Philippine Myths and Urban Legends: What You Need To Know

philippines, myths, Devil’s Mountain, legends,

Kristine Joyce M Belonio

Kristine Belonio is a registered medical laboratory scientist and DOH-trained screening drug test analyst who hopes for a drug-free Philippines. And though she loves to do all the “bloody” work and analyze other bodily fluids, she’s also an aspiring journalist with a thorough know-how on the rudiments of news, feature and editorial writing.

Urban legends and myths have been part of the Filipino culture for decades, originating from the pre-Hispanic era and passed on from one generation to the next.  I remember being told some of these tales when I was a young child and being creeped out and now I tell them to the children in my family.

There are a lot of mythical creatures embedded in the Filipino culture and whether we believe them or not, their legends are part of our lives and some of us claim to be able to see and converse with these mythical creatures.

Examples include the Duwendes (Dwarves) who are creatures that can provide good or bad fortune and at times will take your property and return it later; Tikbalang (Half-man and half-horse creature), Aswangs (Shapeshifters) who are human-like by day but can transform in different forms and their victims are usually pregnant women who are about to give birth; Bakunawa (Dragon) often in a form of a gigantic sea serpent that is believed to be the cause of eclipses, Diwata (Fairies), Kikik or Wakwak (Bird-like human creature), Kapre (Filthy giant), Engkanto (Male Fairies), Manananggal (Shapeshifter that can fly at night by separating its upper body to the lower body part with a huge bat-like wings), Mangkukulam (Witches), Multo (Ghosts), Nuno sa punso (Goblins), Santelmo (Ball of fire), Sirena (Mermaid), Siyokoy (Mermen), Tamawo (Leprechauns but fair skinned and handsome) and Tiyanak (Babies who died before they receive baptism rites), among many others.

My mother always reminded us to say, “Tabi Tabi po” or “Excuse me” in places where we believe imaginary beings live for fear of unforgiving consequences.  True or not, we simply followed it because we were also scared of being punished for not complying.

There are stories that some of us believe to be true because so many people have claimed to have encountered the mythical creature or experienced some kind of paranormal phenomenon. The most popular is the age-old urban legend known as “Ang babae sa Balete Drive” (or The Woman in Balete Drive).

Balete Drive is a street located in New Manila, Quezon City, which is known for an apparition of a white lady who suddenly appears in the rear view window of a car or sometimes ask cab drivers to give her a ride but then suddenly disappears. There are different versions of the story that include her dying in a car accident or being murdered, however, no one knows for certain the true tale and this is why motorists are warned never to travel Balete Drive at night.

A popular legend takes place in Laguna, on a site that the locals call “Devil’s Mountain”. Mount Cristobal is known for numerous horror stories like supernatural creatures roaming the mountain that, at times, pretend to be trekkers but suddenly disappear without any notice.  Those that meet these human-like apparitions are usually hikers and/or tourists and many of them claim to experience an out-of-world sensation soon after.

If you are riding a jeepney (a common mode of transportation in the Philippines) alone at night, there is an urban legend about a girl who rides a jeep alone with the driver.  When she asks to be dropped at her final destination the driver glances at her but continues driving thus obviously making the girl nervous. Moment slater, the driver will return the girl to her stop but warns her to burn her clothes immediately because when he glanced back at her earlier, she was headless – an omen signifying her soon-to-be death.

A famous story that my Dad told me is about “Tiniente Gimo,” a well-known leader of a clan in the town of Duenas in Iloilo City, which is believed to be a stronghold of the aswangs or shapeshifters.  The story is about his daughter who brings a friend to their home during school break. The clan plans to kill his daughter’s friend but while the two girls are sleeping, his men mistakenly kill Tiniente Gimo’s daughter.

We laso have legends about parallel dimensions or portals from an ethereal city — and this is what Biringan City is all about. A city of grandeur that is said to be the hometown of the engkantos.  Many stories have emerged regarding this “now you see it, now you don’t” enchanted city.  There are claims of portals all over Samar Island and sailors at night attest to seeing a dazzling city on the horizon that suddenly disappears. Supernatural abductions and stories of the arrival of heavy equipment and consignee documents stating the destination as Biringan City are all too common.  Some say the city is between Calbayog City and Catarman in Northern Samar or in San Jorge, Samar but no one knows where this ethereal city really is.  Biringan City is not shown in any map or atlas but some say the use of specialized satellite mapping photography shows a shining area in the reported location.

The question about the existence of these mythical creatures and stories will always be a mystery. But to Filipinos, these stories will remain part of our culture and will be retold for generations to come. Whether there will be new stories or evidence will depend on what we believe.



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