Who are these creatures that are haunting our walls right now? They are the characters of Filipino folklore and also, the reasons for many unexplainable, sometimes scary and sometimes enlightening, incidents. One of the most interesting part of the show is how different the “Tabi Tabi Po” artists have interpreted these mythical beings onto their canvases.
Read more about these creatures below and if you have not had a chance to check out the show in person, make sure you come by the gallery before December 12th. It truly is an exhibit worth seeing and learning about.
“Aswangs” are often described as a combination of vampire and witch almost always female. They are sometimes used as a generic term applied to all types of witches, manananggals, shapeshifters, lycanthropes, and monsters. Aswang stories and definitions vary greatly from region to region and person to person, so no one particular set of characteristics are ascribed to the term. However, the term is often used interchangeably with manananggal, which is a particular creature with a specific set of features. The most popular original definition however, is that it is a bal-bal (maninilong in Catanauan, Quezon), an eater of the dead. After consumption, the bal-bal replaces the cadaver with banana trunks.
DUWENDE / DWENDE
Duwende are goblins, hobgoblins, elves or dwarfs. They are little creatures who can provide good fortune or bad fate to humans. In the Philippines, duwendes frequently live in houses, in trees, underground, termite like mound or hill, and in rural areas. They are known to be either good or mischievous, depending on how homeowners treat them. They usually come out at 12 noon for an hour and during the night. Filipinos always mutter words (“tabi-tabi po” or “bari-bari apo ma ka ilabas kami apo”) asking them to excuse themselves for bothering the Duwendes. Filipinos would leave food on the floor, so that the duwende residing (or guarding) the house would not be angry with them.
Kapre is a filthy, dark giant who likes to smoke huge rolls of cigars, and hide within and atop large trees, particularly the balete and old acacia or mango trees. A Filipino bigfoot, it scares away little children who play at night. If you’re stuck in a place and you keep going around in circles, you’re said to be played around by a Kapre. To escape its control, you must remove your t-shirt, and wear it inside-out.
Manananggal is an aswang that can fly after separating itself from the lower half of its body. It eats babies and fetuses from a mother’s womb. It eats babies by means of passing their long tongue through a small hole from the roof of a house. The sharp end of the tongue touches the mother’s navel to suck the blood of the fetus or unborn child. This creature’s name was derived from the Filipino word, tanggal, which means “to separate” because of the manananggal’s ability to separate itself from its lower body.
A manananggal can also be a sorceress that visits villages and barrios. To feed, the self-segmenter chooses an isolated place where she will leave her lower torso while she hunts at night. When she separates from her lower torso, she then gains her ability to fly. She then goes off in search of houses where pregnant women reside. Upon choosing a suitable victim, the Manananggal alights on the house and inserts her tongue through the roof. The tongue is long, hollow and extremely flexible. She uses it to puncture the womb of the sleeping woman and to suck out the fetus. At other times, she seduces men with her beauty and lures them to a private place before eating them alive. She usually eats the insides, like the heart, stomach or the liver. Sunlight is deadly to the Manananggal when she is in her monstrous form. Should her two halves still be separate with the coming of dawn, she will be destroyed. According to legend, to destroy the Manananggal, one should search for the lower torso that she leaves behind during her nightly hunts. Salt, ash, and/or garlic should then be placed on the exposed flesh, preventing the monster from combining again and leaving it vulnerable to sunlight. Small containers of salt, ash and raw rice, and the smell of burning rubber are said to deter the Manananggal from approaching one’s house.
Tikbalang or tigbalang (demon horse) is a half-man and half-horse creature. It has a horse’s head, the body of a human but with the feet of the horse. It travels at night to rape female mortals. The raped women will then give birth to more tikbalang. They are also believed to cause travelers to lose their way particularly in mountainous or forest areas. Tikbalangs are very playful with people, and they usually make a person imagine things that aren’t real. Sometimes a Tikbalang will drive a person crazy. Legends say that when rain falls while the sun is shining, a pair of Tikbalangs are being wed. Since horses only arrived in the Philippine archipelago during the Spanish colonization (thus, the borrowed term ‘kabayo’), there is a theory that the image of a half-horse, half-man creature was propagated by the conquistadors to keep the natives afraid of the night. There are stories claiming that the Tikbalang are actually half-bird, half-man creatures, much like the Japanese tengu.