Other­worldly be­ings in Philip­pine lore

Lo­cal creepy crawlers that main­stream me­dia never told you about

Northern Living - - CONTENTS - TEXT ANTHEA REYES ILLUSTRATION LARA INTONG

Be­fore Shake, Rat­tle & Roll and La Luna San­gre, be­fore Jes­sica Soho and Noli de Cas­tro’s Hal­loween spe­cials, be­fore Buz­zfeed lis­ti­cles and the care­fully crafted crea­ture pro­files on The Aswang Project web­site, sto­ries of the odd and the ter­ri­ble crea­tures of mid­night were passed on through word of mouth. Their tales weren’t ex­clu­sively told dur­ing Hal­loween, ei­ther. Be­fore main­stream me­dia adopted the kapre, the tik­balang, and the man­anang­gal for their an­nual Hal­loween scare fix, sto­ries about them have been told by par­ents to si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­cite fear and won­der in their kids: passed on by fa­thers to their sons, car­ried on like heir­loom pieces, a sliver of the mys­ti­cal to spice up oth­er­wise or­di­nary lives.

For ex­am­ple, in my home prov­ince of Batan­gas, I would watch the sto­ry­telling of these myths in per­son. My fa­ther and his child­hood friends would sit on makeshift benches, armed with plas­tic drink­ing glasses and sev­eral bot­tles of Gine­bra, and retell tall tales of their grand­fa­ther’s fa­ther see­ing a man trans­form into a wolf while perched on a tree dur­ing a late night game of hide and seek. They’d share sto­ries heard from the friend of a neigh­bor of a fam­ily friend about that old house along that street where skele­tons would dance at mid­night.

These are the kinds of set­ups that brought to life the much more col­or­ful, feral, ter­ri­fy­ing, and mor­bidly imag­i­na­tive crea­tures of Filipino mythol­ogy that main­stream me­dia has ne­glected. Here are a hand­ful of the ones that have some­how slipped through the pop­u­lar cul­ture’s radar.

Danag

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, there is a Filipino coun­ter­part to vam­pires, and it’s not the pop­u­lar man­anang­gal or the widely mis­in­ter­preted aswang.

Be­fore Drac­ula and Le­s­tat, the Is­neg peo­ple of the Apayao prov­ince were al­ready telling tales of the Danag folk. The Danag were be­lieved to be al­most­gods who once lived in har­mony with hu­mans. They helped the Is­neg plant their crops, un­til an ac­ci­dent hap­pened one day. A lo­cal cut their fin­ger on a sharp ob­ject and one of the Danag po­litely of­fered to suck on the wound to ease the pain. But the Danag found the taste of the blood so sweet that he drained the lo­cal dry. Af­ter the in­ci­dent, the Danag folk stopped plant­ing crops with hu­mans and be­gan hunt­ing them in­stead.

Dalak­it­non

The name Dalak­it­non means “those who live in the Balete tree” in Waray. It’s be­lieved that these en­chanted folk look like beau­ti­ful men and women with their great height, fair skin, and brown fine hair, but mi­nus the philtrum. They se­duce peo­ple into their home with trea­sures, de­li­cious food, and all the finest things in life.

In some ver­sions of the folk­tale, those who ask to leave are of­fered a meal of black rice that will trap them in the Dalak­it­non’s abode for­ever. In other ver­sions, they will en­ter­tain and play house with their vis­i­tors un­til they get bored of them, then cast them out with no means of re­turn­ing home or be­ing found ever again. Vic­tims end up go­ing mad try­ing to re­turn to their par­adise.

Bungis­ngis

The Bungis­ngis is es­sen­tially the Filipino Cy­clops coun­ter­part. A gi­ant known for its ap­petite for hu­man flesh, its name de­rives from the Ta­ga­log word ngisi which means “to show the teeth” or “to grin.” The story of the Bungis­ngis orig­i­nates from Batan­gas. Ac­cord­ing to the tale, a mon­key, a carabao, and a dog once went to hunt for food. When the carabao stopped to rest and cook his catch, the Bungis­ngis saw the smoke from the carabao’s fire pit and at­tacked the an­i­mal to get to the food. The gi­ant was so strong, he picked up the carabao and threw it into the ground, where it sunk knee-deep.

Aside from its sin­gu­lar eye, the Bungis­ngis is said to have an up­per lip so wide that it hangs over two fangs as big as an ele­phant’s tusk. They say it could even cover the mon­ster’s en­tire face when stretched.

Man­tiw

The Man­tiw of Iloilo, Panay isn’t as ma­li­cious as the rest of the crea­tures in this ros­ter. They’re 30foot for­est spir­its de­scribed as hav­ing fair skin, broad shoul­ders, and hooked noses. They’re also known for their un­canny like­ness to the co­conut tree and their habit of whistling while walk­ing through the for­est.

Most of the time, an en­counter with this for­est spirit is harm­less. If you try to whis­tle or sing along with it though, it will get of­fended, pick you up from the ground, and leave you atop a co­conut tree with no means of de­scent.

Thalon

The Thalon is best de­scribed as a back­wards hu­manoid dog that orig­i­nated from Zam­boanga del Sur. Its body is dis­torted-look­ing—like a man on all fours, ex­cept its stom­ach is fac­ing up, its back­side in the front, and its four feet fac­ing back­wards. There are two vari­a­tions to this crea­ture, de­pend­ing on its sex.

A male Thalon, called the Mhenamad Thalon, creeps up on for­eign­ers and non-lo­cals only to scare them, with­out do­ing any fur­ther harm. As it is a cow­ardly crea­ture, one only has to shout or taunt the Mhenamad Thalon into a fight to scare it off.

Its fe­male coun­ter­part, how­ever, isn’t as harm­less. The Thamad Thalon ac­tu­ally hunts to eat. When it’s on your trail, you will hear a woman’s screech as if from afar, as a warn­ing. By the time you hear it, you can only try to out­run the she-beast in the hopes of sur­viv­ing.

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