Meet the Myths II: Philippine Mythological Creatures

Like other civilizations around the globe, the Philippines also has its fair share of creatures that come lurking in the night. While some are used as horror stories to scare unruly children, there are others that are claimed to exist and terrorize Filipinos – mostly in rural areas. 

Aside from the usual manananggaltiyanakkapretikbalangand other known beings often depicted in Philippine literature and film, below are some of the underrated supernatural creatures that haunted both Filipino children and adults alike:

1. Santelmo

Photo by Kajo Baldisimo | Photo courtesy of TRESE COMICS

Imagine walking down an empty path in a dark night when you suddenly see a blazing ball of fire – this might mean that you just had a Santelmo sighting! Often lurking in fields near marshes and bogs, Santelmos are said to chase people until they get lost or turn crazy.

Power Up: Like what is often told to us, you have to reverse your clothing in order for the Santelmo to leave you alone and for you to find your way back home. Nope, your google maps and GPS probably won’t work this time!

2. Mambabarang

Photo courtesy of RUBENHC

Not to be confused with a Mangkukulam (witch), Mambabarangs are sorcerers who use malignant magic to bring unfortunate fate to its victim through the use of insects such as beetles, roaches, or worms. These critters make their way through any openings of their targets like ears, noses, mouths, and any other orifices that they can find, resulting to infection and disease.

Power Up: Hard-to-heal sicknesses are often associated with Mambabarangs. Because these are related to magic, one of the ways to deal with it is by consulting an albularyo (herbal doctors) who can help identify the mambabarang and come up with an antidote to cure you!

3. Bungisngis

Photo courtesy of isaiahpaul on DeviantArt

We all have that friend who has a gigantic smile on their faces and a contagious laugh. Better check if your friend has two eyes because if not, then it might be Bungisngis! This mythic creature is often compared to cyclops in Greek mythology but aside from its striking eye, it also has an extremely large mout(showing all of its teeth) as well as an enhanced sense of hearing.

Power Up: Despite its large size, Bungisngis can easily be confused and tricked, allowing you to escape his clutches in the unfortunate circumstance that you run by one along your travels. If you don’t use your wits, you just might end up as Bungisngis’ meal!

4. Bakunawa

Photo courtesy of the Aswang Project

Anaconda is shaking! Just when you thought you’ve seen the biggest snake of all, the Bakunawa steals the limelight – or in a mythological sense, the moonlight. During early times, it is believed that there were seven moons created by Bathala. However, these celestial lamps got the serpent’s attention and instead of admiring it from afar, the Bakunawa swallowed them whole.

Power Up: According to legends, the only way to dispel the Bakunawa is to chase it away while banging pots and pans – basically making a whole lot of noise. So if ever it resurfaces, you better be armed with your kitchenware – or maybe the newest track of your least favorite singer?

5. Berberoka

Photo courtesy of SALINDILA

Nope, merpeople and sirens aren’t the only creatures you have to look out for when you’re near a body of water because there’s also freshwater Berberokas! It is said that the modus of these creatures is to suck all the water at a pond until schools of fish appear. Once the victim notices and starts picking them up, the Berberoka unleashes the water until the person drowns.

Power Up: Despite being depicted as large and scary, Berberokas have this irrational fear of crabs. Guess we all gotta have a Poke ball with Krabby in it whenever travelling, just in case!

Whether they are true or not, it’s still interesting to know about these paranormal characters that built our own culture. If you want to read up on more of them (in a fun way!), do check out Arnold Arre’s The Mythology Classas well as Edgar Samar’s Janus Silang SeriesAlso head to the bookstores and grab Kristyn Maslog-Levis’ teen novels — The Girl Between Two Worlds, and The Girl Between Light and Dark — that provide a rich concoction of Philippine mythology. You may also want to visiThe AswangProject (aswangproject.com) – a community that educates people about the fascinating diversity of our own folklore!

Ailla is your resident punny girl who lives and breathes words. With iced coffee in her veins, she binge-watches tv series and do reading marathons while fangirling – HARD. She is a true-blue INFJ nerd who dreams to publish her own book someday. Find her around the web as @MioneJeanPotter 🙂

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