creatures which suck blood from its victims; believed to reside in the Sulu archipelago[170]

  • danag – a race of blood-drinking human-like beings from Isneg beliefs[33]

  • awan-ulo-na – a race of headless humanoid being from Ilokano beliefs; has a neck-stump which bubbles and froths while it is dancing; a shapeshifter who lives in trees[33]

  • binangunan/binangenang – a race of horses in Dumagat beliefs with fire on its back from head to tail; lives in balete trees and bring danger, sickness, and death; old stories say that they may be sighted in Mount Pinatubo[33]

  • tulung/tuwing – a race of horse-like beings who have clawed feet, long hair, and large testicles; lives in Mount Pinatubo according to Sambal and Aeta beliefs[33]

  • bawa – a race of centaur-like beings from Aklanon beliefs; attracted to ueang (freshwater shrimp); stalks people but stops if the person crosses a river or stream[33]

  • berberoka – a race of water beings who suck water from swamps, which they then use to lure humans for drowning; believed to be found in Apayao, Abra, and bordering areas[170]

  • tigbanua – a race of dark spirits with one eye, tall and lean bodies, and long necks that can twist by 180 degrees from Bagobo beliefs; sometimes hunt in groups, dismembering a victim immediately using sharp claws; said to be afraid of dogs[170]

  • timu-timu – a race of ape-like ogres which can chew an entire human skull whole; lives in Iloilo province[170]

  • tinakchi – a race of mysterious and highly-respected mountain-dwelling nature beings from Kalinga mythology; they are known as the "people who can’t be seen" and live in the sacred Mount Kechangon of Lubuagan; the powers of the tinakchi are mysterious even for the Kalinga people; some accounts tell that the sacred beings can use teleportation and invisibility at will[201]

  • tiyu-an – a race of human-transforming monsters who suck its victims through a thin proboscis from its mouth; lives in Capiz and is said to be the actual 'slaves' of a "pet" puppy which never ages; the puppy of each tiyu-an are the actual masters of the tiyu-an, and is passed on from generation to generation; the puppy notifies the tiyu-san "slave" when they should eat[170]

  • tulayhang – mud crab-like creatures from Suludnon beliefs; disturbing them will causes illnesses

  • ugaw – a race of swift doll-like beings that steals rice from Pangasinan mythology[170]

  • batibat – a race of fat monsters which sit on the sleeping body of a person who utilized a piece of its tree home, thus causing a deadly nightmare in Ilokano mythology; have Tagalog counterparts called bangungot[170]

  • biringanon – an elite race of enchanted beings that live in the mythical Biringan city in Samar[202]

  • dalaketnon – an elite race of handsome and beautiful enchanted beings in Samar island living in an abode called Dalaket[170]

  • mambubuno – a race of mermaids with two fish tails instead of one; said to live within the waters of Zambales[203]

  • kapre – a race of giants who love smoking and live in huge trees such as acacias and baletes[170]

  • kahoynon – a race of extremely attractive forest-folks; they have the ability to become invisible and live in a parallel human existence from Waray mythology[170]

  • kamanan-daplak – a race of tiny people who leaves small flowers beside infants who are left alone in Sambal beliefs[170]

  • kaperosa – female ghosts who wear flowing white robes or gowns originating from Tagalog beliefs; the most popular kaperosas are the white lady of Balete Drive and the white lady of Laocan Road[170]; called amang in Ilokano beliefs[33]

  • katambay – a race of tall and muscular guardian spirits who protect mankind in Bicolano beliefs[170]

  • kibaan – a race of mischievous fair-skinned people with golden hair from Ilokano beliefs[170]

  • kimat – lightning demons who take the form a white dogs in Itneg beliefs[170]

  • kiwig – a strange race of beings that looks like a stooped dog, cat or pig with fiery eyes and coarse tangled hair from Aklanon mythology[170]

  • nuno sa punso – a race of dwarves living in termite mounds in various myths; inflict sickness to people who destroy or damage its home[170] loves playing the siklot and sungka; a similar creature in Ilokano mythology is the lakay[33]

  • laki – a race of satyr-like beings from Bicolano mythology; likes to scare children through shrilling but are generally harmless[170]

  • lambana – a race of small fairy-like beings with butterfly or dragonfly wings from Tagalog beliefs; some of their faces are beautiful, while some are goblin-like[170]

  • lewenri – a race of handsome and music-loving people who appear to boys and girls by moonlight in Romblon beliefs;

  • malakat – a race of cannibalistic beasts who in human form are attractive, until they attack and transform to beasts with fiery eyes, flowing saliva, sharp long nails, and hairy bodies from Waray beliefs; their hair grows into the nose, ears, eyes and mouth of its victim[170]

  • mansalauan – a race of birds the size of an exceedingly large bat from Cebu; has red jewel-like eyes, a lizard-like head, a tail covered with long hair, large wings, a sharp tongue, feet like those of a man, and hands like those of a monkey[33]

  • mantahungal – a race of hornless beasts with cow-like bodies, shaggy coat of hair, and monstrous mouth with two pairs of huge tusk-like incisors from Tagbanwa beliefs[170]

  • mantiw – a race of thirty-foot giants living in Western Visayas; generally peaceful but gets irritated when you whistle with them[170]

  • bungisngis – a race of extremely strong cyclops-like monsters which always laugh and giggle[204]

  • magindara – a race of vicious moon-adoring mermaids living in the waters of the Bicol peninsula; they are ruthless creatures who always obey the evil god Asuang and the comely boy-god Bulan[204]

  • bag-ong yanggaw – a race of humans who were all turned into weakened aswangs; tends to try their best to remain human, but goes berserk due to their fate[204]

  • bingil – a race of strange beings that the Kalinga and Gaddang peoples believe would bring illness unless shrines and festive events are made in their honor[204]

  • banwaanon – a race of forestfolks who help worthy people in Cebuano beliefs[204]

  • kumao – a race of beings who bleeds children to death by pulling out the victim's fingernails[204]

  • muwa – a race of hoard-loving beings with long, kinky, greasy hair from Suludnon beliefs; lives in bamboo palaces within bamboo groves; despite eating humans, they are said to be civilized beings[170]

  • palasekan – a race of invisible tree spirits who whistle to convey messages for people to stay home at night; Ilongot beliefs tell that the palasekans are offended when their tree-homes are destroyed[170]

  • popo – a race of tall and slender beings who snorts a lot; Bicolano beliefs tells that their eyes can drain the energy of people, causing pain and even death

  • ragit-ragit – a race of tiny beings who cannot wink and are generally immortals; Romblon beliefs tell that only babies can see ragit-ragits[170]

  • siring – a race of ugly men with curly hair and long nails from Bagobo belies; loves impersonating people to capture an impersonated person's loved ones[170]

  • kataw – an elite race of merfolk who can control water; believed to reside in Cebuano and Hiligaynon waters[170]

  • lagtaw – a race of tall black demons with huge eyes; the Tausug people believe that the beings hide in tree knots and frighten children[204]

  • lolid – a race of burrowing creatures which looks like a cross between a new-born puppy and a piglet from Iloilo; some accounts say that the beings look like a limbless wrinkled infant with a big head[204]

  • magtitima – a race of beings from Bukidnon beliefs who are given white offerings so that mortals are given permission to cut wood[204]

  • sarangay – a race of muscular men with a head of a bull and lives in Ibanag lands; possesses a sacred gem[170]

  • sarimanok – sacred luck birds of the Maranao people[170]

  • busiso – a race of gigantic fishes which can swallow entire boats from Subanen beliefs; centuries-old chants are still being sang about the creatures; lives in Lake Wood in Zamboanga del Sur[205]

  • dawendi – a race of height-shifting and night-dwelling beings from Leyte; its height depends on the tree or building it inhabits[33]

  • bannog – a race of gigantic birds from Tinguian, Isneg, and Ilokano mythologies; lives in huge trees or cliffsides; can darken the night when they fly overhead[33]

  • tigayones – a race of enchanted beings who live in Tigayon Hill in Aklan; used to aid mankind by lending things made of gold; stopped aiding mankind when the things they lent where not returned[33]

  • agta – a race of black beings in Eastern Visayas; twice as tall as a normal human, they live in santol trees, mangroves, and swampy places; loves to smoke[33]

  • ungo an bawo – two races from the Visayas that are similar to the kapre; muscular men in loincloth who punish people by giving one big latik on the head or stealing the victim’s firewood or basket of clothes; loves to smoke with large pipes[33]

  • uko – a race of black creatures from Aklanon beliefs; has thick lips that are inside out and lives in guava trees[33]

  • tigmamanukan – sacred omen birds of the Tagalog people[170]

  • tiyanak – a race of playful and sometimes deadly monster babies or children originating from Tagalog and many other mythologies[170] called as patianak among the Mandayas, and muntianak among the Bagobos[33]

  • triburon – monster sharks or rays with wings used for flying in the sky; in Bicolano mythology, the triburons were tamed by the epic hero Handyong[206]

  • ugkoy – a race of river-dwelling beings usually seen during floods from Waray mythology; like a crocodile, they drag victims by their feet into the river[170]

  • umangob – a race of dog-like ghouls that consumes only the big toes and thumb of corpses from Ifugao beliefs[170]

  • ungloc – a race of black-colored giants who can trasnsform children into coconuts for later consumption; lives in Western Visayas[170]

  • siyokoy – a race of green-skinned humanoids with scales, webbed limbs, and fins from Tagalog mythology[170]

  • sigbin – a strange four-legged creatures with a whip-like tail from Waray mythology; sucks the victim's blood through shadows[170]

  • bukaw – a race of doll-like people with golden hair from Tagalog mythology; their homeland is the island of Marinduque[170]

  • calanget – a race of small earth spirits regarded as the true owners of land in Gaddang beliefs[170]

  • camana – a race of shape-shifters who dwell in gloomy places and assume the form of small animals or becomes invisible[170]

  • garuda – a race of winged monsters who live beneath the sea; had big teeth and huge talons that can carry six men in Maranao beliefs; different from the garuda in Buddhist and Hindu beliefs[170]

  • ibingan – a gigantic many-horned red serpent with a prominent crest on its head and dorsal fin on its back; the venomous monsters guards a certain cave in Bicolano mythology[170]

  • kagkag – a race of ghouls that comes out at moon rise and moon set; they are repulsed by seaweed and spices according to Romblon mythology[170]

  • mangalok – a race of beings from Iloilo who targets the liver of the dead; they magically exchange a corpse with a banana stalk; perches on top of a victim’s coffin while bearers are carrying it; laughs invisibly while nibbling on the victim’s liver[33]

  • biraddali – a race of angels "with the glowing beauty of a rainbow" in Tausug and Samal mythologies[207]

  • dwende – a bracket term used by the Spanish to refer to various dwarf races in the Philippines; a few of the races under this bracket term are the nuno sa punso, calanget, bukaw, and ragit-ragit[170][208]

  • higante – a bracket term adopted from the Spanish, which literally means 'giant'; a few of the races under this bracket term are the kapre, ikugan, and bungisngis[209]

  • sirena – a bracket term for various merfolk races in the Philippines with fish-like lower bodies; old stories say that mermaids in the Philippines usually have familiars in the form of golden centipedes;[33] a few of the races under this bracket term are the mambubuno, magindara, and ugkoy[203]

  • engkanto – a bracket term for enchanted human-like beings of the land which includes a variety of mythical races; the term was adopted from the Spanish, who were dumbfounded by the wide array of mythical races in the Philippines and just referred to many of the races as encantar, meaning "spell-bound" or "bewitched"; usually has no philtrum and exudes the scent of flowers; a few of the races under this bracket term are the dalaketnon, biringanon, kahoynon, tawong-lipod, and tinakchi[210]

Mythological items

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

  • Jaru Pakal – name of a sentient kris with "a mind of its own" and can target foes even without the presence of a wielder; used by the epic brother-heroes of the Maranao people, Indarapatra and Sulayman[211]

  • K’lung and K’filan – name of weapons used by the epic hero of the Tboli people, Tud Bulu of Linay Mogul; K’lung is an extremely sturdy wooden shield, while K’filan is a bolo sword which can extend to one million lakes and seas, capable of slashing an entire army with ease[211]

  • Sarimbar/Salimbal – name of a huge golden ship "which can accommodate an entire tribe" and fly in the sky; the ship is owned by the epic hero, Agyu, who is recorded in the Ulaging epic and the Ulahingan epic[211]

  • aswang black chick – strange black chicks used by the aswang race to pass-on their powers on a descendant[211]

  • kibaan powder – strange mystic powders possessed by the kibaan race that will cause skin disease or other malady[211]

  • mutya – small jewels that drops from the heart of the banana tree during a full moon or during the midnight of Good Friday; give its wielder mystique powers such as strength, invisibility, and youth rejuvenation[211]

  • birang of Laon – a large head-cloth which can provide anything the wielder wants; belonged to King Laon of Negros[211]

  • tikbalang hair – locks of golden hair naturally present among members of the tikbalang race; getting the lock will make a tikbalang loyal to the wielder[211]

  • biringan black rice – mystique black rice found only in the mythical Biringan city; offered by the biringanon to guests; if a guest eats it, he or she will be unable to leave Biringan for all of eternity[212]

  • Golden Shell of Kaptan – the supreme god of the Bisaya people, Kaptan, has a magic golden shell which allows its user to transform to whatever or whoever he or she wants to be; the shell was intended as a gift to Maguayen, goddess of the sea, but the god Sinogo stole it before it was properly delivered; Sinogo was later captured by Kaptan and imprisoned as a crocodile[211]

  • monsala – magical flying scarves recorded in the Sondayo epic of Subenen mythology; at least three scarves were known in the epic, one of which was used by Sondayo, the Subanen's main epic hero[127]

  • Takalub – the source of traditional authority in Bukid beliefs; there are two kinds, the first is the Gilling (sacred black stick), and the second is the Baklaw (sacred bracelet made of two boar tusks); the Takalub were given by the hero Agyu to his child, Tuluyan; a person who has the Takalub will have kalaki (talent and power) to settle disputes, and good people will become a linibung (immortal)[172]

Concept on soul/s

The concept of soul/s is integral to all ethnic groups in the Philippines. Each ethnic group has their own unique concept of what a soul is, how many are there, and how a soul follows the cycle of life and death or how it follows the linear path of life, death, and beyond. Among the many concepts of soul/s are as follow:[33]

  • Ifugao – a person has two souls, one located in the eyes, the other in a person’s breath; the withdrawal of the eyes soul causes illness, while the withdrawal of the breath soul causes death; souls of murdered victims go to the lowest level of the skyworld[33][213][214]

  • Ibaloi – a soul is believed to formally rest on the summit of Mount Pulag, which is a traditional sanctuary for departed loved ones[215][214]

  • Kalinga – the souls of the dead roam around earth during 10-11 in the morning and 2-3 in the afternoon; the other hours of the day and night are reserved for the living[33][214]

  • Tagalog – the soul, called kaluluwa, can leave the body involuntarily; the soul is called a kakambal when the person is alive; the kakambal travels once a person is sleeping; this soul-travelling is one of the causes of nightmares, when the soul encounters a terrifying event; the kakambal transforms into the kaluluwa when the person dies; it then travels or gets delivered by the sacred buwayas (crocodiles with coffin-like backs) of the god, Buwaya, to the underworld, either in Maca (for good souls, ruled by Sitan and Bathala) or Kasanaan (for sinful souls, ruled by Sitan); during specific times of the year, the kaluluwa may enter the mortal world easily during pangangaluwa rituals[33][213][214]

  • Ilokano – there are four soul systems; the first is kadkadduwa which is the “inseparable partner” and “constant companion”; the second is kararma is a person’s natural vigor, mind, and reason which can be lost when one is frightened; the kararma can also be stolen and must be retrieved back as failure to regain kararma will lead to insanity; the third is aniwaas which leaved the sleeping body to visit familiar places; a person who wakes up before the return of aniwaas may lose it and become insane; the last is araria which is the liberated soul of the dead who visits relatives and friends in the mortal world[33][213][214]

  • Ibanag – the body is called baggi while the soul is called ikaruruwa; the Ibanags believe that the soul’s purpose is to give direction and wholeness to a person, but a person can survive even without a soul; without a body, the soul can also experience material wants and needs; a phenomenon called mekararuanan is unique to the Ibanag where the soul leaves the body but without sense[33][214]

  • Hanunoo Mangyan – an individual, whether human or not, is believed to possess 2-5 other souls, which the Hanunoo Mangyan believe to be the explanation for miraculous recoveries, their dreams, or individual reactions to startling sounds and movements; a human soul is called a karaduwa tawu, while other animal souls differ per species, namely karaduwa manok (chicken soul), karaduwa baboy (pig soul), karaduwa kuti (cat soul), and karaduwa hipon (shrimp soul).[33][213][214]

  • Bisaya – the soul, called dungan, can be taken by bad spirits; souls can also be imprisoned in a sacred spirit cave guarded by Tan Mulong, who has a spirit dog with one mammary gland and two genitals; sickness is believed to be the temporary loss of the dungan, while death is its permanent loss; old tradition says that before inhabiting the body of an unborn being, a dungan first lives in a special region, home to other dungans; the dungan is fragile from usog (unintentional transfer of disturbing vapors of a strong body to a weak one by proximity), and thus, must be nurtured and strengthened through time and rituals; once a person dies, the dungan flies to its upperworld region of origin to await another unborn body to become its avatar; in another story, the soul (probably of a sinful person), upon death, is sent to the underworld; the soul of the dead remains forever in Kasakitan, the lowerworld, unless if a living relative or friend offers sacrifices for redemption towards Pandaque (Pandaki), the god of second chances and messenger of Sidapa, goddess of death; a soul that stays in Kasakitan is kept by Sisiburanen as slaves and after years of staying in the underworld sub-realm of Kanitu-nituhan without redemption sacrifices being offered, the souls are fed to the sub-realm’s giant gate guardians, Simuran and Siguinarugan[33][213][214]

  • Karay-a and Hiligaynon – the Ilonggo peoples, which includes the Karay-a and the Hiligaynon peoples, call the soul as dungan, which cannot be seen; it can voluntarily come out of the body to take in the form of insects and small animals, notably when a person is sleeping; if the body is badly treated, the dungan leaves; the soul’s lifespan on earth is measured by the god of death, Sidapa, using a sacred magical tree which grows sturdy on Mount Madia-as (Madyaas); the soul may be saved through the aid of Pandaki, the god of second chances and loyal friend of Sidapa who occasionally visits Mount Madia-as[33][214]

  • Sulodnon – the soul is called umalagad; the soul is watched over by three divine brothers; the first borther is Mangganghaw, who keeps track over a person’s affairs after marriage, including pregnancy, where he visits the house of a laboring mother to peep and see if the child was born; the second brother is Manglaegas, who, after having the reports of Mangganghaw, enters the house to see the child to make sure the child is alive; the last brother is Patag’aes, who, after getting the reports from Mangganghaw, waits until midnight to enter a house and have a sacred conversation of life and death with the infant; if someone eavesdrops, the infant dies through choking; the sacred conversation revolves around on how the infant wants to live and the infant’s preferential way to die; the infant always gets to choose his or her death preference; after the conversation, Patag’aes uses a measuring stick, computes the infant’s life span, and leaves the house; once a person dies, the soul travels to an anthill near the deathbed; around the anthill, the stream Muruburu appears, where the soul removes its funeral vestments and bathes in its lake to remove the scent of incense called kamangyan; after changing clothes, the souls goes into a journey into Lima’awen; in that realm, the soul faces Bangla’e, who ferries the soul across the realm until it arrives in the stream Himbarawen, which has a bridge guarded by Balagu; the soul afterwards travels to the entrance of Mount Madia-as (Madyaas) until it reaches a cockpit, where the soul’s relatives welcome it; cockfight betting, feasts, and dressing is made; if the soul is underdressed, it will haunt its living relatives for negligence; after the feasts, the soul is brought to a rest house where it waits for a ritual to restore its body in the lowerworld[33][213][214]

  • Waray – the soul of the dead is said to be guided by the god Badadum, who gathers the souls of the newly dead to meet their relatives and friends at the mouth of a river located in the lowerworld; old stories say that souls eventually lead to a sacred cave in the interior of Samar island[33][214]

  • Tagbanwa – the true soul is called the kiyaraluwa and is different from the five other secondary souls; the true soul is given to each infant by the god Magindusa when the nose of a child emerges from the vulva; the secondary souls are located in the hands, feet, and the head below the air whorl (‘’puyo’’) of the hair; the specific soul at the puyo is not properly aligned and must be re-aligned by a shaman to prevent illnesses caused by its non-alignment; the soul at the puyo has a material form similar to a round white stone; the soul of the dead travels into a cave entrance to the underworld; it then meets its ruler Taliyakud, who tends a fire between two sacred tree trunks; a sinful soul is burned while a good soul passes onto a happier place where food is abundant; a soul may die seven times in the underworld, with each death the soul goes deeper into its realms; the soul is buried in the underworld by insects and lizards when it dies there; if the soul dies seven times, it is reincarnated into an insect such as a fly, dragonfly or dung beetle; if the insect reincarnation is killed, the soul disappears into oblivion[33][214]

  • Bukidnon – the soul, called makatu, exists before a child’s birth but is separate from the body; a special crib for the makatu is established prior to the child birth; the deity, Miyaw-Biyaw, breathes seven makatu into a person; with the withdrawal of each makatu from a body, the weaker a person becomes; if all makatu withdraws from a body, the individual dies; upon death, all seven makatu combine into one and journeys into Mount Balatucan for final judgment; the soul first travels to the huge rock, Liyang, which is followed by a journey to Binagbasan, where the Tree of Records grows. After making a mark on the tree, the soul journeys to Pinagsayawan, where the soul must dance and sweat for atonement; the next journey is to Panamparan, where the soul gets a haircut to be presentable at Kumbirahan, where a banquet awaits the soul; the god Andalapit then leads the soul to the foot of Mount Balatucan, where the gods of the dead assemble to judge the soul; good souls are sent to Dunkituhan, the cloud capped stairway that leads into heaven at the summit of Balatucan; an evil soul is sent to a river of penance for atone until forgiven; souls at the river sweat blood, the source of the river’s color and fishy scent; a forgiven soul afterwards also goes into Balatucan’s summit[33][213][214]

  • Bagobo – there are two souls called gimokud; the right hand gimokud is the good soul that manifests as a shadow on the right hand side of the path while the left hand gimokud is the bad soul that manifests as a shadow on the left side of the path; if the right soul leaves the body, it notifies the person in an insect form; if the left soul leaves, it causes effects such as shivers, depending on the place where it travels; upon death, the left soul transforms into a busaw, a monster that digs up dead bodies; all larger animals have two souls as well, but smaller birds, bees, insects, and inanimate objects only have one soul; the souls of inanimate objects directly go to the underworld to serve its previous owner; the right hand soul travels to the underworld by passing a black river and arriving at a town ruled by Mebuyan, who is both goddess and priestess in the underworld; the soul bathes itself, and once contented, becomes unwilling to return to the earthworld[33][213][216][214]

Important symbols in Anitism

Throughout various cultural phases in the archipelago, specific communities of people gradually developed or absorbed notable symbols in their belief systems. Many of these symbols or emblems are deeply rooted on the indigenous epics, poems, and pre-colonial beliefs of the natives. Each ethnic group has their own set of culturally important symbols, but there are also "shared symbols" which has influenced many ethnic peoples in a particular area. Some examples of important Anitist symbols are as follow:

  • okir – a distinct mark of cultural heritage of the now-Muslim peoples in specific portions of Mindanao; the motif is notable for using only botanical symbols which enhance a variety of works of art made of wood, metal, and even stone[217]

  • vulva – an important symbol of fertility, health, and abundance of natural resources; most myths also associate the vulva as the source of life, prosperity, and power[218]

  • lingling-o – special fertility ornaments which specific symbols and shapes; notably used by the Ifugao people today, but has been historically used by various people as far as the people of southern Palawan[219]

  • moon and sun – highly-worshiped symbols which are present as deities in almost all mythologies in the Philippines; protrayals of the sun and moon are notable in the indigenous tattoos of the natives, as well as the their fine ornaments and garments[220]

  • human statues – there are a variety of human statues made by the natives such as bulul, taotao, and manang; all of which symbolize the deities of specific pantheons[219]

  • serpent and bird – two notable symbols of strength, power, creation, death, and life in various mythologies; for serpents, the most notable depictions include dragons, eels, and snakes, while for birds, the most notable depictions are fairy blue-birds, flowerpeckers, eagles, kingfishers, and woodpeckers[220][20]

  • phallus – a symbol associated with creation for various ethnic groups; in some accounts, the phallus was also a source of both healing and sickness, but most myths associate the phallus with fertility[221]

  • flower – many tattoos and textile motifs revolve around flower symbols; each ethnic group has their own set of preferred flowers, many of which are stated in their epics and poems[20]

  • crocodile – a symbol strength and life after death; crocodile symbols are also used as deflectors against bad omens and evil spirits[220]

  • mountain and forest – many mountains and forests are considered as deities by some ethnic groups, while others consider them as home of the deities such as the case in Aklanon, Bicolano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, and Bagobo beliefs[71]

  • bamboo and coconut – symbols of creation, defense, sustenance, and resilience; many creation myths depict the bamboo as the source of mankind, while in others, it was utilized by mankind along with the coconut[222]

  • suyat – various indigenous writing systems in the Philippines; includes badlit, kulitan, iniskaya, buhid, hanunoo, baybayin, apurahuano, palaw'an, kur-itan, and many others[223][224]

  • rice and root crop – various mythologies magnify the rice stalk, rice grains, and root crops as the primary cultural associations with agriculture; many stories have stated that such crops are gifts from the divine and have nourished the people since ancient times[170][159][225]

  • betel nut and wine – betel nuts and wines serve important ritual and camaraderie functions among many ethnic groups; these two items are notably consumed by both mortals and deities, and in some myths, they also lead to peace pacts[226][227][228][229]

  • tattoo – tattoos are important status, achievement, and beautification symbols in many ethnic beliefs in the country; designs range from crocodiles, snakes, raptors, suns, moons, flowers, rivers, and mountains, among many others[230]

  • aspin – dogs are depicted in a variety of means by many mythologies, with many being companions (not servants) of the deities, while others are independent guardians; like other beings, myths on dogs range from good to bad, but most associate them with the divinities[231][232][53]

  • sea, river, and boat – symbols on seas, rivers, and other water bodies are notable depictions in various mythologies in the Philippines; a stark commonality between various ethnic groups is the presence of unique boat-like technologies, ranging from huge balangays to fast karakoas[233][234][235][228]

Sacred grounds

The places of worship of Anitist adherents in the Philippines are extremely varied. The terms in reference to these places depend on the ethnic people they are associated with. For example, for the indigenous Tagalog people, their place of worship is called a lambana or dambana (literally means "shrine"), while for the Bicolano people, their place of worship is called a moog (literally "tree-house shrine"). Other ethnic groups have various places of worship, such as the Itneg people, who has various forms of spirit houses called tangpap, kalangan, salako, palaan, pangkew, alalot, and the biggest house called balaua. Many ethnic peoples in the country have a shared "mountain worship culture", where specific mountains are believed to be the abodes of certain divinities or supernatural beings and aura. Mythical places of worship are also present in some mythologies. Unfortunately, majority of these places of worship (which includes items associated with these sites such as idol statues and ancient documents written in suyat scripts) were brutalized and destroyed by the Spanish colonialists between the 15th to 19th centuries, and were continued to be looted by American imperialists in the early 20th century. Additionally, the lands used by the native people for worship were mockingly converted by the colonialists as foundation for their foreign churches and cemeteries. Examples of indigenous places of worship that have survived colonialism are mostly natural sites such as mountains, gulfs, lakes, trees, boulders, and caves. Indigenous man-made places of worship are still present in certain communities in the provinces, notably in ancestral domains where the people continue to practice their indigenous religions.[237][238][239][240][241][242] Some examples of the many traditional sacred places today are as follow:

  • Mount Canatuan – a sacred mountain in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte for the Subanen people, who believe that the mountain is the home of a variety of well-respected nature spirits;[243] the divine mountain was destroyed by a mining company, and a huge mass of it has been transformed into the Canatuan mine,[244] despite indigenous protests[245][246]

  • Pulangi River – a sacred river in central Mindanao since ancient times; various myths are associated with the river such as the appearance of the Patakoda,[247] and the routes taken by the Maguindanaon epic heroes Indarapatra and Sulayman[248]

  • Mayon Volcano – home of the supreme deity of the Bicolano people, Gugurang; repository of the sacred fire of Ibalon; it is said to erupt, rumble, or spout lava or ash whenever the people committed heinous crimes, signalling the people to repent and undo evil things[76]

  • Angono Petroglyphs – limestone wall traditionally used for healing purposes by the Tagalog people, who drew infant figures on the wall to "pass-on" a child's sickness onto it[249][250]

  • Mount Pinatubo – home of the powerful Kapampangan moon god, Apûng Malyari, who also rules over the eight sacred rivers;[251] in contrast, the neighboring Mount Arayat is the home of the powerful sun god of war and death, Aring Sinukûan, who taught the early Kapampangans the industry of metallurgy, woodcutting, rice culture and waging wars.[61]

  • Mount Pulag – the tallest mountain in Luzon island and is home to the tinmongao spirits; believed to be the sacred resting ground of the souls of the Ibaloi people and other ethnic peoples[252]

  • Bud Bongao – a sacred mountain for the Sama-Bajau and Tausug peoples; guarded by spirits and monkeys in Tawi-tawi[253]

  • Mount Apo – the tallest and largest mountain in the Philippines and an expansive sacred mountain for the Manobos, Bagobo, Ubos, Atas, K’Iagans and Tagacaolo peoples; the mountain is often referred as "grandfather" or "elder";[254] some ethnic peoples there offer sacrifices to the deity, Mandarangan, for good health and victories in war;[71] in Bagobo beliefs, it is said that two gigantic eels used to live in the mountain's rivers, one went east, lived, and became the ancestor of eels in the sea, while the other one went west inland, eventually dying and becoming the western foot ridges of Mount Apo;[255] the Bagabo also believe that Apo Sandawa, god of blacksmiths, lives in Mount Apo with the deity of the forge, Tolus Ka Gomanan, who is venerated in a ritual called Gomek-gomanan[71]

  • Mount Madia-as – home to the Hiligaynon and Karay-a death god, Sidapa, who measures mortal lives through an ancient tree;[176] later stories say that the comely moon god, Bulan, eventually lived with the robust and handsome Sidapa in his mountain home after a complex courtship and rescue story, which led to their divine marriage[176]

  • Hinatuan Enchanted River – a sacred river believed to be protected by supernatural beings; the Surigaonon people believe that certain fishes in the river cannot be caught due to enchanted protection[256][257]

  • Kanlaon – a sacred volcano in Negros Island surrounded by a variety of myths; a story states that its vicinity was home to a nation ruled by Laon; it was also formerly home to a dragon-like monster which was slayed by the lovers, Kan, a youthful hero, and Laon, a king or datu in Negros; later stories say that the supreme goddess of the Hiligaynon people, Kanlaon, now lives in the volcano[258]

  • Agusan Marsh – an expansive sacred marsh believed to be the home of numerous celestial spirits; Lumads perform the panagtawag rituals so that a visitor would not be harmed in the marsh[259]

  • Biri – a sacred island with striking rock formations; the Waray people believe that Biri is the home of the goddess, Berbinota, who was initially a beautiful mortal woman who ruled the area's vicinity; stories say that enchanted beings kidnapped the mortal Berbinota in an attempt to make her their ruler, which eventually led to her enthronement as a goddess[260]

  • Mount Caimana – a sacred mountain for the Cuyunon people and is said to be the home of their supreme deity, Diwata ng Kagubatan; the Cuyunon used to perform a complex ritual for the deity on top of the mountain during her feast day prior to Spanish colonization[261]

  • Mount Iraya – a sacred mountain for the Ivatan people; there are two contrasting tales regarding the mountain, the first tale states that the mountain is a mother goddess (although Iraya was initially depicted as an androgynous deity prior to colonization) overlooking her children (the Ivatans) for their protection,[98] while the second tale states that if a ring of clouds appear on top of the mountain, Iraya is notifying the people for preparation due to an inevitable death of an elder, usually due to natural causes[99]

  • Kalipung-awan – a sacred fishing ground for the people of Catanduanes and northeast Camarines Sur since ancient times; the indigenous name means "loneliness from an isolated place", referring to the feeling of fishermen who catch marine life in the area for days without their families; national culture refers to the place as Benham or Philippine Rise[262][263]

  • Langun-Gobingob Caves – a sacred cave system in Samar believed to be the home of ancient spirits and the resting ground of Waray people's souls; it is the second largest cave system in Asia[264]

  • Siquijor – the entire island province of Siquijor has been a sacred ground since ancient times due to its associated mystic traditions and sites; legend tells that the island rose from the sea after a strong earthquake[265]

  • Mount Kechangon – a sacred mountain in Lubuagan, Kalinga, which is the abode of the tinakchi, a race of mysterious and highly-respected mountain-dwelling nature beings known as the "people who can’t be seen"; some accounts tell that the tinakchi can use teleportation and invisibility, usually to safeguard nature and its wildlife[201]

  • Mount Pandadagsaan – a sacred mountain for many ethnic groups such as the Mandaya people in New Bataan, Compostela Valley; protected by a variety of nature deities; people who disturb the area or go there without divine permission are said to lose their way and succumb to the mountains[266]

  • Romblon – the islands of Romblon is home to multiple sacred caves used by the ancestors of the ethnic Asi, Onhan, and Romblomanon peoples; the most notable of which is Ipot Cave on the island of Banton, where the oldest warp ikat textile in Southeast Asia was found[267][268]

  • Kamhantik – a sacred site in Quezon province filled with unique limestone coffins made between 890-1030 AD; locals believe that the limestone tombs and associated objects were made by forest deities; the site was looted by the Americans before proper archaeological research was conducted[269][270][271]

  • Sabuluag – islands east of Iloilo that are known for its sacred caves, remains of ancient ancestors, and enchanted and unseen beings lurking throughout the islands; created by the primordial giants Ilohaylo and Necrosamo in Hiligaynon mythology;[33] during Spanish colonization, huge human bones were found on Bakwitan cave, which led to the island groups's name change into "Islas de Gigantes"[272][273]

  • Mount Makiling – a sacred mountain in southern Luzon, believed to be the abode of Makiling, a goddess sent by Tagalog supreme deity Bathala to aid mankind in the area; the mountain is highly associated with the gifts of nature; due to its importance, various religious sects have made the mountain an annual pilgrimage site[274]

  • Mount Mantalingajan – a sacred mountain revered by the local ethnic groups as the "mountain of the gods" in southern Palawan; an ancient race known as Tau’t Daram (People of the Night) is believed to have lived in the mountain's forest canopies, told by the people's chants which refer to the race as "the shadows"[236]

  • Mount Lantoy – a sacred mountain in southern Cebu, believed to be the abode of the goddess Cacao, who lives in a cave and maintains a plantation-of-sort within the mountain; the goddess is said to sell her produce by sailing her golden ship from a nearby river onto the sea[275]

  • Ticao – an island in east Masbate, which is home to thousands of artifacts, including ancient human teeth, burial jars, ceramics, accessories, ancient stone inscriptions, cave petrographs, and cave petrogylphs; the island's cultural landscapes, notably its caves, are believed to be the home of a variety of nature spirits of the land, while its waters are filled with manta rays and sea spirits[276][277]

  • Punta Flechas – a sacred landmass at the end of Zamboanga del Sur; the Iranun people believed that the site is the home of spirits who beat the waves, making it harder to sail; arrows are shot onto the rocks of the area as offerings to the spirits; during the colonization era, the Spanish plucked roughly 4,000 arrows at the site and renamed the area as San Agustin's cape, fueling outrage from the Iranun[172]

Ethnic counterparts in indigenous mythologies

Due to intensive cultural exchanges spanning for millenniums, many of the mythologies from a variety of ethnic groups in the Philippines have similarities, in one way or another. A few examples of which are: (1) the creation myths of the Bicolano people[278] and the Visayan peoples, whose deities' names are different but the activities recorded in their creation myths are extremely similar;[117] (2) the presence of deities named Mayari[279]/Malayari[174]/Apûng Malyari,[280] which is prevalent in Tagalog,[279] Kapampangan,[280] and Sambal mythologies;[174] (3) the presence of moon deities, named Bulan in Hiligaynon, Karay-a, Cebuano[72] and Bicolano mythologies,[278] and serpent deities named Bakunawa in Hiligaynon, Karay-a, Cebuano, and Bicolano mythologies (4) the presence of moon-swallowing monsters named Tambanokano in Mandaya and Manobo mythologies, where the Mandaya Tambanokano is depicted as a crab, while the Manobo Tambanokano is depicted as a tarantula or scorpion, depending on the ethnic sub-group;[170] (5) the presence of foe-deities named Gugurang and Asuang in Bicolano mythology[77] and Agurang and Aswang in Hiligaynon mythology.[77] and (6) the presence of deities named Kabunian in the mythologies of the Ibaloi people,[65] the Bontoc people,[66] and the Ifugao people.[67]

Despite being ethnic counterparts, the deities, heroes, and creatures are completely different from each other, and their stories must be respected as they are and not mixed into a single narrative. It should also be noted that each ethnic story has a variety of versions. In many cases, stories vary between town to town or village to village despite the peoples in the specified areas belonging to the same ethnic group.[71][106][222][176]

Regional Philippine mythology

The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, but they are divided into three main island regions.[281] These regions are: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao (which is subdivided here into North and South). There have been attempts to refer each region to specific pre-colonial mythologies, however, the difference in mythologies and belief systems is not by region, but by ethnic groups, where some ethnic groups have influence in only a few towns, while others have inter-regional influences spanning various provinces. Buddhism and Hinduism in the Philippines is influential to the culture and myths of the people within the three major island regions. There is no unified mythology among the three regions, due to a wide array of diverse cultures that continue to flourish distinctly in the islands.[282] These myths were orally passed down,[283] which means that even myths within the same region will have some degree of change.


Pre-colonial Luzon were split among Hindu-Buddhist, Muslim principalities, and animist.

  • Creation Story – Story of Bathala (Tagalog)[284] The story of Bathala explains how he became the ruler of the universe, the etiological explanation of the coconut tree, and how all the everything on earth came to be

  • The Creation – Lumawig (Igorot)[285] Lumawig, a great spirit god created peopled in different areas. This gives an explanation on why people speak differently than others.

  • The Flood Story (Igorot)[286] Lumawig's two sons decided to flood the earth to bring up mountains so that they can catch pig and deer. However, in the acts of doing this, they drowned all the people on earth except for two people; they were brother and sister. Ludwig helped the two survive the flood and after the flood subsided, the brother and sister got married and repopulated the earth. Etiological explanation for mountains


Pre-colonial Visayas were influenced by Hindu-Buddhist and Animism. The Spaniards even described some of the indigenous people who lived there as Pintados, which means that they had tattoos/paintings on them.

  • The Sun and the Moon[287] The sun and moon created the stars. An etiological explanation for the stars. The sun burned the starts and this made the moon upset. They begin to fight, but the moon ran away. This gives an etiological explanation why the sun and moon seem to be "chasing" each other.


Pre-colonial Mindanao (around 900AD) were influenced by Hindu-Buddhist, Indonesian, and Malaysian beliefs and culture. Then around the 17th and 18thcentury, Islam in most northern islands of Mindanao were well established.

I. North Mindanao

  • The Children of the Limokon (Mandaya)[288] The limokon bird laid eggs along a river that created man and woman. However, they were born on separate sides of the river. One day the man came across the woman and they got married and had children. This gives an explanation on how the Mandaya people were created.

  • The Sun and the Moon (Mandaya)[289] The sun and moon were married, but one day, the sun got angry at the moon and started to chase her. This gives an etiological explanation why the sun and moon “chase” each other. The first child of the sun and moon  was chopped up but the sun because he was angry at him. The sun then scattered him across the sky. This is the etiological explanation why there are starts Another son of the sun and moon was a gigantic crab that created lightening when he blinks his eyes. He lives in a hole in the bottom of the ocean and is responsible for high and low tides.

  • How the Moon and the Stars Came to Be (Bukidnon)[290] This was a time the sky was close to the ground. A spinster who was pounding rice struck the sky so hard it began to rise. Her comb and beads that she hung on the sky to dry also raised with it. That became the moon and stars.

  • The Flood Story (Bukidnon)[291] A big crab that crawled into the sea created the flood in which drowned all the people except those who made a raft and stayed upon it.

  • Origin (Bagobo)[292] A boy and a girl was the only ones left on Mount Apo. They were so weak because of the drout. However, the boy found a sugarcane and was able to cut it. Water from the sugar cane refreshed him and his sister until rain came. This is why they are called Bagobo.

II. South Mindanao

  • Epic ‘Tudbulul’ (T’Boli)[293] Tudbulu was a hero that organized a concert. He gathered music and this attracted many people. Some of these people stayed and lived together. This is how the T’boli tribe was formed

  • Creation Story – D’wata (T’Boli)[294] The Betoti found soil and brought it back to D’wata. They spread out the soil and created dry land. The animals on earth then told Betoti that they need someone to look after them. Betoti told D’wata and thus man and woman were created out of statues.

  • Creation Story – Melu (B’laan)[295] Melu created the Earth with his dead skin that came off as he cleaned himself. The remaining dead skin was used to make 2 men. However, Melu could not make their noses. Tau Tana appeared below the earth and helped him make the noses. When they were done, they whipped the men until they started to move. Melu then told the two men to save their dead skin and hair so that he would be able to make them companions.

  • In the Beginning (B’laan)[296] Four beings that created the earth, and people. They tried using wax, then dirt. However, their noses were the most difficult to make. Melu  was in a hurry and pressed his finger at the root of their noses. This is the reason why the B’laan peoples’ noses are the way it is.

Status, recognition, protection, and promotion

In the classical era, almost all of the peoples of present-day Philippines practiced their indigenous folk religions, which developed through a variety of means such as trade.[297] In 2010, a national survey and research conducted by the Pew Research Center found that only 1.5% (some studies show 2%[298]) of the 2010 Philippine population, or approximately 1,430,000 people, adhered to Anitism or the folk religions in the Philippines. The research also concluded that, following a rise in the national population and in the percentage of Anitist adherents to 1.6% from 2020 onward, the number of Anitists would grow to approximately 2,560,000 by 2050. The survey graph showcased a rising line with a slightly lowering curve from 2010 to 2050. The research did not, however, projected the number and the rise of people who have reverted back to Anitism.[299][298] The 2010 median age of Anitist adherents was noted as 20, while the fertility rate was at 3%, although this may decrease to 2.1% by 2050 if the cultural destruction committed against Anitists by certain religious sects continue within the next few decades.[300]

Despite the increasing number of Anitist adherents, a different report noted that if the conversion of Anitists into Christianity imposed by missionaries and Christian cults continue, along with the destruction and degrading of indigenous religions, Anitism may go extinct by 2078, as religious conversions are still being actively undertaken by numerous Christian sects.[297] Majority of the country's population continue to believe in certain Anitist superstitions and belief systems ingrained in Filipino culture and national identity, despite the adherence (or lack thereof) to non-Anitist religions such as Islam and Christianity. Because many of these beliefs have been drastically ingrained in Filipino culture for centuries, many of the people who believe in them are not aware of the Anitist origins of such beliefs.[301]

At least two oral literature in the Philippines, the Hudhud and the Darangen, and one indigenous game, Punnuk, have been inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.[302] Additionally, four Philippine paleographs (still used by the Hanunoo Mangyan, Buhid Mangyan, Tagbanwa, and Palaw'an peoples), with the inclusion of Ambahan poetry, have been inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, under a single entry.[303] The José Maceda Collection inscribed in the Memory of the World Register also contains an array of traditional music from the Philippines containing stories from ethnic mythologies.[304]

Three biosphere reserves in the Philippines have also been inscribed in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, namely Palawan, Puerto Galera, and Albay.[305] As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines was also able to inscribe sites in the ASEAN Heritage Parks List, namely Apo Reef, Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park, Mount Kitanglad, Mount Malindang, Mount Makiling, Tubbataha Reef, Mount Hamiguitan, and Timpoong and Hibok-Hibok Natural Monument.[306] In 2014, the international astronomical monitoring agency MPC named asteroid 1982 XB as 3757 Anagolay, after the Tagalog goddess of lost things, Anagolay.[307]

In accordance to the National Cultural Heritage Act, as enacted in 2010, the Philippine Registry of Cultural Property (PReCUP) was established as the national registry of the Philippine Government used to consolidate in one record all cultural property that are deemed important to the cultural heritage, tangible and intangible, of the Philippines. The registry safeguards a variety of Philippine heritage elements, including oral literature, music, dances, ethnographic materials, and sacred grounds, among many others.[308] The National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Law, as enacted in 1992 and expanded in 2018, also protects certain Anitist sacred grounds in the country.[309]

Philippine mythology is seldom taught in Filipino schools, even after the implementation of the K-12 educational system. Most mythologies currently taught and approved by the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education are composed of Western mythologies, such as Greek, Roman, and Norse. In the few cases where Philippine mythology is taught in schools, the mythologies are notably mistaken as 'dead religions', when in fact, these religions are still being practiced by almost two million Filipinos. Additionally, in certain lessons under Filipino subjects, Filipino-translated or 'Tagalized' names of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are falsely branded as part of the people's ethnic mythologies. Most entities that promote Philippine mythology for education are artists, scholars, television networks, publishers, and non-profit organizations. Certain stories from Anitism, notably the mythical creatures, have also been promoted globally in international book bazaars, films, art galleries, online games, and educational courses. Both the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) have supported the promotion of Philippine mythology in many occasions, although government funding is still extremely minimal.[310][311][312]

Since 2018, there have been proposals to establish a fully-fledged Department of Culture, which would be able to protect and promote Philippine mythologies to a wider audience, while enlarging funding for the programs intended for their promotion and protection.[313][314] A 'comprehensive' Philippine mythology book was proposed by a non-government entity in 2019.[315]

See also

  • Dambana

  • Babaylan

  • Philippine literature

  • Philippine folk literature

  • Philippine mythical creatures

  • List of Philippine mythical creatures

  • Deities of Philippine mythology

  • List of dragons in mythology and folklore

  • LGBT themes in mythology


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